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‘Overhaul of teacher training curriculum needed’

Nidhi Thapar, an alumna of Apeejay Panchsheel Park and Vice President, Academics at Edunation says, the conventional approach to training is not enough to meet 21st-century expectations for students’ learning.

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Nidhi says Edunation provides comprehensive end-to-end services to manage school operations. The school offerings are delivered through 3 cornerstones – Academic Excellence, Operational Excellence and Health, Safety & Child Protection. The group currently has 10 schools under its umbrella with a student base of around 13,000. She has also worked for more than seven years as Regional Lead – Academics at Pearson Education Services, a British company that provides all kinds of education services. She is also a former educator. In a candid interview, Nidhi explains the role of Apeejay in preparing her for the real world, the best part about being a teacher, how the pandemic sparked more appreciation for educators, and more. Edited excerpts:

What are the key takeaways from your school life?

I participated in every activity at Apeejay Panchsheel Park be it debates, dance or sports. I believe co-curricular activities add a new dimension to your personality and help develop various skills and abilities. I was part of the school’s debate and volleyball team. After class 9, I started taking leadership roles and was appointed as the ‘Head Girl’ in the final year of my school. Taking such roles taught me how to lead a team effectively. For instance, in school, I had to make sure that everyone is on the same page and this ability to take everyone along helped in my career as well. I understood the importance of collaborative approaches as the traditional top-down hierarchical structure is no longer considered practical or efficient.

How did you get into teaching?

I got into teaching by chance, not by choice. I was married to an Army Officer and since we had to often shift our base, I thought teaching would be an ideal profession. In my first stint as a teacher, I taught the students of class 10 and they did quite well in Boards.  This is when I realised that being in education is my true calling.

What is the best part about being a teacher?

The joy of bringing change in the life of students is immeasurable. Teachers can affect virtually every aspect of their students’ lives, teaching them the important life lessons that will help them succeed beyond the standardised tests. There are so many occasions when ex-students meet you and remind you how successful he/she is because of your nurturing. What can be more wonderful and satisfying than that? However, it is not always easy to change a student’s life, only great teachers can do so.

According to you, what has the Covid-19 pandemic taught us about teachers?

Due to online learning, there’s a growing realisation among parents and other stakeholders that teaching requires a Herculean effort. With e-learning becoming the only option for schooling to continue, teachers rose to the challenge and came up with innovative teaching and learning strategies to keep the students engaged. Their emphasis was on activity-based learning. It’s amazing how quickly our teachers adapted to online learning. They were also available post school hours to allay the doubts of students. All in all, teachers kept the flame of knowledge burning. I am involved in a lot of ‘Teacher Training’ activities and what I have observed over the years is that teachers have started taking more pride in their profession.

How can we improve the quality of education?

Firstly, we need to redefine the teacher training curriculum to meet the expectations of 21st century. To instill critical thinking in our students we need to overhaul our pedagogy. Secondly, teachers need to be paid better. In general, we don’t pay teachers what they are worth. There could be general guidelines and policies for teachers’ salaries and they should be implemented in letter and spirit.

How can parents help students deal with digital distractions?

Too often, when it comes to screen time, the habits of children are placed under scrutiny, but less frequently evaluated are the screen habits of adults. If adults are continuously glued to the screen then children will do the same. Researchers have uncovered a trend between excessive use of the devices by parents and behavioural problems in youngsters. Also, I believe parents should not give phones to their children before secondary school.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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