All posts by Shwetangna Chakrabarty

Shwetangna Chakrabarty is the IBDP Coordinator and University Counsellor at Guangzhou Nanfang International School, China. She has 15 years of experience in teaching three different curricula in four countries. She has taught mathematics and business management to the International GCSE and International Baccalaureate (IB) students. She has had multiple responsibility positions including pedagogical leader, DP, Extended Essay, MYP Personal Project, CIS/NEASC accreditation coordinator and IB Examiner. She has a degree in education and an MBA, she is also a college counsellor certified by TripleA learning, U.K.

What if we taught gender equality?

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Recently I was asked by students to audition for the TEDxYouth event they are putting together under the theme of ‘What if…’After critically reasoning, I decided to pick a topic close to my heart, gender equality. I framed my question ‘What if we taught gender equality?’ By teaching about gender equality we can aim to achieve it.

What impact would gender equality have? By gender equality, I mean equal opportunities. Imagine if women had equal opportunities in all aspects of life. A bit of research helped to answer this question and the results were astounding!

The Power of Parity: Women’s equality can add $28 trillion to global growth! If women participated in the job market the same way as men then US$ 28 trillion could be added to the global Gross Domestic Product in the next decade. If the next decade sounds too far, let’s see some present-day data. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 865 million women in the world have the potential to contribute more fully to their economies, for example, the Asia-Pacific region would make $89 billion a year because if women had equal job opportunities. (Copyright © McKinsey & Company 2015)

So to begin answering the What if…question, just by including women in the workforce the world can get rid of poverty.

The World’s Largest Inequality: According to the statistics published by the United Nations (UN) 1 in 5 women experienced violence in the hands of a man they know; Global gender pay gap is stuck at 16%; 12 million girls are married below the age of 18. These are only some statistics, furthermore, decisions being made for women, are not been made by them; 75% of parliamentarian are men, 73% of managerial decision-makers are men, 67% climate negotiators are men, 87% of people at the peace table are men. This proves that one of the world’s largest inequality is Gender inequality! (Copyright © United Nations 2020)

Once again to answer the ‘what if’ question, we would solve the world’s largest injustice.

Further what if we taught gender equality: We would achieve success in resolving world issues. What if women had gender equality is almost like asking for permission, and this permission has to come from us, women. This all starts by educating our students to work towards a gender-balanced society as gender equality is the answer to all our current world issues.

Our economic potential would be doubled, more people would have jobs, which would bring equality in many realms of society due to reduced economic insecurity and reduced poverty. There would be better socio-economic progress as the world would be better balanced with men and women, dualism and monism, yin and yang, enthalpy and entropy and in machine language binary off and on!

The world would be a peaceful place, as per statistics from the UN, 87% men sit on the peace table and we have only seen war in the past five decades, if only we change the statistics by 10% there would be better negotiation and meaningful decision making for keeping world peace. A recent example is the of superior decision making and impactful action by women to the COVID19 pandemic; most countries that handled this crisis well had women leaders like Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern and Tsai Ing-wen.

Our planet would be greener and would age slower, as clearly, the climate negotiations have not been effective. In spite of great will and united efforts from leaders of the world, where 67% were men, the collapse of the planet is becoming a reality. This has to be stopped and one way to do so is to give women equal opportunity to make important decisions. If Greta Thunberg in her teens can make such an impact imagine what our girls and women can do for this planet, if, given an opportunity.

Unconscious biases that become invisible enemies like racism could be addressed if women had more opportunity in the parliament. Clearly a less that 30% representation in the parliaments of the different countries has only led to promoting discriminating based on sex, color and creed; exploiting religious beliefs for electoral gains; and changing women rights instead of changing the systems.

We are a world where female genital mutilation is a current practice; where women and girls cannot make decisions about their own bodies both sexual and non-sexual; where culture, religion, rules and policies justify segregation of women and prevent them from achieving their full potential and the world’s full potential. We have to teach equality for women and for women rights.

In summary, if there was gender equality, there would be an equal, greener and more peaceful world!

