vygotsky's theory

Vygotsky’s Theory and its Impact on Child Development

vygotsky's theory

Introduction: What is Vygotsky’s Theory?

Lev Vygotsky, born in 1896, was a Soviet Psychologist who could be credited for his research in the field of child development and cognitive development. Vygotsky was a firm believer that through social interaction, one could develop the cognitive abilities of a child. This became the gist of Vygotsky’s social development theory. Speaking in simpler terms, Vygotsky was a firm advocate of social interaction and its impact on child development. This is the reasons why the preschools in Delhi NCR have adopted his theory. Gone are the days when the child’s education was considered a simple affair. The curriculums of all major schools have witnessed significant changes. Child development is not based on only one factor and it requires understanding of wider concepts like the impact on cognitive functions.

Features

  • A child can easily learn from his parents how their culture is formed through informal or formal modes of communication. Simply speaking, a child inherits the qualities of his/her parents.
  • A child, under the guidance of a trained individual, can perform complex tasks. This brews from the fact if a child is guided and trained, he/she will be able to portray himself easily.
  • Through play, a child can stretch itself cognitively. For instance, children can underplay roles, which in normal conditions they may or may not find doable.
  • The more you challenge a child, more they will respond cognitively. This stems from the fact that children start as clean slates. They are like a clay that can be moulded infinitely.
  • Speech and language development are important pillars of Vygotsky’s theory. His work is based on these two pillars of child education. Speech, considered merely a means of communication, can be used as an important tool of thinking. Consider this as an example. A teacher XYZ conducts a poem recital activity in his classroom. By doing this, he is making his pupil recite the poem repeatedly. To an outsider this may sound as an obsolete activity. Under Vygotsky’s theory, this is called as the theory of language development.
  • Adults are a crucial cog in their child’s cognitive development. They can transmit their culture and values to their children.
  • Vygotsky also believed that a child’s curiosity is unmatched. It can be exploited positively to encourage them to participate in cognitive activities.
  • As per Vygotsky, private speech is not confined to a child’s activity. It acts as tools that can be used by the developing child fast track the cognitive processes. It helps a child in overcoming task obstacles, enhancing imagination, thinking, and conscious awareness.
  • A child who is raised in a cognitive and linguistic environment start using and internalizing private speech faster than children who are less privileged. Indeed, those taught in environments categorised by low verbal and social exchanges display intervals in private speech development.

Sadly, Vygotsky’s Theory has not received the same level of scrutiny and importance as received by Montessori’s work. That said, lately, preschools have adopted this theory with the open arms, as its impact on the child development is crucial. Perhaps the chief disparagement of Vygotsky’s Theory concerns the assumption that it is relevant to all cultures. Rogoff, another child development scientist, dismisses Vygotsky’s ideas as culturally universal and instead states the concept of scaffolding – which is heavily dependent on verbal instruction – may not be equally useful in all cultures for all types of learning. Certainly, in some examples opinion and preparation may be effective ways of learning certain skills.

chinese higher education

Examples from China in Modernising Higher Education: Part 2

chinese higher education

When you are home to more than 20% of the world’s population, a contributor to more than 15% of global economic output; it is a sign that you have a massive responsibility towards the community. China has displayed its ability to improve its education system over a sustained period of time. As discussed in the first part of this series, the size and interconnectedness of china’s economic activities have enabled this mammoth of a nation to leapfrog many developing economies, including India. And the effects of this development have been felt across the left and the right. Moreover, this surge in the economic condition has directly contributed to China’s higher education. In the recent years, China has managed to leapfrog almost every leading Asian country – Japan, India, South Korea. Student recruitment, Language programmes, short-term programmes, history majors; you name it and China owns it.

No wonder why more European and American higher education centres are planning to open up to Chinese universities in the coming years. China is critical to the state of the global higher education, and India, being its nearest neighbour and one of its fiercest rivals can learn a great deal from it.

1. Surge in international students

The China Education Association for International Exchange made a startling revelation in June 2015. In comparison to 2013, almost 380,000 international students enrolled in one or the other Chinese university; an increase of almost 35%. The universities based in Beijing and Shanghai contributed the most. A majority of those were on short-term, non-degree programmes. China aims to increase this figure to more than 500,000 by 2020. Now the biggest challenge for China is to convert these students to full-time degree courses, which will further boost its reputation amongst the competing countries. And these are not just ambitious targets, set up by the government. They are backed by several policy initiatives, including bilateral partnerships, scholarships and student grants, making more plans available in English, and lucrative job opportunities for the international students.

