The high profile two-day School Leaders Convention 2018, Reboot and Retool: Education in Times of Change concluded on 11th September in Mumbai. The convention was hosted by one of Indias most distinguished and low-profile educationists Bombay Cambridge Gurukul Group Chairman, Vikram Patel, an Internationalist in his outlook and committed to benchmarking Indias schools with the worlds best. An amazing neutral platform initiated by a school leader for all schools to come together and share best practices and common solutions to common problems. Held on the occasion of 25 years of BCG groups Dr. S. Radhakrishnan International School, Malad, Mumbai and curated by New Millennium Education Partners the gathering was a spectacle of education luminaries discussing and debating how private education in India can shape education in times of change. Celebrating some advances, there was still much lamenting about the state of education in India in the 21st century. Keynote speaker Dr. Vasudha Kamat, Member, New Education Policy Drafting Committee and former Vice Chancellor, SNDT Womens University, acknowledged for integrating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teacher education, and higher education, emphasized the need for curricula today to break away from the old, traditional ways of teacher dominated learning to student centric learning . The need of the hour was to integrate knowledge across subject disciplines along with 21st century skills development. Pioneering IIT Professor Padmashri, Dr. Deepak Phatak, founder of the prestigious Kanwal Rekhi School of IT , developer of blended Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for students in India, and synchronous distance education for training 10,000 teachers at a time, re-iterated that schools must prepare for a technology enabled future in which educators focus on the learning processes of students and not on marks, on guided research and innovation, with teachers enabling students to co-operate, explore and communicate. Dr. Vasudha Kamat was concerned that schools still cling to teaching the 'who and ' when facts rather than encouraging learning of the 'what 'why and how of subjects. Both stalwarts conveyed the message to school leaders that education in times of change must provide multiple lifelong learning pathways encouraging students to develop deep knowledge and learn smart and to develop higher order problem solving skills for future jobs not yet created or known. Dr. Kamat also spoke of the importance of Global Competence in light of the poor performance of India in PISA ( Programme for International Student Assessment) among the 73 OECD ( Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development ) countries .
But with technology now in classrooms, Vipul Redey, Head of School Enablement, Khan Academy led an enlightening discussion on how to design rigorous learning for each student in class. For the panelists, Ujjwal Singh, Product & Innovation Head of Emerging Markets, Pearson India, Lohit Sahu, Founder Phyzok, Prodipta Hore, Mathematics Head of Aditya Birla World Academy and Sriram Subramanian, Co-Founder, Callido Learning , the discussion enabled important knowledge sharing with the audience on the question of how to identify individual strengths and weaknesses of students; the good news was that with the availability of tech based, highly refined Big Data , delivery of lessons can be more differentiated and personalized than ever before in the blended or flipped learning model. Ravina Aggarwal, Director, Columbia Global Centers, Mumbai, pointed out the dual challenge of educating students for a competitive global market while developing responsible adults in a multicultural world, citing the relevance of the democratic ideas of equality and inclusiveness of Indian Socio-political reformer Dr. B.A.Ambedkar and American Educationist John Dewey in preparing students for multicultural work environments. BCG Chairman Vikram Patel and Alok Mathur, Trustee, Krishnamurti Foundation both spoke about creating learning environments that nurture goodness, compassion and creativity in young individuals towards building a sustainable society. Considering the impending scenario of greater entrepreneurial possibilities, Yuti Dalal Jhaveri, Founder, The Curiosity Club led the deliberation on creating an entrepreneurial mindset in schools; Monica Bhatia, Principal of BCGs Veer Bhagat Singh International School felt that a curriculum to teach entrepreneurial skills would be useful, Tejal Amin, Chairperson Navrachana University and Schools, Arunabh Singh, Director, Nehru World School, Jaideep Gupta, Founder & CEO Univariety enumerated skills such as, risk taking ability, perseverance despite failure, and courage as essential. Bharati Thakore, Founder and CEO of New Millennium Education Partners posed a new question, on how to professionalize and standardize education management, particularly across school groups or school franchises; Puneet Kothapa, President, Narayana Education Society which operates 500 hundred school branches in 12 states of India, with 13,000 teaching faculty and 350, 000 students stressed how vital it is for a school leader to sit and observe a class for 20 minutes periodically, he referred to developing a scalable curriculum across schools by a 150 member research and development team of specialists, an SOP and micro-schedule for teaching, quality assurance systems which include infrastructure, safety and washroom hygiene across schools, accountability and transparency, Debshankar Mukhopadhyay, CEO, ZEE Learn which operates in 750 towns with 124 schools and 2,50,000 students in their network of franchises, spoke of quality assurance standards such as across the board assessment parameters, equipping teachers with technology and periodic audits, and the need for schools, like hospitals to be financially sound; Kishore Iyengar, Vibgyor Schools Cluster Principal described a quality enrichment framework for ensuring teacher effectiveness, Kunal Dalal, Managing Director, JBCN and Rahul Deshpande, CEO, Euroschool while stressing child centredness, also viewed capital investment in quality as imperative, and pointed out the availability of choice at many price points for parents. The need for good private school education is recognized by the government and parents have found value in private schools said Arushi Jain, Leader Education & Intellectual Property Group drawing attention to legal diligence such as registering the school brand name and periodic housekeeping audits across schools, while Imran Jafar, Managing Partner, Gaja Capital brought out the need for private capital investment in scaling up high quality education with economies of scale. Concluding the conference was the subject of caring classrooms for social-emotional learning led by Fatima Agarkar, Co-founder, KA EduAssociates, with Zirak Marker, Medical Director Mpower and CEO Aditya Birla Integrated School stating that in view of the frequent cases of suicide and depression among students mental health must be incorporated into the school curriculum.