Happy New Year: Resolutions for Education 2021

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The much-awaited and anticipated start to a new year full of new hopes is here! As we step into 2021, we all will look back at 2020 as a year of the education revolution. Prior to COVID19, educators had been contemplating a change in pedagogy; discussing the skills required for a near future; training young adults for coping with artificial intelligence, but suddenly all of this changed as everyone woke up to a new reality-COVID19. A lot has changed since then, hence with the new year coming in, we need new resolutions for education 2021.

Well-done to Well-being

Learning is an emotional and cognitive experience; we achieve cognition if we are emotionally connected to the learning experience. Teacher and student well being is the urgent priority of the new education revolution 2021, physical well being and most importantly mental well being. With increasing pressure to adapt to a new normal, the stress level has skyrocketed, this can only be addressed by changing the teacher appraisal and student assessment objectives and strategies. The objective has to be well-being over well-done, process-oriented over product-oriented, personal growth over professional growth. Moving away from a culture of extrinsic motivation towards more intrinsically motivated teaching and learning culture has to be the number one resolution of education 2021.

Globalisation to Glocalisation. 

COVID19 has changed the momentum of globalisation; it has forced the businesses, organisations and people to think local. The education revolution of preparing students for a global world has suddenly being forced to change direction and this has left us with the question what next? Even though globalisation will not die a sudden death it has surely slowed down, this has compelled us to delve into the local culture, local knowledge and give it a global perspective; it has narrowed the vision of international mindedness in order to prioritise the immediate needs of the people within the community. This ability to integrate the global objectives into the local perspective and vice versa is glocalisation. The world is heading towards glocalisation hence education resolution will be to prepare a curriculum which integrates local and global perspectives equally into the curriculum. Glocalisation is the true identity and meaning of internationalism for 2021.

Infrastructure to Infostructure

Prior to COVID19 education institutions across the world invested in their physical infrastructure in order to recruit and retain students. In 2020 the physical infrastructures remained unused, teaching and learning continued in a new learning space, the hybrid and online learning space. Schools had to immediately invest into bandwidth, education software, technical support, teacher training and take to social media for communication. Suddenly the conversation changed from the effects of technology in a classroom to the effectiveness of technology in a classroom. The biggest resolution we need is to have a state of the art info-structure for teaching and learning. The education revolution 2021 will see us all investing in info-structure where a milieu of online collaboration, information exchange and artificial intelligence will be called school.

Games to Gamification

Learning by doing is changing to learning by simulations. Thanks to school closure and social distancing, physical games have been replaced by online gamification. By gamification, I mean the use of simulations and games like Minecraft that help students to apply knowledge in virtual reality. Education revolution 2021 will need more gamification software for schools along with firewalls for protection against harmful content and context. Hybrid and online learning will thrive on the gamification of education. Learning through play is a pedagogy currently practised by teachers worldwide, the mode of play has changed hence forcing games to gamification.

We need to step into 2021 with a new set of resolutions for education and new hope for mankind we thank 2020 for ushering the education revolution.

Hierarchy of Needs: the Student Version

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In the time I have been in education, which is almost 15 years now, there has been a constant focus towards addressing student needs. To date it seems we have not met these needs, as they keep increasing and are becoming more and more demanding. Hence there needs to be a structured framework to address the students’ needs in order to provide an inclusive and holistic education to students. But even before creating a framework it is necessary to find out what do students in today’s classrooms actually need.

Recently while teaching motivation theories to the grade 11 students in my business management class, we created a student’s hierarchy of needs very similar to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This hierarchy is based on the student’s perspective of needs, hence, what is coming next, take it with a pinch of salt!