2. Chinese Higher Education to survive economic slump

The recent worries about the Chinese economy has led to some widespread speculation that the Chinese higher education sector will feel its traction and it will ultimately lead to decline in international student’s enrolment numbers.

Could this be the end of the Chinese growth story? No, I don’t think so. Let me quote another fact from the Economic Times study to validate my point: “In 2014, 1.7 million Chinese students were enrolled in institutions around the world. In that year alone, 459,800 Chinese left China to study abroad; an increase of 11% from the year before. Of those students, the vast majority – about 92% – were self-funded”.

Therefore, the scale of the wealthy classes in China is so huge that the high school and the education sector are unlikely to be affected. On the contrary, the Chinese consider this as an opportunity to study abroad as a precaution for the recession period. Similarly, the Chinese universities have made massive advancements in the recent years, which will enable them to scrape through such testing times quite easily.

3. More international Collaborations

The same study conducted in 2015 revealed another startling fact. Almost 600 Chinese universities are collaborating with American and European institutions to offer a variety of joint programmes for bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. These joint ventures are more of an inspiration for countries like India. India, in comparison to China, hasn’t made any significant collaboration to improve the exchange of students, which will ultimately impact the overall education scenario. In contrast to India’s lacklustre policies, China has been able to create a web of international partnerships.

China was quick to realize the importance of these academic tie-ups with renowned universities of the world. Not only does it help improve the student trust in academic institutions, but also helps build the economy with exchange of students. India also has to realize the importance of cross-border partnerships to enhance the attractiveness and influence of “Study in India” plans. Also, the added dependency of many higher education institutions on the Chinese students to meet their international student recruitment goals means that they will continue to be a dominant part of the international strategies in the short to medium term. In short, the successful Chinese education model can be replicated in a country as diverse as ours. All it needs is a proactive policy agenda from the government and support from higher education institutions.

Pedagogies

Montessori, Frobel & Steiner: The Three leading Pedagogies

Pedagogies

These new pedagogies are blossoming alongside the traditional method of teaching. These are based on different principles, follow certain unique teaching methodology, and have their own advantages. So, let us see each of them to help you decide, which is most suitable for your child.

MONTESSORI EDUCATION

This approach of teaching was founded by Maria Montessori. It believes that children learn better when they are given freedom to choose what they want to learn and can learn at their own pace. Contrary to the traditional classroom, it is a close caring community with multiage children varying from 2.5 years to 6 years all learning at the same place. A trained teacher then guides the children to learn through the various activity stations they get involved in. The notebook learning is replaced by the process of self-correction and self-assessment.

Some pros of the system include-

  • Child is treated as a unique individual
  • Develop the social ethics very early like the kindness, support
  • Accommodates all learning styles
  • Children are more excited as they get to learn what they are genuinely interested in
  • Child-led, uninterrupted, three-hour working period
  • Children become confident, independent, co-operating, self-directed learners- all the skills which are the need of the 21st century.
  • Children learn through direct experience- by using the sensory-motor activities that develop the abilities like seeing, hearing, touch, movement, etc..

FROBEL’S KINDERGARTEN

Friedrich Frobel was a German educationalist who believed that the very purpose of education is to lead to all-round development of an individual by creating a harmonious environment in the classroom where each child is treated with respect and individuality is maintained. He established a school common for all children between the ages of three and seven. He named it as Kindergarten, i.e. ‘garden of children’.

The chief feature of the kindergarten are-

  • Self-activity- Like construction of blocks, songs help develop self-realization among the toddlers. This further fills the gap between knowledge and action.
  • Creativeness- The creativity is other aim to be developed among children.
  • Social participation- As Frobel believed that man is social animal by nature so he emphasized the social aspect of education to be taught well.
  • Play is the real engine for learning- He firmly believed that the play is the best way to learn something as its imprints last forever in a human mind.

WALDORF EDUCATION

It is based on the education philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner divided the child education into mainly three phases-

  1. Early childhood education, wherein, a child learns through hands-on activities.
  2. Elementary Education- the focus is on developing artistic expression.
  3. Secondary Education- which develops the critical reasoning and empathic understanding among the students.

This model infuses art with academics as it allows the children to learn through activities like drama, music, dance crafts and visual arts. It believes education is beyond the concept of three R’s. There are no specific books as per the curriculum, rather each child draws and creates the things he learns which exemplifies his every lesson. The classroom is a mixed age one with the same teacher. The teacher usually incorporates the storytelling and fantasy in the curriculum.

