Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Evaluating the Readiness of International Schools in India

When we talk about our schools, most of us love to recall incidents with our teachers.  They have played a huge role in our development at school, and so it only becomes obvious that today's teachers need to be prepared to teach by the Cambridge and/or IB philosophy.  But are they?

It’s important for parents to ask and understand what investment the school is making every year to ensure that teachers are trained and ready to teach by the philosophy of Cambridge and/or IB.  The teaching curriculum in India is outdated and does not prepare teachers in any way for these boards.  Most new teachers have only 1-2 years of teaching experience before they join international schools.  Most experienced teachers who come from Indian boards continue to teach in their traditional ways.  Very few schools recognize teachers who have completed a more elaborate Master’s program in education and are exposed to child psychology, which enables them to better understand how children think and how they should adapt their teaching styles to each child.  “Differentiation” is a buzzword schools love to throw out at parents, but are their teachers ready to differentiate in their classroom?  For example, how many teachers can teach a class of 20 children where half that number have different learning needs, and thereby different lesson plans and worksheets of different level of difficulty?

Ask your Principal how many of his/her teachers have gone through something similar to the Cambridge Professional Development Qualification, especially if they offer Cambridge in the 6-10 grade blocks. Many Principals will claim that their teachers participate in several workshops each year, but how many of them can confidently say that the learning from these workshops are internalized and sustainable at their schools?  How are they measuring the effectiveness of such workshops?  Or are teachers going back to the old ways one week later?

More importantly, it is the leadership at the school that must drive this change in culture and approach to education to match the philosophy of Cambridge and/or IB.  The change has to be driven top-down.  Many schools hire Principals from overseas who have Cambridge and/or IB experience, so that they can drive this change down through their deep understanding of these boards.  Talk to your Principal about his/her belief and commitment to both international programs, and how he/she thinks these boards will make children better prepared for tomorrow.  If you are not convinced with what they say, then that is not the right school for you.  

In my post next week, I’ll share my views on some other differences between the IB and Cambridge programs.  In the meantime, what are some of the questions that are on your mind as you evaluate international schools?  What are some of the questions you have been asking your school Principal and/or teachers?  Do share your thoughts in the blog.

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