  1. Physiological needs: International school students have demanding physiological needs, it is much more than just food, shelter and clothing. A few examples cited by students themselves; the canteen needs to serve at least 5-6 types of international cuisine; the internet needs to be high speed preferably 5G; there has to be access to world-class facilities like a multi-function gym, heated swimming pools, etc; the freedom to wear anything but the uniform; the devices like laptops, phones, ear pods, have also made it to physiological needs that need to be satisfied.
  2. Safety needs: In a school, there cannot be any compromise with safety, all safety needs must be met. Access to counsellor, nurse, doctor, health and safety guidelines, fire drills, are some of the needs met by the school to ensure child safety and protection. While schools are sweating it out with the ever-increasing need for safety and security, it still isn’t enough. As for the student’s perspective safety means no bullying, no discrimination, no negative body image, no cliques, no harassments, and no ragging. These needs are more demanding and urgent for students.
  3. Belonging needs: Probably the most important need from a student’s perspective is the need to feel needed; a sense of belonging. It is no longer limited to having confidence and good relationships with peers. Students said they need to ‘fit in’; their attitude, attributes and actions need to be ratified by peers and teachers alike, even so, because it is a diverse, multicultural environment. But the dominant culture of the international school decides the fate of the students. I use the word ‘fit in’ as that is more important to students than doing ‘the right thing’. What matters most to students to have a sense of belonging is to be accepted by student, staff and school just the way they are and not the way they have to be.
  4. Esteem needs: These are developed over a period of time when students realize their potential. In the milieu of a school, it is still necessary to perform academically above average to gain self-esteem and confidence. Even in this century after having discussed and debated and researched the purpose of schooling, esteem is still linked to grades. This level is almost impossible for many students to describe and they feel it is hard to achieve. They have varied talents and may not aspire to get the highest grades, but they do aspire to gain a sense of accomplishment. In this vicious circle of achieving high grades, self-esteem and confidence are overlooked, hence students beg to differ when esteem needs are linked with academic performance, they would rather experience accomplishment with their unique abilities in their area of interest, not limited to academics.
  5. Self-actualization: Self-actualization is required to meet 21st century needs. Students need to have critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurship to be able to survive the next paradigm shift. Hence students feel they need to have all the physiological, safety, belonging, esteem needs to be met to reach the best of their potential.

Hence for students to reach the highest level of self-actualisation, international schools need to meet all the needs as per the students’ perspective. It is time to prioritise student’s hierarchy of needs while creating policies to provide a truly inclusive and holistic education experience for a diverse community of international students.

Teachers the Change-Makers: Three lessons from Mahatma Gandhi

In the recent AIELOC (Association of International Educators and Leaders of Colour) conference I had the opportunity to discuss an issue that requires immediate attention. The teacher diversity ratio in international schools has never been a priority until recently when the Black Lives Matte’ global movement took momentum; there has been an intentional and significant shift in the way teachers of colour are regarded in international schools. I would like to explain the need for this shift with the help of three quotes of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Future Depends on What You Do Today

The future of globalization depends on how we as educators groom the global citizens of tomorrow. Hence the future depends on how we teach our children/students to value the rich cultural diversity around them. The future needs teachers to bring into our workplace, our curriculum, our attitude and our attributes, the different shades of our heritage, culture and language. This is only possible if an international environment has people from all over the world driving its mission of internationalism; hence a bit of time and resource investment into recruiting teachers of colour, teachers from diverse backgrounds and teachers with diverse experiences will up the ante for tomorrow’s world to be peaceful and better.

Be The Change That You Wish to See In The World

Probably the most known quote of the Mahatma; it has clarity in the way it appeals to all of us. It is simple, if you wish for change make it happen. Hence as teachers of colour, the burden of starting the conversation, taking powerful initiatives and building a strong case for improving teacher diversity in schools is our burden, there is no Mahatma to lead the change, we are the change-leaders. Doing a bit of research and educating our community is the first step. Table 1 is research done at Stanford University, it will help you to make a case in your environment and give you the conviction that this is the change that will benefit future individuals, institutions and societies. And, we teachers are the change-makers.

Milem, J. (n.d) The Educational Benefits of Diversity: Evidence from Multiple Sectors. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/~hakuta/www/policy/racial_dynamics/Chapter5.pdf

In a Gentle Way You Can Shake the World

Social justice can only be achieved through social service; the world is in a fragile state, in need of repairs and it will only happen with our gentle actions. Anger, confrontation, disputes only create divide not decision. A decision has to be made by gentle means more powerful than any weapon, the Mahatma showed us an example by making ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence his greatest weapon. Similarly, during the Covid19 pandemic, the gentle actions of educators around the world have changed the way we teach and learn; the gentle actions of teachers around the world have created a sustained environment for learning to continue; the gentle action of school leaders around the world has made it possible to improve access to education. All these gentle actions by educators/teachers have actually shaken the world, changed it for better as now the dream of access to education for each and every child can become a possibility with the help of the Covid19 model. Similarly, a social movement as a social service is required for social justice and this time the movement is to improve teacher diversity in international schools; in a gentle way.