Thus, all the three pedagogies are different; each is unique in its own way.  So, apart from the traditional way of teaching, there are options for your child to choose among all these.

why do boys and girls learn differently

Why do boys and girls learn differently?

why do boys and girls learn differently

In article, we focus on the currently accepted gender-neutral pedagogy prevalent in schools not only in India but also around the globe. Particularly in their formative years, typically from the age of 2 to 6, this approach starkly illustrates the learning differences in boys and girls. There are opposing societal views on the relevance of single sex schooling in a modern world where men and women are treated as equals: the progressives believe that differences need to be eliminated from childhood to promote the notion of equality, particularly in a gender-polarised country such as ours where violence against women is not merely happenstance. Conversely, moral traditionalists, typically those not from pedagogical backgrounds, argue that separation leads to less “trouble in society”; not understanding that familiarity with the opposite sex can lead to mutual respect. However, we can all agree that less trouble in society is possible through the education of our youth and, more specifically, how we instruct them during the most crucial period of their lives. Now, the question, which persists, is: Why do boys and girls learn differently?

The Dichotomy between Boys and Girls

For the neuropsychologists and pedagogues among us, there is wide acceptance of the theory that the human brain cannot be considered as one for both sexes; differences subsist. However, for those not familiar with this concept, a basic understanding that sexual dimorphisms do exist in humans will suffice. From the days of the ancient Greeks to just over 20 years ago, suggestions first and research later had illustrated the differences between the brain’s sexual dimorphisms; however, the bearing upon daily tasks was not considered relevant. Through MRI and PET scans, the functional and structural differences between male and female brains have emphasised the learning – among other neurological – dissimilarities. Knowledge of these differences can help both parents and educators understand that the same teaching strategy working for boys may not necessarily be as effective for girls, and vice-versa.

As an example, women display an enhanced capability to process language activities with greater ease when compared to men; this is very prominent in the ability prepubescent girls to recollect lists of words and their enhanced writing skills. Conversely, they lag behind in mechanical-spatial and gross motor tasks, thus clarifying the reason behind the inclination of boys towards physical activities and video games. This explains the ability of boys to learn more by doing a certain activity and the reason why preschools adopt this “experiential learning” approach. It is important to mention that these variations in cognition relate to ability and not overall intelligence.

The Effect in Schools

Preschools emphasise neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to be trained, by implementing experiential learning for both boys and girls – they perform tasks not genetically “hardwired”: for instance, girls will be given activities that make use of their spatial skills and boys will be tasked with reading and writing. A balance is drawn so that a child engages in activities that naturally appeal to him or her, while using neuroplasticity to learn new tasks by doing and through repetition.

However, when a child begins primary school, the majority of learning activities are based upon reading, writing, and on the ability to recall, which are more favourable towards girls. Thus, assessments in school should extend beyond rote memorisation, since it prioritises the ability to recollect information over the ability to think and make associations. Boys and even some girls struggle with this transition from preschools, where there is no assessment forcing their comparatively underdeveloped brains to process information in certain manner, to primary schools, where a very narrow definition of success is imposed on them by adults from a very young age. Additionally, experience and training in activating this set of skills comes about during puberty and with the influence on testosterone upon learning under pressure – adolescent boys are able to perform tasks under pressure more effectively because of this neurochemical – enables normalisation the brain’s sexual dimorphism.

(Click here to read some pedagogical changes needed in the schools.)

Biological Differences

From a physiological perspective, prepubescent boys have little control over their innate biological tendency to be more energetic. They connect on a more physical – rather than on a verbal – level, bonding with games and projects. Watch any classroom during the gaps between the various sessions; you will notice that the boys jump up and run round as soon as the teacher leaves the room. In comparison, girls are not as physically active and very respectful of authority and mostly are seen sitting at their desks. The hours on end sit-down, rote-based learning system prevalent in primary schools often ignores this tendency by not having enough break/recess time; in turn, this suppresses the natural ability of boys to relate physically and results in the behavioural problems becoming academic problems. We all know a few examples from our own childhoods. Chastising boys both for “misbehaviour” and for having an underdeveloped ability to reason and having little self-control – this ability restrains their physicality later in life – coupled with additional parental and teacher pressure for the child to excel in a disadvantageous learning system puts them down and can create a sense of negativity where there should be none.

