Government of India is looking at opening schools and colleges in Unlock 0.2 beginning July 1, 2020. It’s time to focus not only on the logistics of a safe school but also curriculum, instructional materials and multiple modes of curriculum transaction. Completely rethinking an old system requires creativity and pragmatism combined with impeccable planning and problem-solving skills to make it happen. Add to it some courage and lots of empathy, the School Leaders will find a miraculous way out of the traditional examination-dominated system and install a modern, technology driven, learner-led system of learning!
Apex educational bodies in India NCERT & CBSE have announced their intentions of implementing hybrid system of schooling with blended learning post lockdown. While schools are waiting for their structural guidelines, it will be useful to understand these imported concepts and mull over them in order to effectively adapt them to suit the needs of our domestic learners and institutions. There are no answers in this write up – it only shares some facts and raises some questions to stimulate thinking of the reader to help them find a perfect-fit model of hybrid school and blended curriculum for their schools.
Hybrid school came into existence in US more than a decade ago as a reaction to and rejection of the traditional schools where learning had regressed into a vicious cycle of cram-reproduce-stress for high scores. Tightly controlled curriculum, fixed systems of teaching and examination, such as also currently in practice in India, do not test the innate intelligence, talent or aptitude of learners and in fact systemically reject creativity to reward uninspired reproduction. Some parents, fed up and concerned that no real-learning was happening, began to opt out of traditional schools to take charge of their children’s education through home-schooling. Eventually a half-way system was devised as the need was felt for a formal structure of school with teachers, peers, learning infrastructure and facilities that only a school can offer. This system resulted in a hybrid system of schooling. What makes this system different?
School-days are fixed ranging from 2-4 and remaining days children study at home under parental supervision.
Learning means primarily self-study, where deep learning is preferred over wide in knowledge perusal
Curriculum is flexible with addition of learning resources from multiple sources in the real-world context
Parents retain primacy in shaping their child’s education- learning, personality development and value inculcation
Schools become secondary and Teacher’s role is limited to providing the Socratic /university style of inquiry led discussions that encourages learners to question teacher for clarity and collaborative experiential learning with peers
Schools give opportunities for Sports & Co-curricular activities for holistic development.
Around same time, another system of Hybrid schooling came up with technology as the chief driver of the course. This was a more global phenomenon that happened in the wake of Edtech revolution where technology was harnessed to reform traditional school systems that provided no flexibility, no variety, no real-life connect and little scope for independent study to the learner. Schools designed flipped classrooms that gave learners carefully curated e-content consisting of teachers notes, videos, power points, links to on-line learning resources etc. In addition to this the students attended school for periodic classroom interactions. This Hybrid model designed educational experience as a blend of online learning and traditional brick n mortar school. What makes blended curriculum with flipped learning different?
This model of instruction focuses on self-study by the learner through online resources with an online community of peers facilitating learning through discussions.
Technology gives learners the opportunity to learn in their preferred style using audios, videos, worksheets, daily quizzes and simulated experiments in virtual reality etc. which is normally not possible in a traditional classroom.
This is followed by teacher facilitated enquiry-led discussions that aid critical thinking and real-life application of learning.
In lower classes learners work together in small groups and teacher facilitates discussions, poses questions, tracks progress and offers additional support and remediation based on each learner’s need.
In high-school the learners study independently in their cubicles with academic coach/tutor circulating to monitor progress, offering suggestions and deciding together with students how to proceed further.
This system leads to personalization of learning for each learner –making it self-directed and self-paced study. In reality it means a student can slow down and learn at own pace in one subject whereas in other subject s/he can jump far ahead of the class.
This is different from traditional classroom where the teacher, bound by the constraints of vast syllabi and limited time, leads learning and moves on to the next Unit irrespective of the fact whether all students have learnt or not.
The Hybrid model of schooling with blended curriculum has been variously customized by different institutions and a number of new models have evolved such as The Rotation Model, The Flexible Model, Self-blend Model, Enriched Virtual Model etc. What has increased the popularity of Hybrid Schools is that it combines best of both worlds- personalized learning, access to a variety of on-line learning resources, lively classroom environment and teacher facilitation.
Takeaways for Indian Schools
Struggling with disadvantages of examination-obsessed Indian education that totally ignores the individual learning needs and aspirations of a child, many private schools have been innovating in their own way to provide a more meaningful learning experience. Statistics also reveal an increasing trend of parents opting for stress-free, more holistic and integrated curriculum offered by international boards of education such as IGCSE, IB and Edexcel etc. It may come as a surprise to many that last 15 years have seen a 10-fold increase in their popularity, and India ranks second, closely followed by China, with maximum number of international schools in a country. The aspirational middle-class parents are opting for International Boards in spite of the extremely high fee because they offer a more practical and application-based curriculum with a broader spectrum of subject combinations and also focus on developing 21st century skills such as critical thinking and creativity in the learners that would enhance their employability. The fact that Indian Universities accept students from International schools adds to their acceptability in the India. These trends in fact are a matter of serious concern for us as they indicate an increasing public disenchantment with Indian education.
Therefore, at this juncture when the education system is being modified through infusion of technology to suit the changed social circumstances, the schools should seize this opportunity to make more value additions to the teaching learning process. The questions given below, will act as pointers for Principals and teachers to innovate and reform within the framework of a CBSE or State Board Curriculum and make learning more integrated, skill-based and relevant to the 21st century world of work and life style.
What would you rate as more important – content or the process of learning?
How will the teacher incorporate experiential learning within a unit of study, with opportunities for application of learning in a real-life context?
What is the importance of questioning in the learning process? How do open-ended questions enhance conceptual understanding?
When assessing a learner, the teacher should be looking for the correct answer or evidence of learning through reasoning?
What is better- to know few things very well or know lots of things without understanding?
How does Technology integration ‘personalize learning’ which is otherwise difficult in a classroom situation?
How does technology integration in learning make a learner employable?
How can the school move away from a purely academic focus to a more broad-based integrated curriculum?
How does integration of Fine and Performing Arts aid in retention of learning?
Should learning be limited to subject content or include ‘learning how to learn’?
What is metacognition? How does it impact learner’s academic and career trajectory? How is it connected to life-long learning?
How is facilitation different from teaching? What are facilitation skills?
How can teacher-dominance over learners and the learning process be mellowed down to create a more democratic and mutually respectful learning environment?
How can 21st century skills be incorporated in the teaching-learning process? Can creative thinkers and problem solvers improve the socio-economic-political well-being of a nation?
Why is high emotional quotient more important than high intelligence quotient?
What is the purpose of schooling?
Lest we may erroneously conclude that Indian philosophical thought has nothing of value to offer to the world of education, let me remind readers of thinkers and social reformers like Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Sri. Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi and Jiddu Krishnamurti who gave us indigenous innovative models of learner-centric education which continue to be quoted by many but have been adopted by few.
What has been done by the government, apex bodies, public as well as private educational enterprises to improve the quality of Indian education is woefully inadequate. Fortunately, now we have an opportunity to pull Indian education out of the morass of irrelevance. Let’s make the most of it and rediscover the joy of learning for our learners and regain respect and acceptance among our stakeholders. Let me leave you with the thoughts of writer Robin S. Sharma who says, ‘Everything is created twice, first in mind and then in reality.’ Go on begin the visualization of this beautiful dream here and now before bringing it to life in your schools!
(Author has Associate Director, Centre for Curriculum & Pedagogy, New Delhi and Member, Educational Research & Innovations Committee (ERIC) of Ministry of HRD, Government of India.)