All posts by Shwetangna Chakrabarty

Shwetangna Chakrabarty is an International educator currently working in Guangzhou, China. She has 15 years of experience in teaching different curricula in different countries and continents. She has held multiple responsibility positions as an international educator; Curriculum Coordinator, University Counsellor, Extended Essay and Personal Project Coordinator, CIS/NEASC/IB Accreditation Coordinator, IBEN Member. She teaches mathematics and business management to the International GCSE and International Baccalaureate (IB) students. Her education credentials include MBA, PGCE(I), B.Ed. and BCA. She writes blogs for The International Educator and the IB. She is also the contributing author for international publications like 'Bringing Innovative Practices to Your School' a Taylor & Francis Group and Routledge publication and 'Educational Reform and International Baccalaureate in the Asia-Pacific' an IGI Global Publication. She is passionate about developing a culture of internationalism and be a change-maker and thought leader in international education.

Service for Wellbeing: The Strategies for Navigating the New Normal.

Service for Wellbeing Framework

I had the opportunity to present at the IB Asia-Pacific conference in April 2021. My topic was Service for Wellbeing: The Strategies for Navigating the New Normal. The new normal is the paradigm shift in education. The need for wellbeing is the topmost priority for me and for a lot of other colleagues who are dealing with inexplicable difficulties due to separation from family members and restrictions imposed due to Covid19. 

I collected data from a group of teachers across the world and found out the common challenges of the new normal:

  1. All of us are unknowingly suffering from pandemic side effects like fatigue, lack of motivation, uncertainty about the future and weight gain. Yes, stress eating has silently but surely skyrocketed.
  2. Our social and community links have become fragile probably on the verge of a collapse and we are unable to find ways to strengthen them.
  3. Even though the blended learning environment is a reality, not many teachers are trained for this new reality. Training and development for the blended learning environment are in their infancy stage.
  4. Managing the feeling of being left behind; there is so much to catch up; online conferences and workshops; e-assessments for the virtual platform; changing instructional strategies for the blended learning environment, and the list goes on…

As a result of all the above, well-being is compromised. The question arises how do we successfully navigate the new normal?

I found the answer in service-learning. Whilst still nursing the pandemic wounds I found solace in service. After critically reasoning possible solutions for the wellbeing deficit I thought of applying the same strategy at work, using service learning for mental wellbeing. Being the service-learning coordinator, I focused on wellbeing as the main objective for all service projects and activities.

Together with a team of very talented teachers, I was able to map service-learning opportunities in various disciplines; the next step was to create a framework for wellbeing. This framework was created with a design thinking routine:

  1. Empathize = Wellbeing as the objective for all service projects.
  2. Define = Challenges due to Covid.
  3. Ideate = Brainstorm solution or ideas with teachers and students.
  4. Prototype = Service for wellbeing framework
  5. Test = Case study of the school’s service-learning programme

This helped me to design the Service for Wellbeing framework. With my experience in teaching, I was able to identify the important parameters for the service for wellbeing framework. Service-learning must be linked to the curriculum, with a strong link to a discipline. Service-learning must have a global perspective like the UNSDGs, this brings purpose to action and keeps everyone motivated to achieve the learning target. The service-learning programme must start with small group projects, especially to combat the stress of uncertainty and social distancing. Group projects bring people together in a non-threatening environment and foster collaboration. The most important parameter, service for well being has to integrate student choice and voice, to allow them to own their learning as well as enjoy the process. 

Start with small group projects.

I would strongly advise everyone to try it. The next time you feel stressed, think of ways to engage in community service. Look into your subject area, find service links, think of a task that can be created to align with a global perspective or objective and then share the idea with your students. Trigger their critical reasoning by asking them to come up with service-learning activities linked to the subject and start projects to achieve the target. Try it and let me know your success in fostering wellbeing and establishing service opportunities.

Nothing micro about microaggressions

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Microaggression is an attitude of silent aggression, apathy, hate, discrimination towards minority or lesser represented communities. These silent acts are mostly non-verbal; talking in a different language to exclude people of a certain minority; ridiculing people with an accent; never acknowledging the success of people of colour. It is also verbal in the form of racial insults, culturally biased comments, and derogatory comments about citizenship and nationality. 