Possible Remedies

The first things parents, pedagogues, and especially teachers can do is to acknowledge these differences in the brain function of boys and girls. Generally, preschools seem to have struck a good balance between allowing boys enough time to tire out physically, and the language activities. The lack of assessments during this phase encourages a desire to learn more. Primary schools can implement longer than usual breaks since transitioning from an environment that promotes movement, which increases blood flow to the brain, to one promoting significantly less, is not easy on boys. The energy levels and higher metabolism require an outlet. Moreover, teachers can promote movement by permitting children to stand while reading, for example, together with other similar activities. Advice to parents: be aware of the learning needs of your child, whether boy or girl, since your influence is central to their overall development.

Froebel Philosophy

The Kindergarten Revolution – The Froebel Philosophy

Froebel Philosophy

“The child-soul is an ever-bubbling fountain in the world of humanity.”- Friedrich Fröbel

Froebel. A much familiar name in the world of early childhood education arena. An educationalist, who identified the need of recognising that children have their own unique requirements and abilities. Throughout the history of education, a proper system of educating the young minds has been argued upon. According to history, the idea of training the children as soon as possible, so that they could contribute their bit towards the production process in the society, is something, which has been widely accepted.

Froebel wasn’t someone who accepted this theory with ease. He believed that every child possesses a full educational potential, and an educational environment, which supported the same was highly important for the encouragement of the child to grow and develop in an effective manner. This is what formed the basis of the Froebel Philosophy.

Froebel’s ideologies stimulated the fact that appreciation and love for children was highly important in an environment, which could provide them with a feeling of belongingness, a whole new tiny world of their own. A world that was later popularly known as the Kindergarten, a place where children could have a world of their own, play with other kids of the same age and experience their first important swish of independence.

Froebel philosophy centered around kids

Froebel philosophy mainly spoke of four basic components:

(a) Free self-activity

(b) Creativity

(c) Social Participation

(d) Motor Expression.

He firmly believed in the ideology of self-activity in the childhood stage. Before going on with the Froebel Philosophy, we must understand what self-activity basically means. Self-activity can be defined as the development of qualities and skills in an individual in such a manner that an impossible idea can be converted into a reality. And therefore, going forward with such a vision, he designed a series of instructional “gifts”, portraying certain connections and relationships, which helped the children easily identify the process of comparison, questioning, and creative exploration of various activities.

But what were these gifts basically?  A gift was a play object, which a child could use to play with, and these objects held great educational importance, as they consisted of objects like a sphere, a cube, or a cylinder, and with which the child was significantly able to comprehend, understand and internalize some basic vital educational concepts of shape, dimension, size, colour, choice, connectivity and their respective relationships. (Click here to read about the Montessori Philosophy)

Objects like paints and clay also played an important role in the learning process where the children had the choice and the freedom to make and shape whatever they wished for. And therefore, children were not bounded by the geometrical dimensions and were allowed to externalize their own existing ideas and concepts within their creative minds.

Therefore, the process of a child’s own self-activity and independent creative approach in play and learning, the child would eventually begin to comprehend in an effective manner, both the inner, as well as the outer aspects of things as they move towards the developmental stages of the educational process. And therefore, Froebel played a wide role in inculcating the importance of a tiny little kindergarten in a big metropolis driven economy.

positive classrooms are happy classrooms

Five Strategies for Building Positive Classrooms

positive classrooms are happy classroomsJohn Dewey, an American philosopher and psychologist, was one of the 20th Century’s leading education reformer and an intellectual who proselytised democracy and advocated equality in terms of educational rights. He considered education as a bridge between the society and its residents, and considered it an instrumental tool in bringing about the socially inclusive development. John Dewey, for a major part of his life, fought for better application of educational policies in schools, including the need to adapt as per the changing times and global scenario. He was a firm believer in allowing students to make an informed decision in terms of selecting the course or subjects as per their interests.

His philosophy centred around the need to develop an ability in children through which, they can experience as well as interact with the curriculum. For him quantity was a negative value and one, which is detrimental to a child’s growth and potential. It is fair to say that John’s philosophy is not only based around the need to set up better educational resources and their implementation, but also on allowing a child to express themselves and establish their own set of parameters. A child’s curiosity to learn is unmatchable and cannot be adjudged, therefore it is imperative to make them equally involved in improving the overall classroom scenario. Therefore, it will be fair to count it amongst the most effective teaching and learning strategies which are followed in some of the top schools in India as well as abroad.

“Problem-based learning”, is another concept which is often talked about, yet never given its due diligence. The purpose of education isn’t limited to developing a certain skill set that caters around developing a child’s basic potential. Education is much more than the need to make an individual ‘employable’. It is the basis of the evolution of man, and education is what differentiates a leader and a follower. As Dewey once greatly remarked, “Education should equip students with the abilities to be reflective, autonomous, and ethical beings capable of critical discourse”. Also, this comprised of John Dewey’s hypothesis of effective teaching methodologies.