An Open Letter to Those Who Voted for Trump

8th November 2020 will go down in history as the day that defined the future of the world; a day that restored our faith in humanity; a day that gave hope to millions of people who aspire to make a change and a day that disappointed millions who voted for Trump.

Hence, I am writing this letter to all the disappointed people who supported and voted for Donald Trump. The intention is to convey a message to reassure and reinforce the goodness of being humane.

Many of you voted for Trump as you felt, your jobs are being taken away by migrants and Trump will give it back to you. Please know that it is not a unilateral world; there are jobs and employment opportunities available globally and many Americans are living and working in other countries, where they are welcomed with open arms. It’s the 21st century and it’s a multilateral world, hence go out to explore the opportunities and free yourself of the vicious promise of manipulating politicians that jobs can be created by snatching them from others.

Many of you voted for Trump as you wanted to make America great again. A country does not need a saviour, a country protects, nurtures and feeds whoever considers her a mother. In that sense every country is great so there is no need to feel it has fallen off a pedestal or needs to be placed on a pedestal for being great. A country is its people; people need to be great in their care, love and approach, that is what makes a country revered and respected which unfortunately was not the case when Trump was in power so think twice if you feel Trump would have made America great again! In fact, it would have been quite the opposite.

Many of you voted for Trump as you wanted the economy to revive; inflation to reduce and employment opportunities to improve. But this was not possible if globalization is threatened by a man who thought democracy is a right to legalize corruption under the pretext of financial growth and economic stability. A man who thought less about other countries in the world, a man who spoke his opinion, not the facts, a man who promised to make America great at the cost of discrimination and dehumanisation.

Many of you voted for Trump as there was no worthy opponent or presidential candidate; I would like to defer, anyone who has not been charged with rape, anyone who has not insulted women in public, anyone who has not celebrated white supremacy and anyone who has not been bankrupt is and will always be a worthy opponent! If you earlier voted for a corrupt businessman, alleged rapist and unapologetic racist, insensitive and insecure man, then I would say you could have easily voted for anyone who is not all the above.

Hence take a moment to let the feeling sink in, it is actually a victory for everyone, even though your vote is lost you have actually won as America without Trump is already great again. It sends out a strong message that a great country of diverse people will not be broken by the selfish wants of a discriminatory, profit mongering and megalomaniac egotist and that it will rise even when there is very slim hope and do it over and over again!

Also, make sure you realise the power of your vote. Vote for what you want not for what others want for you. If you vote to make a wall, you should not expect to get a health care plan; If you vote to discriminate, you should not expect to get employment. Exercise your rights carefully so you get what you want. And finally, celebrate this moment as the country got back it’s self-respect, esteem and greatness all because a man lost the elections. Hence you have won, it’s only Trump who has lost the elections.

Long Live Humanity, Long Live Justice!

The Pygmalion effect: the power of high expectations

To raise the bar or not to raise the bar? To have high expectations or not to have high expectations? This has been a constant discussion topic in many schools. Many believe in order to be inclusive one should lower the expectations to suit the student’s ability while others strongly disagree. Some even confuse it with differentiation as they think giving students work that they can complete as per their ability is differentiation. I strongly disagree, I believe in The Pygmalion Effect (Rosenthal,1987). which simply states that high expectations lead to better achievement levels hence low expectations will lead to low performance.

Diagram
The Pygmalion Effect (source: https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/)
Image source: https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/

This is very true for higher secondary students, they tend to reciprocate the teachers’ approach towards setting expectations and then they perform accordingly. A simple experiment I do is announce that the upcoming test will be very challenging, and surprisingly students come better prepared and perform better than those tests taken casually or informally. Another example is the students’ approach towards formative assessment and summative assessments, they usually do well in summative as the expectations are higher.

Teaching for so many years, I have always set high expectations for student outcomes and designed challenging assessment tasks, sometimes this does not go down very well with many stakeholders in education as some believe that expectations should be as per student ability. Hence I always suffered the conflict whether I should raise the bar or lower it to suit the student’s ability. I never got a clear answer and the conundrum grew until I read about The Pygmalion Effect.

