For the past 18 years that I have been in the education space, these words by Martin Luther King Jr. have been a source of inspiration and direction for me:
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the true goal of true education.”
If you think about it, the proposition is pretty simple – education is meant to enable, to empower and get individuals to think, because when they do, questions will need to be answered, facts will be discovered and new skills uncovered. That leads to creation which eventually keeps the wheel churning and we call this progress and evolution.

So how did this simple proposition get so complicated with our schooling system? Is it a case of structure that bottled all the creativity and subjected it to standardised “tests” to create benchmarks against which strategies were developed because it was easier to standardise and nurture “knowledge” than allow various perspectives and truly educate? This is certainly one idea for panellists to discuss in upcoming conferences, perhaps?

So while educators discuss and debate, here’s something that got me excited like a breath of fresh air – an international programme now in India that is built on the pillars of the renowned Finnish curriculum and enhanced by drawing on the global best pedagogical practices, the “common-sense” education by the New Nordic Schools, the official member of the Education Finland initiative.

The Podar Group, always scouting for the best-in-class practices spearheaded by the dynamic Raghav Podar, embraced the idea instantly, given its merit. They will operationalise this program for families in their Santacruz branch for the Exploration Stage (Early Years) in 2020! First kid on the block to bring a learning experience to families in India that is, in a nutshell, future-learning, which is focused on skills that not only apply to schools but also to life, in general.
It is quite easy to see why this chemistry works given that the New Nordic Baccalaureate is all about empowering children to be creative, innovative, adaptable, collaborative problem solvers with excellent communication skills. Analyse this closely and you will see how the development and mastery of these skills distinguish successful and happy professionals from those that struggle with the changes in the workplace. Most HR Heads or CEOs I have spoken to rate these skills as non-negotiable and critical when hiring, rather than those that “test-well”. The pace of change in the world, especially the future, will be so exponential that knowledge alone will not be enough. It is these skills that will hold the test of changing times, and yet these cannot simply be “planted”. These must be nurtured like a sapling that eventually goes to bear juicy fruit!

That’s New Nordic’s promise to families – providing solutions for the realities of work. With an eye on shaping the future, the program lends itself to any board for that matter, building on their foresight as a team with experienced and seasoned professionals shaping the curriculum framework. It is flexible, adaptable and allows the educators to focus on the 7 core competencies through interdisciplinary strategies (linking subjects together) and building a scaffolding effect that allows a child’s mind to develop from the exploration phase to the foundation stage, leading to formation and eventually direction. What’s most exciting is the Exploration Stage. I firmly believe that Early Years sets the tone for Primary and Middle School. Unless the base is strong and secure, and firmly resting on rationale and logic, everything that follows will simply be a patch up job – or playing catch up.

Our parallel education system – the dreaded tuition classes- exist and flourish simply because children in their early and elementary years were not exposed to or, did not understand or could not follow or were never given a rationale that made “sense”. Hence, when the nuances of subject rules set in, with their limited understanding, it was easier to outsource to a specialist who would guide them to “memorise” the model answers and then “ace” the examinations so that they “tested” well with zero or little interest to set the “wrong” right. Did they actually learn? Did anyone care?
Memories of our childhood are bound to flash before us – we have all been there in those classrooms and “learnt” and then quickly forgot because the test concluded.

With their “common-sense” approach to learning, New Nordic approach lays the foundation for critical thinking, cause and effect, asking questions, discovering, challenging and uncovering strategies for children who then enjoy the process of learning and facilitation. They, then, become “owners” of their learning, able to demonstrate interest or dislikes while understanding how the world around them operates through a lens that explains but doesn’t ask them to memorise. Significantly, they also probe deeper to uncover more. That’s when discoveries that have the potential to create more solutions happen!
The beauty of the New Nordic Schools is the careful science behind how they plan the content; how to teach this content based on years of experience and careful research, understanding child behaviour and the attitude to learning, as well as the changing environment. Therefore, it naturally builds a child’s curiosity especially in the Early Years. This makes the children more aware, confident and natural risk takers. This is what educators call “seamless” and “non-threatening” learning.

New ideas to help a child learn better backed with years of experience easily gets me excited since learning must have relevance and context and must lead to further discovery. If the system simply gets you to repeat what is already in existence, when will we be able to create solutions for existing problems? We simply would not evolve as a society and God knows how many problems we have at hand as we look ahead.

For parents, this refreshing approach to learning will mean that they can trust their school as the one with the expertise that will safely nurture their children and develop skills that develop independence and critical thinking. This means finally they can enjoy their children’s childhood years and not worry about what “more” they need to do to secure their children’s future.

I am visiting the Podar Santacruz branch for their ‘Sneak Peek Week ‘starting January 20th, 2020, to uncover how this all unfolds in a real-life context. I urge you to book your appointment as soon as possible since it is always important to know what’s new in the world of education. I am already excited by what I heard the Founder, Pia Jormalainen and Chief Education Officer, Stephen Cox shared in their presentation with several educators, almost a month ago!
Good times ahead for students to enjoy the process of learning ……

An Award winning educationalist (K-12), on the Advisory Board of several schools & edutech companies, she’s a veteran of 3 educational start ups and the Founder of ACE. Pioneering change-maker, she’s passionate about revolutionalising education. |