If you have read this article till here, you must be wondering whether it is a biographical work on John Dewey or the strategies to build the positive classrooms. However, the truth is, during the research phase of writing this article, I couldn’t find a person more apt and just to relate to. His educational philosophy or his constant fight for the educational rights of child makes him a true educational reformer in every sense.

Therefore, deriving from John’s life long struggle and fight for a child’s development and establishment of positive classrooms, these are the five key pedagogical changes needed to make our classrooms interactive, attractive, and immersive for the children

Role of Teachers

teachers are important in positive classrooms

Teachers, especially in India, have enjoyed extensive support as well as the respect they deserve. Since ancient times, they have been a fundamental part of developing our society and helping children attain the status of being a “learned individual”. They are highly regarded and have been trusted by millions to form strong bonds; one of the most effective teaching methods which guarantees both results and performance. Therefore, it is fair to acknowledge that they play a monumental role in forming a good-quality education system and bringing the necessary reforms. Dewey was one of the firmest believers in the role of teachers and their direct impact on the mental, moral, and the spiritual lives of youngsters in their seminal years.

A teacher, while in a classroom, wears multiple hats. Right from designing the teaching methodology, to setting up daily tasks and judging the kids; a teacher is involved in even the minutest happenings in the classrooms.

  • Interactive: The success of a classroom depends on the levels of interaction between the teacher and the students.
  • Participant: A democratic teacher is more likely to produce better results by encouraging children to participate and interact
  • Prompter: A good teacher will always prompt students to learn and innovate; from invention to improvisation, a teacher is every where.
  • Tutor: From providing advice and guidance to checking the progress of a child, a teacher is involved in each.

Times have changed, yet the role of teacher hasn’t changed. Nonetheless, the role is more critical in the present scenario. On top of everything else, a teacher has to be an effective communicator, an inventive thinker, and a master of technology. To summarize in a sentence, a teacher has to enact all of it as an effective teaching practice.

Interdependent Learning

learning

Interdependent learning concerns the basic development of skills, whereby congenial skills are linked together and development is included. It is fair to say that the skill is critical for a child’s holistic development, yet rarely it is followed even in some of the top schools in India. This instructional approach organizes classroom activities into social learning experiences and academic criteria. Interdependent learning encourages students to work cohesively and complete academic tasks collectively. Moreover, it encourages children to exploit the communal knowledge and resources. Interdependent learning isn’t limited to collective learning, but also includes exchange of information; evaluation of ideas; monitoring work flow.

Five elements central to improve classroom environment:

  • Positive interdependence: It encourages children to seek each other’s support to polish and strengthen their skills.
  • Individual and group accountability: This particular skill allows children to be accountable for their results when they work individually and when they work as a team.
  • Personal interaction: It encourages personal interaction between the mentor and the student.
  • Teaching of interpersonal and interactive skills: This encourages teachers to also assert on improvisation of interactive skills of the pupil.
  • Group processing: This ensures that they classroom is dealt as per the overall performance of the group, and not on the individual skill levels.

Multiple Intelligences

multiple-intelligences-learning-styles

Howard Gardner is considered as the father of the multiple intelligences theory. He identified seven different intelligences, which a child needs to work on, in order to gain absolute development.

It emphasises on the development of the whole child. John Dewey further strengthened the theory by stressing that the child is artistic in more than one way. This philosophy has led to the change in curricula in various top schools in India. The results have been unfathomable. Teachers and curricula creators have lately recognized the need of bringing a balance to the curriculum and emphasis, nowadays, is placed on blending the traditional academic subjects with other not so conventional subjects like arts, crafts, music, and physical education. Children can succeed in an environment free of boundaries and where they believe they can evolve holistically.

The seven key elements of Multiple intelligences theory are:

  • Bodily-Kinesthetic: This involves the health and wellness potential and the skills required to work on the bodily requirements.
  • Interpersonal Skills: It relates to building the interpersonal relations and ensuring a sound environment in the classroom.
  • Verbal Linguistic: This includes the verbal improvement and association of skills.
  • Logical Skills: This centres around making the students aware about logical challenges and making them aware about their skills.
  • Nature Smart: This skill develops the environmental relationship between a student and their surroundings.
  • Self Smart: This allows children to be self-motivating and be able to judge themselves as per their needs.
  • Visual-Spatial: This allows students to be picture smart and be able to interact with their surroundings.
  • Musical: This deals with the development of co-curricular skills which leads to the holistic development of the individual.        