I will briefly highlight the key factors that helped me resolve my conflict regarding expectations. The article Being honest about the Pygmalion Effect, (Ellison, 2015) explains that various researchers have observed when managers have high hopes for their employees, the workers become more productive; when military instructors believe trainees have superior skills, the trainees perform better. The pygmalion effect states that high expectations lead to better achievement levels, hence I strongly promote this strategy in my classroom.

Furthermore, there are seven ways teachers can change their expectations by watching, listening, engaging, experimenting, meeting, reaching out and reflecting (Pianta, 2003). Ironically the last step is most effective, to reflect on the whole process by questioning our personal experiences. This is very insightful if I apply this in my context, I do work better as a teacher if my supervisor has positive expectations of me, hence I should apply the same to my students. This has been a learning curve in terms of setting expectations for students. Hence by following the seven steps teachers can set a high standard without having to worry about the outcomes. But this requires training since teachers need to ensure that the expectations are made challenging for every student at their individual level, it requires deep knowledge of both approaches to learning and differentiation.

In summary, even though the strategies for improving student self-efficacy have been under the spotlight for the past decade, it has not reached its fruition as teachers are neither expected nor trained to set high expectations. In many schools, usually, the expectations are kept low in order to have a greater number of students and low turnover. This has become an ethical dilemma hence must be debated extensively to put together a set of rules and procedures to promote student self-efficacy.

 Ellison, K. (2015). Being honest about the Pygmalion Effect. Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2015/dec/14-great-expectations

Rosenthal, R. (1987). “Pygmalion” Effects: Existence, Magnitude, and Social Importance. Educational Researcher, 16(9), 37-41. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1175728

Pianta, R.C. (2003). Handbook of Psychology  Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/0471264385.wei0710

Diversity Quotient (DQ)

Having travelled to many countries, taught students from many countries, lived in some countries and worked in a few countries, I realized that there is a common thread amongst international educators, we have a high DQ or Diversity Quotient. We as international educators understand the nuances of living in a multicultural, diverse and pluralistic domain. We as international educators are also responsible to teach and nurture global citizens of tomorrow. This responsibility is so massive that sometimes we find ourselves questioning the whole definition of diversity and international mindedness, as there are many factors that influence the diversity quotient or DQ of a student. These factors influence the student’s image of the world and surprisingly their journey to be a global citizen, some of these factors define as well as contradict the very essence of international mindedness. Hence there is no perfect definition of a global citizen or of international mindedness, and there is no full proof way of measuring DQ.

Language: I believe language influences DQ the most. The schools that I worked in have been bilingual or native language or English language schools. In my current school, most students learn three languages and at the same time, some students only speak one language. Hence it is not possible to have a benchmark of a number of languages required to develop a DQ or even have a requirement of speaking a common language. In an interesting discussion with a language teacher, I was surprised to discover that many people including students and parents associate speaking English to being internationally-minded hence having a high DQ. A lot of teachers on the other hand associate multilingualism to a high DQ. At the very core of communication is language but unfortunately, it cannot be a benchmark to measure DQ.

Should students speak one language to be able to communicate with most of the people in the world or should they at least know three languages in order to understand most of the people in the world?

Nationality: Nationality cannot be measured by an identity card or passport, the very simple reason being it does not allow the plurality of identity which is a reality in the globalized world. Consider this scenario, Chinese nationals cannot be admitted in international schools in China, hence many families opt for citizenship of another country, this leads to a situation where a student can have a Canadian passport but has never been to Canada nor spoken the language common in Canada-English. An ID or a passport satisfies legal requirements but does not reveal the true individuality of a student, hence nationality cannot indicate the person’s ability to understand and respect other people’s opinions. If not, then is it right to ask for nationality in every school application? We just limit ourselves by sorting people in different categories, more like creating stereotypes.

The nationality index published by many schools and organisations never truly represents its diversity, in fact, it cannot, as the population is more diverse than just the nationalities it represents.

