With the recent budget announcements in India and the huge expectations from the Finance Minister with regards to the education sector; (the 2017 budget allocation to education was upped by 10 per cent from the previous year, now standing at INR 79,000 crores / INR 790 billion), it seemed like the perfect time to press the pause button in my hitting-the-road-running life, to take a deep breath, reflect and perhaps (Un)learn! The opportunity to do just this came in the form of an invitation to participate in an exciting outing as a delegate at the UK-India Education Week, organised by the British Council offices in India and the UK.
During this time, I along with other delegates was exposed to current and future technological trends in school education practice; the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers using advanced technological tools; a library of experience for diversity and inclusion (facilitated by a Microsoft partnership); digital democracy and the overwhelmingly huge Bett show, to name a few. The common denominator underpinning all of these remarkable developments in education is the snowballing of computing technology, coupled with a strong desire to create disruptive innovation.
Two experiences amidst many that stood out for me personally: the visit to Christopher Hatton primary school located in central London and the meeting with the team at NESTA. I could totally relate to the background and setting of the primary school, with many children from disadvantaged communities (opting for the free school meals scheme), and almost 26 different languages being spoken in the school. The dedication of the head teacher Gwen Lee and her team of very driven staff touched me and it was no surprise that the school recently received an ‘outstanding’ rating from the English government inspectorate: Ofsted. It was interesting to note that many of the challenges that the schools’ sector faces in the UK were similar in nature to what we are facing in India and in Tamil Nadu, where I am from. For example, at Christopher Hatton school, more than two thirds of the children were learning English as an additional language (which is the given, in our classrooms in India). The school has also invested deeply into teacher development – the recruit, train and retain policy that Gwen follows in the school uses technology very innovatively to strengthen teachers and make them more self-aware. This includes the use of the Iris Connect system.
At the end of the week, I had made new connections, not just with people in the UK, but also with fellow delegates from back home. Along with our full schedule of meetings and events, we also had time to eat hot desi khana (Indian food) and hip fusion cuisine (thanks to some seriously awesome hospitality from the British Council), hang out at an uber-cool Sherlock Holmes themed pub and just simply walk the streets of London, soaking in the beauty and busy-ness of it all. Even the classic London weather taught me something significant: change is constant, but it is magical too.
Back home now I’m looking forward to following up on my conversations, exploring collaborative possibilities and continuing the learning opportunities with potential partners.
Post and images by Janaka Pushpanathan, Founder, UnLearn.