Alternative Testing for Classrooms

positive classrooms include good tests

A frustrated, upset child, or child with learning difficulties.

Presently, schools are obsessed with homogeneous testing and it is an enormous challenge to move them away from this conventional means of testing. This standard testing methodology marginalises those with a different sense of judgements and skills. This forces them to follow the herd mentality, which ultimately curbs their growth and sense of judgement.

However, without the proper involvement of the teachers, alternative testing formats cannot function and will ultimately falter at a later stage. Schools and teachers have to work coercively to ensure the success of such a teaching method. For instance, various alternative testing methodologies of classrooms are:

  • Portfolio Evaluation
  • Performance Evaluation
  • Self-assessment
  • Self-reflection evaluation

 An understanding of these methods is fundamental during teacher training and the explanation to the children of the methods equally so.

Co-operative teaching

team chalkboard

The concept of one colleague collaborating or exchanging ideas of the best teaching practices based upon experience seems reasonable, but not possible in all academic environments because of the workload placed on teachers. This idea basically helps teachers to ascertain the level of understanding and ensure that students attain the required level of self-sufficiency.

To resolve teaching issues, this free interchange of ideas is precisely what fosters overall development of teachers, just as cooperative learning improves the classroom environment.


Yes, it will be challenging to include all these five strategies and more often than not, schools and teachers will fail. For schools looking to build effective teaching methodologies, tools and relevant policies play an important role. For teachers looking to build positive classrooms, interpersonal cooperation and holistic development will be key. The many schools using the positive action stand as testimony that concentrating on positive, strengthening, and intrinsic enthusiasm in the classroom results in a positive environment for teaching and learning and improves academic thoroughness.

Montessori

Preschool Philosophy- Montessori System of Education

montessori system of education

“The child is both, a hope and a promise for mankind” – Maria Montessori

Education. A necessity of humans which can’t be put into words. It has played a major role in shaping the minds of young aspirants. Talking about young blood and the current educational scenario, we must not forget the Montessori system of education, which has played a very vital role in nurturing the process of pre-school education in an efficient manner.

We may discuss about the approach followed by the Montessori system of education, and analyse it through every aspect. Talking about its origin, it is an educational system developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori which lays emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.

It focuses majorly in a whole hearted human development, where emphasis is laid on the emotional, physical and psychological development of the child where they have the liberty to choose and act freely within an environment, for optimal development.

Certain principles in this model are given primary importance, such as, exploration, activity, order, orientation, purposeful activity etc. Montessori system of education focuses on free activity within a “prepared environment”, in other words, an environment tailored specifically for basic human wants and needs, and those of children at different ages, not forgetting the individual personalities the children possess. The sole purpose of the environment is to help and allow the child to develop independence in every term according to his or her inner psychological potential.

Focussing the impact of this system on India, our country was one of the first few countries to see the propagation and implementation of this system. The Indian Montessori Organisation is one such initiative taken up by the Indian officials in expanding awareness about the Montessori philosophy in the Indian educational system. Click here to see some of the preschools that have successfully adopted the Montessori system of education.

And therefore, with the introduction of the newly implemented ECCE policy, the Indian pre-primary education has made a significant progress, which has its focus upon early childhood education and its importance in the development process of a child. When focussing upon India, there are many centres and institutes offering courses to train educators in the Montessori system of education.

While discussing the impacts and issues related to this system of education, let us first discuss and know the importance of this system. The Montessori System of Education is known to be the most scientifically advanced, comprehensive in nature, and an efficient and effective humane system of early childhood education and development.

Montessori system of education helps in guiding children in their day to day activities by trained Adults. These trained adults are basically individuals who are trained in the Montessori ideology, playing an extremely vital role in the development process of a child’s personality and intellectual upliftment. This method effectively portrays the issue of building self-confidence of a child. As it is an extremely known and important fact that self-confidence is something which should be inculcated within a child early in life.

The European Method of School Success

European School system

Just behind the developed Asian economies of Singapore, South Korea, and the Chinese metropolises of Hong Kong and Shanghai in terms of the OECD’s 2012 PISA assessment scores, the persistent success of Europe’s model of education has been marvelled the world over. With its emphasis on problem solving and catering to the needs of every child, many pedagogues and teachers have visited multiple European schools to seek answers in its highly rated education system. For instance, while teaching in Southern California, Janet English travelled to Finland in 2013 under the US “Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching” programme to discover what made their education both different as well as successful and gives a valuable insight in her book, “The Finnish Way” to Optimize Student Learning.