Curriculum: While there has been a significant shift in curriculum design to include and teach international mindedness, they are still no frameworks to assess and measure DQ. This basically means we can teach how to be a global citizen, but we cannot measure if we succeeded or if it is helping to nurture these internationally-minded global citizens. For example, the inquiry-based approach is facilitated with a questioning strategy that is also painstakingly planned by teachers. Interestingly in many cultures questioning is considered rude; in some languages, the direct translation of ‘question’ is a ‘problem’; hence students don’t want to ask questions or their problems in front of an entire class and the inquiry approach takes a big hit. In such a context it is counterproductive to push students through an inquiry-based dialogical pedagogy in which student participation is key to achieving the lesson objective. Some educators argue that students need to learn inquiry hence should be ‘taught’ to ask questions; which is a contradiction to inquiry. Hence curriculum design or framework has to understand and cater to diverse cultures, one framework or one approach cannot sustain diversity. This may help us educators figure out a way to measure DQ.

True international curriculum needs to integrate the local culture into a global perspective-a Glocal Curriculum.

Diversity Quotient will continue to baffle educators, we need to constantly respond to needs of various cultures in order to even begin to understand the power of diversity in shaping the thoughts, ideas, imagination, creativity and ideas of our students. Trying to teach singularity or unite under the pretext of diversity cannot define DQ. The objective to coexist with diverse people from around the world cannot be ‘taught’, it has to be experienced, heard, felt, spoken many times in many languages in many places to truly develop DQ.

Identifying race, religion, colour has created stereotypes, preaching patriotism has led to war, single language dominance has led to discrimination, celebrating unity has led to racism. Should we teach patriotism, unity and one language in order to live peacefully?

#LEARNINGNEVERSTOPS (International Teacher’s Day)

International Teacher’s Day or World Teachers’ Day is celebrated on 5th October to recognize the rights and responsibilities of teachers. The commemoration of this day was initiated by ILO/UNESCO to come up with recommendations about the status of teachers. This year, the theme for celebrating International Teachers’ Day 2020, is

Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”.

A joint statement was issued by from Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization, Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF, David Edwards, General Secretary, Education International on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day 2020:

“In this crisis, teachers have shown, as they have done so often, great leadership and innovation in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops, that no learner is left behind. Around the world, they have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue. Their role advising on school reopening plans and supporting students with the return to school is just as important.”

As international schoolteachers, we need to be aware of the guidelines issued by ILO/UNESCO because it reinforces the significant responsibilities that we share for shaping the future of the planet and the rights that we have when we work in diverse, transnational and demanding environments.

Let me summarise a few guidelines from the ILO/UNESCO charter which helps and aims to empower the profession of teaching.

It should be recognized that advance in education depends largely on the qualifications and ability of the teaching staff in general and on the human, pedagogical and technical qualities of the individual teachers.” Since the very ancient times, society has been shaped by education philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Confucius to very recent theories of John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Paulo Friere…and the list goes on. The above guideline reinforces the role of educators or teachers in advancing teaching and learning. The more we learn the more we contribute towards reimagining the future. Hence keep learning, if you want to continue teaching.

“The status of teachers should be commensurate with the needs of education as assessed in the light of educational aims and objectives; it should be recognized that the proper status of teachers and due public regard for the profession of teaching are of major importance for the full realization of these aims and objectives.” This guideline, in particular, requires the most urgent attention: the proper status and due public regard for the teaching profession. This is hard to achieve as education is geared towards meeting the economic aim of society- to produce employable individuals. From the industrial era to the digital era, not much has changed, education institutions and policies globally have the common objective of producing skilled labour; in the industrial era it was producing mechanical labour and in the digital era it has changed to producing employable labour. In this whole confusion to meet the economic objectives or ethical objectives, the value of the educator or teacher has been undermined. There are only a few countries in the world that invest more in education than armament, hence the status of teachers has remained a huge challenge. Hence education institutions and governments have to invest in building teacher quality by investing in their social status. More the investments, better the returns.

Working conditions for teachers should be such as will best promote effective learning and enable teachers to concentrate on their professional tasks.” The working condition of teachers has been talked about a lot in educational research done over the past decade. Though there is a huge disparity in the work environment of international schools and local schools, it can be said that a conscious effort has been made to change the classroom space into a positive learning environment. Classrooms in international schools are equipped with state of the art technology, modern gadgets and devices, and ergonomically designed furniture. This is sadly not the scenario in many local schools, hence a way forward for governments and policymakers would be to fund resources for schools and focus on the working condition of teachers. A happy teacher makes a happy classroom environment.

