In conversation with TND, Caesar D’silva, Principal, Global Indian International School (GIIS), Ahmedabad said that the school is constantly evaluating and developing innovative ways to make virtual classrooms more interesting for the students
Education sector is badly affected due to the Corona crisis, how is GIIS Ahmedabad coping with it?
The spread of pandemic Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on all aspects of human life, including education. It has created an unprecedented test on education. As a result, educational institutions were forced to shift from classrooms to computers. However, in spite of all, we have been able to provide unhindered delivery of classroom sessions virtually. Our futuristic vision helped the school in moving to a virtual school, where students and teachers are engaged in lessons exactly as they would be doing if the schools were operating physically.
We don’t see any hurdles as such. Teachers at GIIS have been delivering education remotely for more than a year now. Besides this, they are constantly evaluating and developing innovative ways to make virtual classrooms more engaging and interesting for the students.
The Education sector has taken up digital platforms for students, what new technologies have GIIS introduced?
The teachers at GIIS are using AR/VR tools to make learning a more enriching experience. Various other platforms like Tata Edge, Khan Academy, Math Prodigy, Diksha Portal are used by the teachers regularly to ensure better learning outcomes. Various digital tools and apps like Quizizz, Kahoot, Zoom, Google classroom, Whiteboard for explanation, O-labs, Eklavya for online assessment, and Virtual Tours, etc are being used to ensure smooth functioning of educational activities.
The virtual classes are conducted through a licensed version of Zoom app which ensures complete Safety and Security for both teachers and students. The control for smooth conduction of the class lies with the teacher. For example, allowing the students to unmute themselves to speak, making them panelists, allowing them to share screens, etc ensures a continuous engagement and participation in the class.
We also integrated the timetable on myGIIS (our internal ERP system) for seamless conduction of classes, which ensured students and parents could easily and directly see the timetable on the portal with the class schedule along with the details of the subject teachers.
Class tests, assignments and assessments, are seamlessly carried out through the proctor based and AI enabled tool Eklavya, and Google Classroom portals. We also have a GIIS Helpline Number on WhatsApp, which is managed by a dedicated team that ensures the queries raised by parents are resolved on a real time basis.
Every class has a google classroom for each subject where the teachers post various learning materials and assignments. Students in turn upload their homework and other submissions on the same. Post which, the teachers give their feedback after checking the students’ work, all on a common platform.
The O-labs platform is being used to conduct virtual practicals for subjects such as science and math. Using this, the students are able to perform experiments through simulations. The school also has a wide repository of e-books and digital content.
Peer-to-peer learning is necessary for young students. Will online education provide effective learning?
Yes, peer-to-peer learning is an integral part of a student’s learning journey. At GIIS, our curriculum is designed in a way that encourages peer-to-peer learning. For us, online education is just as effective as traditional education. Each student has a different learning style. Some students are visual learners, while some students prefer to learn through audio. Online education provides a bouquet of options and resources that can be tailored in a variety of ways. Furthermore, online education has several tools such as videos, PDFs, podcasts, and we are using all these tools as part of our regular classroom sessions.
Besides this, we regularly organize several programs and activities such as Global Student Exchange Program, LEAPS, RWCC (Real World Challenges Convention), Buddy Program etc., that promote collaboration and make learning more interesting and cultivate useful skills such as leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, among others.
When do you think schools will reopen and will it affect the admission this year?
Students’ health and safety have always been our top priority, especially in light of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases across the country. We have always been abiding by the local laws and guidelines issued by the government authorities regularly. However, we are well prepared to reopen our campus for students once the situation is under control. But again, this decision will be based on the local laws and guidelines and how comfortable parents feel to send their child to the school.
GIIS Ahmedabad has carved a niche for itself as one of the leading schools in the city. Due to the word-of-mouth publicity by our existing parents who are satisfied with the school, we have received overwhelming responses in the admissions this year. We have over 600 new students who have joined the school for the academic year 2021-22.
How do you aspire to bring a change in the education ecosystem of India?
As a school, we have always believed in a holistic approach, so we cover various aspects of a student’s life. At GIIS we truly believe that the actual education and overall development of the students cannot be confined to just books and within the four walls of the classroom. Therefore, we, through our various initiatives, constantly strive to nurture our students into fine and responsible individuals. Some of the key initiatives are highlighted below.
Happiness- GIIS Ahmedabad follows the culture of Happiness. All the programmes of the school are built around the theme of the Happiness of the stakeholders. This has helped create a positive environment where students are free to express themselves without any fear and share a strong bond with the teachers.
Mental Well-being- The school conducts HELP heartfulness sessions for the senior students throughout the year for their mental and emotional well-being. The school counsellors also conduct group as well as individual sessions with the students. The school regularly invites experts to conduct webinars for students and parents for their overall well-being.
Green initiatives- GIIS Ahmedabad has been taking up the role of a torchbearer for inculcating Green Ethics among the students, teachers, and community. The main purpose of this initiative is to create an effective educational environment, suitable for local conditions. Our students also get a chance to promote their activeness, and creativity with regard to the environment.
How do you look at the e-learning scenario of India, post-pandemic?
Blended learning is the future of our educational system. The lockdown has served as a warm-up period for remote learning & teaching and has given us time to improvise on the usage of tech tools. Constant efforts are being made by the school to improvise and build on a robust e-learning ecosystem. This is going to continue to remain the top priority in the K-12 sector.
I strongly believe, the post-pandemic scenario is not only exciting but also empowering, as it promises limitless opportunities for life-long learning for everyone, regardless of geographical location.
With the start of the new academic season, what kind of programs are you planning to introduce?
We are introducing several new activities and initiatives for the new academic session while keeping the current situation in mind. Some of them are activity-based, while others are project-based. We are in the process of launching our podcast radio station, bringing organic farming, and introducing Meditation for the mental and emotional well-being of our students, among others.
For Project-Based programs, we intend to adopt a heritage site or monument, as well as a municipal school. These are just a few examples of activities; we plan to add more to this session. We have also launched a robust Scholarship program through which we extend financial support to deserving, talented and meritorious students with fee waivers up to 100%.
Parents are anxious and concerned about their child’s educational progress as schools remain shut, how do you plan to overcome it?
GIIS Ahmedabad has been conducting both scholastic and co-scholastic activities on the virtual mode successfully. The school has a well-designed almanac with a plan for the entire year which includes assessments, events, celebrations, workshops, etc. The students and parents have responded positively to all the activities conducted by the school and are an integral part of these activities.