An Innovative Approach to Problem Solving – Educational Success

Europe’s approach to allowing young students to think about a solution to a problem rather than being provided the answers can be explained with the example of handicraft classes for nine- and ten-year-olds; and this is not your typical, safe, “let-us-play-with-crayons” kind of class but includes drilling, hammering, and sawing, with power tools! If this seems to be too unsafe, then wrap up your child in cotton wool forever since hitting a nail twenty times or so will result in a child being hurt on a rare occasion. However, this will force the child to learn to be cautious and refine his or her motor skills.

From a creative viewpoint, if a child makes something used in daily life, such as a towel rack, shelf, or a pottery-fashioned cup, without showing them specifically how to do construct it, then their problem solving skills will be enhanced. Showing the goal and not telling the students how – because they will ask repeatedly – forces them to think about the problem in their own terms and the result is fascinating: after seeing the shape of what their object is meant to represent ultimately, the variety of ways in which the children solve the problem is ingenious. Of course, a little guidance on certain handicraft techniques and giving some self-confidence is required but too much of it and the mental process required is taken away. Overcoming their fears and mental obstacles is the best environment a teacher can create for students. Most importantly, informing the child on the dangers of tools and techniques creates mental barriers and obstructs their learning; allowing them to make mistakes and learning from them is vital to a child’s development.

An active and engaging form of learning

They emphasise the importance of patiently optimising student learning, incorporating problem solving in every subject (even music!), approaching standardised tests as mostly useless, and dictating the pace of learning by the rate of student learning. Their seeming obsession with problem solving – especially in areas such as music and painting – may appear far-fetched to those unfamiliar but it is remarkable in its results. Initially, the child’s brain must be stimulated. For instance, creating different shades of brown to paint a forest scene from a basic pallet of blue, red, and yellow coerces a child’s mind into thinking and then actually mixing the three original paints to come up with those shades of brown; simply showing how brown is created defeats the purpose.

With the proliferation of technology in all areas of life, Finland – a leader when it comes to European school system – combines doing things by hands with modern tools such as iPads to make students solve problems every day. In science classes, Grade 3 students open useful educational applications, such as How It Works: Machines by Geek Kids, to create any object they desire – whether a rocket, washing machine, hairdryer, or another – using virtual parts to construct the virtual machine. There is freedom of choice to pick an object, thereby engaging the interest of all students. Another application involves using line segments to construct bridges and it is up to the student to stimulate the structure. Essentially, solving problems is based on the familiar, practical objects that children see around them every day, thus allowing them to picture mentally the usefulness of such structures.

Assessments

With exception of the Matriculation Examination taken at the end of secondary school to qualify for university entry, the lack of tests may seem strange but most assessments in European schools come in the form of writing reports or presenting about their tasks facilitates their reasoning skills. Essentially, they are asked to think about how and what they have done; consider a chair building activity, the children know what a chair actually looks like and they make their own. A short presentation of how their version is different from the one on which they are sitting develops the metacognitive skills.

In short, many nations could learn from Europe’s inclusion of problem solving in every lesson, every day. The emphasis on the outdoors and the natural, physical things seen in everyday life provides stimulus to children and engages their mind in learning – a skill nine out of ten school in India lack at. Finnish emphasis on experiential learning and a lack of standardised testing has led to their school system’s international acclaim.

Technology

Role of Technology in Education

Role of technology in education

The advances made possible by the digital revolution in the latter part of the 20th Century need no superlatives; nearly ubiquitous as the very air we breathe, technology has and will continue to enable greater advances in all aspects of our lives, education included. It is propagated and worshipped everywhere, increasingly in classrooms, where Smart boards and other digital teaching aids are considered hallmarks of the school and advertised to the public as such. Being tech-literate is pretty much a requisite in the modern age and computer programming skills being pushed onto children from a very young age can only benefit them later on, or so goes the premise. Today, education isn’t limited to reading a pile of textbooks or making lengthy notes. Laptops, tablets and e-books (Kindle, Nook) are quickly becoming the much-desired way of acquiring knowledge. This, in turn, has affected the traditional concept of education, though not negatively.

Impact of Technology

 

Learning process is now personalized

If a student faces a problem in understanding a concept at school or college, he or she can turn to the internet. Thanks to videos, audio books and info graphics, learning is more fun!

Student-teacher work together

Tools like Basecamp, Google Classroom and NoodleTools help the students in uploading and sharing their assignments. They can also create a to-do list and keep a track of their work. Similarly, teachers can make announcements, create and organize assignments and check students’ works.