Further, the ILO/UNESCO recommendations also discuss the rights and responsibilities of teachers, here is an edited, easy to read version:

Responsibilities of teachers

  • Teachers should be responsible for recognizing and achieving their professional excellence and competence
  • Teachers should be involved in the process of creating professional standards relating to their performance
  • Teachers should cooperate with authorities for the best interest of the child and society.
  • Codes of ethics or of conduct should be established by the teachers’ organizations.
  • Teachers should take part in extra-curricular activities for the benefit of pupils and adults.
  • Teachers’ organizations should be consulted on matters as educational policy, school organization, and new developments in the education service.
  • Participation of teachers to improve the quality of the education service, educational research, and the development and dissemination of new improved methods.
  • Teachers should be part of professional learning networks.
  • Teachers and administrative staff should seek to establish good relations with each other.

Rights of teachers

  • The participation of teachers in social and public life for teacher’s personal development should be encouraged.
  • Teachers should be free to exercise all civic rights generally enjoyed by citizens and should be eligible for public office.
  • Teachers should have equal opportunities to be part of a public office
  • Teacher and teachers’ organizations should be able to determine both salaries and working conditions through the process of negotiation between and the employers of teachers.
  • Teachers should be assured that they can negotiate with their employers, either public or private.
  • Appropriate joint machinery should be set up to deal with the settlement of disputes between the teachers and their employers arising out of terms and conditions of employment.

Finally, the theme for 2020: “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future” can only be realized if we as educators and teachers are aware of our rights and responsibilities. Learning will never stop, and this implies to both learners and teachers. Learning will continue in the face of any challenge that humankind faces or continues to face, hence as teachers it will always be essential to exercise our rights and fulfil our responsibilities.

Source: www.unesco.org

On the Basis of Sex: A Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The death of Ruth Bader comes as a shock to me, of course, because the world lost yet another powerful, inspiring, courageous and independent women. But it also comes as a shock because of the shenanigans about her death. Don’t read this wrong! What I mean is, I am grateful and thankful that Ruth Bader lived 87 years; I am thankful that she spoke on behalf of millions of women and gave us all the courage and direction to speak up against injustice. But I am absolutely not happy or thankful that the world only thought of remembering her on the day she died, to be honest, it took us 87 years to make her the headlines globally; or discuss her on every social media page, to share her incredible achievements on television channels and print media. I am not trying to take away from the accolades that she earned or the honour that she deserved and received, I am only trying to articulate that we should have celebrated her every day; reminding, inspiring and liberating women from the boundaries created by society On the Basis of Sex and here the word sex means gender, if you misunderstood, it is time for you to reflect on how much cognitive dissonance we have due to the way we are educated. Another truth that bothers me the most is why do we only celebrate women after they have passed. Be it Mother Teresa, Ruth Bader, Lady Diana, Maya Angelou, and the list can go on…


Recently when the movie On the Basis of Sex was released, I was discussing it with my grade 12 students, they revealed that they had not ever heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, never seen her picture on social media nor seen any youtube videos about her. I was shocked and stunned. Where are we going wrong as educators? Even when we are free to design our own curriculum, we do not include independent, inspiring powerful stories of women who made it easier for us to live a better life. We celebrate sportsmen, film stars, politicians, fashion icons who probably have not made as much impact as a woman who graduated from Cornell, got into Harvard Law School, transferred to Columbia Law School and taught at Rutgers Law School. The impact of Ruth Bader’s work is undeniable and yet we ignore it. For a woman, it takes so many academic credentials to be heard. Or it is only required as it is a woman who is trying to be heard. I wish we had the opportunity to listen to her more; talked about her achievements more and maybe voted for her to be President. But we did not, we only truly remembered her at the very end of 87 years. This is what bothers me the most.

So what did we learn On the Basis of Sex? Here are a few quotes from various interviews of Ruth Bader that are very inspiring.

“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”

This quote is so beautiful, especially for women who struggle to be their own person; who have negative body image; who have low self-esteem; who are discriminated on the basis of colour; who are discriminated on the basis of gender. It is time to drop the baggage of trying to live up to the terms and conditions dictated by a patriarchal society. I interpret it in a very simple way, just be independent of all false expectations, only then can women truly discover themselves and their superpowers.