Microaggressions are like dementors, from the Harry Potter series, they suck away the happiness, ambition and zeal to succeed, from the people of colour and minority. This silent killer leaves them with no other option than to perish silently, never raising a voice or even trying to make a difference. In fact, it is such a silent killer that it has become an accepted norm across the world to call it ‘systemic racism’ and completely ignore the root cause. Unfortunately and dangerously the attitude currently is, “yes it exists, deal with it”!

Being a woman, and a woman of colour I have learnt to recognise microaggressions. Here are a few types of microaggressions that I have experienced.

Gender biased microaggressions: Professional development is always prioritised for men as “they need it more”, this is a classic case of silent gender-biased microaggression. Another classic example is the office dress code that mandates the length of the skirt, type of shoe, ‘no spaghetti tops’ etc only for women. While for any other gender it is limited to ‘dress formally’. Women are labelled desperate, needy and narcissists if they post about themselves or their achievements on social media, but men are rewarded with words like great communicator, successful, positive networker and very active on social media. The same act has different connotations for different genders. 

Culturally biased microaggressions: People of colour or minority are often asked this question, “How long have you lived abroad?” This clearly indicates the presumption that people of colour or of different religion do not or cannot belong to the same country as they look different or have different beliefs. Recruiting people of colour in international organisations is still a distant dream, even further away is the reality of having leaders of colour. I say this as microaggressions throttle the very desire, right at the beginning, they snatch away the pleasure of having ambitions and dreams and leave people of colour or minority with no desire to compete.

Racially biased microaggression: When a racially different person enters a public space, they are always asked for an ID. There is an assumption that people of a different race can be criminals or have an ulterior purpose to be in public space. Recent episodes of racially biased xenophobia is a very good example of underlying microaggressions. In the most developed countries of the world, we saw Asians being attacked, black lives being taken away, foreigners being segregated, children being alienated and yet we keep quiet. All of this is happening openly and the perpetrators are finding ways to exhibit their microaggressions violently under the pretext of nationalism and economic stability.

I consider microaggressions the most crucial link in the fight against inequality and discrimination. It is the very root of all issues in the world. As educators, we have to eliminate the root cause. We need to teach our students to avoid microaggressions. As educators, we can check for microaggressions and nip it in the bud.

Educators themselves have to audit their microaggressions, do not preach or practice bias. For example, I remember a teacher refusing to participate in Remembrance Day as it is a western tradition; a Head of School making a remark that Indian sweets will ensure a visit to the dentist; a PE teacher forcing a student to swim during Ramadaan. We need to face our insecurities and biases so that we do not make the mistake of harbouring microaggressions and passing them on to the youth. They will model what they witness.

Educate students to check for microaggressions and reduce them. Discourage bias, encourage brevity to stand up against bias. The trauma students endure due to the segregation by nationality intentionally or unintentionally needs to be checked as it further manifests into racism and apathy. 

Overall, there are many ways to reduce microaggressions; the difference lies in the intent. The lack of intent is the most dominant problem and this needs to change. Remember there is nothing micro about microaggressions.

Iterate to Innovate: Design Thinking in hybrid classrooms

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The COVID19 pandemic has ushered a paradigm shift in pedagogy and technology; educators need to change strategies to cope with the demands of this paradigm shift. Unlocking this paradigm shift will compel educators across the world to reevaluate curriculum design to cater to a world where problem-solving and critical reasoning will be highly required skills. Pedagogy has to equip students with divergent thinking, out of box thinking and in contemporary terminology- design thinking (DT). 

The future is closer than expected; schools around the world are now struggling with this change or paradigm shift. The solution is to learn and teach a strategy that will equip students with problem-solving strategies-design thinking. DT will help teachers to create tasks that require students to think critically and creatively to solve problems by following the design thinking framework.  Another significant reason for teaching design thinking strategies is to meet the global skills deficit and to adapt to the dynamic needs of an ever-changing and dynamic world. A small change in pedagogy can be the key to future preparedness.

The five stages of the design thinking framework are; Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. The whole process engages the participant in looking for solutions. The DT framework is human-centric approach with strong focus on empathetic study of the problem. It is a very hands-on approach to problem solving. Here are a few ways it can be adapted to pedagogy.