Social media & education go hand-in-hand

Who says social media is only for fun? In fact, using social media for teaching is the ‘in’ thing now. As the conventional set up of classrooms is slowly changing, teachers are exploring new ways of personalizing their teaching methods. For instance, Moodle enables the teachers to start an online discussion with students. YouTube is also a visually stimulating and engaging way of learning.

Distance learning encouraged

Thanks to technology, the state of online education is getting better. Today, students are able to study courses, which aren’t easily available in their country, through distance education. MOOC and Coursera offer various online courses.

Core skills improved

Students who make use of different digital platforms to learn are better than those who don’t in terms of reading, writing, grasping concepts and applying critical thinking.

Although, use of a multitude of digital tools and softwares may have not reached all classrooms today, it is definitely changing the way students and teachers perceive education. Education technology is immensely beneficial if used sparingly and for certain purposes, such as for those children with learning disabilities or for complex science simulations. Tasking a teenager with producing a certain graph on Excel after she masters drawing it on paper is understandably more beneficial than the reverse.

The ability to focus on a task for more than half an hour without disruption is valuable in the workplace and the distractions, in the form of technology, are manifest from prolonged exposure to it from a young age.

The unorganized Indian Education System

Recommended: Changes to Indian Education System

Indian Education system needs improvement

As an education reformer, American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey was one of the 20th Century’s leading intellectuals preaching democracy and advocating its inclusion in education, in which both education and learning being socially inclusive developments. His ideas, if implemented, can reap huge benefits for Indian education system. A fully formed public opinion needed to exist in schools as well that enabled students to make decisions regarding both their own lives and their learning. Dewey argued that if emphasis was placed on children and their ability to both experience and interact with the curriculum, then the subject matter is not the only determining factor in the learning quality and quantity. Among his other influences, “Problem-based learning”, a commonly used concept, stems from learning through investigation. Moreover, he was a firm believer that the purpose of education should not be to provide students with a limited skill set for a particular job in the future. It should rather be concerned with equipping students with the abilities to be “reflective, autonomous, and ethical beings capable of … critical … discourse” (Dewey, 1902).

Additionally, considering teachers as highly regarded and trusted professionals who serve a public function was essential in a good-quality education system, although this has not yet caught on in the Indian education system. Essentially, Dewey promoted teaching as a profession and the direct impact it has upon moulding the mental, moral, and spiritual lives of children in their seminal years.

Modifications in Indian Education System

Cooperative Learning

Rarely seen in Indian education system, this pedagogical approach arranges classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. Here, students work collectively to complete academic tasks and the pedagogy encourages children to utilise the collective knowledge and resources, this includes requesting fellow students for information, evaluating each other’s ideas, monitoring the work of others, and so on. Ross & Smyth (1995) suggest five elements central to thriving cooperation within classrooms: positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, personal interaction, teaching of interpersonal and small group interactive skills, and group processing. Highly qualified teachers have included several of these elements, which require higher-order thinking skills.

Multiple Intelligences

This focuses on the development of the whole child. Howard Gardener’s theory that the child is talented in more than one way has led to the rethinking of curricula in the schools of most countries. To balance the curriculum, emphasis is placed on blending the traditional academic subjects with arts, crafts, music, and physical education. The majority of children can succeed in environment where they feel that they have an opportunity to evolve holistically. Click here to read more about multiple intelligences theory and its impact on Indian education system.

Alternative Assessments for Classrooms

Ridding schools of their obsessions with standardised testing is an enormous challenge, one to which bureaucrats would never agree; standardised testing marginalises those who think differently and encourages a herd mentality. Alternative assessment formats, however, cannot function without a high level of trust placed on teachers. Local school and teacher monitoring of the pupils’ progress, as well as the teacher’s own assessments are needed for a child-centric approach that seeks to enrich the learning experience through interaction. Examples of these include portfolio, performance, self-assessment, and self-reflection evaluations. An understanding of these methods is fundamental during teacher training and the explanation to the children of the methods equally so. The correct implementation of the policy can lead to a strong Indian education system.

Colleague teaching

The notion of one colleague collaborating or exchanging ideas of the best teaching practices based upon experience seems reasonable but not possible in all academic environments because of the workload placed on teachers. This idea is essentially a private process where teachers collaborate in critically evaluating current practices, as well as develop and study new skills. The free exchange of ideas to resolve teaching issues is precisely what fosters overall development of teachers, just as cooperative learning improves the children.

Ultimately, the key is to implement the policies in an effective manner and the goal is the strengthening of the Indian education system.