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”

This quote is so inspiring as it teaches us to look for opportunities in challenges and to change our perspective on hurdles. Women have the superpower of turning the tide, even though we revere a few men who changed the course of the tide, we forget about the millions of women who do this every day at work and at home. Many woman risk dangers like sexual abuse, gender discrimination, domestic violence and yet find a way out of it to survive, turning every impediment into working solutions. This needs to be celebrated, even acknowledging this never give up attitude will be a great start

“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”

This quote touches me the most. For a privileged few, like me, who can discuss gender discrimination on an open platform, we need to congratulate the men in our lives for sharing the responsibility of raising the next generation. But for the rest, the basic human right of gender equality has to be taught. As I always keep reinforcing, education is a game-changer, educators are the catalyst for a positive change, educate both our boys and girls about gender equality in order to share the responsibility of the planet.

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

This final quote says it all, after facing personal and professional challenges, Ruth Bader continued to campaign for women rights without being rude or disrespectful. Taking inspiration from this attitude we must teach students to react appropriately and respectfully to different perspectives especially when it is different from their own.

In summary, Ruth Bader’s life should be used as an example; in the age of instant gratification we need to teach students to persevere, never give up and respect each individual for who they are, not for whom we want them to be. That would be a true tribute to Ruth’s sacrifice, courage and excellent work through the past 87 years and many more years to come as her legacy.

Let her spirit of fighting against discrimination never Rest In Peace!

Aboutitis to Applytitis

The word aboutitis was quoted by Professor David Perkins (1998), one of the founders of Harvard’s Project Zero. Let me explain, aboutitis is a disease that plagues education where the learner knows a lot ‘about’ the subject and knows about everything. Another way of describing aboutitis is that the learner has a lot of knowledge but no understanding of the knowledge. In the present context, aboutitis can be considered a plague as everyone is out there to know more about everything, out there to collect more degrees, certificates and diplomas, just to prove that they know a lot ‘about’ a lot! Hence, the world is suffering from aboutitis.

In the pursuit of aboutitis, the world has made a very profitable business about education; developed an opinion about everything; written books about everything; researched about everything. After exhibiting the initial symptoms of aboutitis, the world has quickly tested positive for aboutitis. The best example is social media; it is a place where people exhibit that they suffer from aboutitis; everyone has an extreme opinion about every topic and they make it into a vulgar display of knowledge NOT understanding.

In a world suffering from aboutitis, everyone knows everything about everything; is it a good thing? It is actually a very dangerous thing, in fact, an ailment as aboutitis compels people to limit themselves to knowledge and never reach the stage of understanding. People are so engrossed in flaunting their knowledge that they do not bother to test its power by applying it or understanding it.

Understanding is more than just knowledge. Understanding is the ability to critically think about knowledge and being able to apply it in different contexts. Understanding is the ability to apply knowledge to solve problems, to analyse data, to interpret meaning, to evaluate information and to think about knowledge. Hence I would like to quote understanding as Applytitis as it is an ability to apply knowledge in various contexts.

The 21st-century skills demand us to have the symptoms of applytitis; to gain the depth of knowledge, not the breadth; to apply it to create solutions; to design sustainability in systems and to make critical use of knowledge. Applytitis is about taking knowledge to the level of understanding; understanding different perspectives, understanding the past to predict the future, understanding coexistence, understanding compassion and understanding rights and responsibilities.

The transition from aboutitis to applytitis has been the aim of education in many systems and countries but unfortunately, this objective is getting lost in bureaucracy, politics and profit mongering. It has come down upon us educators to keep the essence of education alive, to ensure we are teaching applytitis and not aboutitis. Teaching learners to apply their knowledge needs to be built with a conscious, deliberate and urgent resolve to go beyond exam preparation and incite the inquisitiveness in the learner. By teaching the opportunity to discover applytitis, educators can unleash a generation of learners who will be able to harness the power of knowledge.

Applytitis is to understand knowledge in a way that it can be used to achieve critical thinking. Let us, as educators pledge to take education to the next level where each learner can rise above mediocrity and attain maturity with both knowledge and understanding. The journey from aboutitis to applytitis is the onus of the 21st-century educators. How do we do that? Let’s start by planning for applytitis