Empathise: The very foundation of the DT framework is built on empathy; empathy towards the students needs. In a hybrid classroom, this is where a teacher has to understand the students online, their needs, their preferences and their personalities. Teachers have to be open-minded and willing to get insights from students that illustrate their needs. Some strategies for practising this human-centric approach are via informal Q&As with students and asking open-ended questions. Remember DT compels the design thinker (teacher) to listen and not to judge. This is a stage for the teacher or the design thinker to frame design questions to understand the students and their needs.

Define: After understanding the hurdles and challenges of the students in a hybrid classroom the next stage is to define the problem. But the major difference in the DT approach is to define the problem in terms of the students. The design thinker, in this case, the teacher, must synthesise all insights to frame a solution-oriented question, for example, ‘How can we…?’ One strategy for defining the problem is through structuring insights to create a problem statement.

Ideate: In this stage, the teacher needs to brainstorm tools and strategies with students to generate ideas stimulated by the challenge or problem. Some strategies to brainstorm solutions are 30-circle exercises, word ball, mind mapping, sketching, storyboarding, worst possible idea, etc. Encourage students to think divergently, any solution is a step towards solving the problem, even solutions that don’t make sense are important in the process of design thinking. Collaborate, collate, and eliminate to come up with the best solution to answer the ‘How can we…’ question.

Prototype: From identifying the potential problem it’s time to identify the best possible solution. Prototyping helps to create a new and better version of the solution. The teacher can experiment with the new strategy or solution at this stage to observe students’ responses to the new solution. Remember to keep it simple and allow iterations to come up with an innovative solution. 

Test: The most decisive phase where the teacher puts the solution in action and gets feedback from students to get a better outcome for all. This stage decides the future application of the solution. The teacher tests the new solution/idea and goes live with it, the students complete the action stage and give feedback to the teacher, which is used to inform the different stages of the design thinking framework. This iterative process starts at the end of the testing phase, hence it is necessary to ‘iterate to innovate’.

Design thinking is a dynamic, human-centric, collaborative and iterative process of finding solutions to the most impossible problems. Teachers need to try it, especially considering the new set of challenges being thrown at them in a hybrid classroom. An example is the problem of summative assessments, where students are in all different parts of the world in different time zones and teachers need to ascertain that the work is academically sound and permissible. In this case, a simple solution is to design assessments that do not require students to do a paper-pencil test, an online oral exam is a possible solution that has worked for me. This solution was brainstormed with students in the hybrid classroom environment and they suggested this to be the best approach to avoid plagiarism or academic malpractice. I am in the testing phase, based on the success of this solution I will make changes to this mini-DT approach to assessments in a hybrid classroom. I encourage you to join this iterative process to innovate solutions to problems in your milieu. 

Identity Texts: A Pedagogy for Self-Discovery

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In a world that is becoming more and more globalised, there is an emerging tension clearly visible in the definition of identity. While we have managed to travel around the globe, experience diverse cultures, food and fashion, we also seem to have developed an identity crisis. By ‘we’, I mean all people who identify themselves as global citizens but fail to identify themself. For example, my son represented Tanzania on International Mother Language Day at school even though he is an Indian citizen. Some argue, citing this as an example of global mindedness, the way students/children can adapt to diverse cultures and appreciate them. But on the flip side, these global citizens find it extremely difficult to develop a well-defined identity or a sense of belonging. I find students struggling with the idea of identity when related to language, culture, race and nationality, to the extent that they feel completely alienated. How do we instil a sense of belonging in our students when we want them to relate to every culture they experience? How do we identify a global citizen or how do we create an identity for a global citizen?

A simple idea that I recently came across is integrating Identity Texts into the narrative of global citizenship. Identity text is a way of creating a sociocultural space in the pedagogy and curriculum that can facilitate the learner to share their experiences and identify their natural inclination to their preferred cultural and linguistic context. Students get an opportunity to express their learning approaches and experiences by writing about themselves, their cultural identity, as developed by their experiences. Identity texts can be written, spoken or visual and even musical. They are pieces of evidence from a students cultural heritage, language, ethnicity and race. Identity texts help students to tell and share their stories with their peers and teachers. Identity text is not a pretence rather a prerogative. A simple example is asking students to write about their life journey, family and friends. Students are prompted to share this journey with the rest of the class in the form of a research study, this not only builds vocabulary but also makes the student feel included within a very diverse classroom. Being able to share their stories allows students to go on a journey of self-discovery, which in turn leads to developing an identity in the beautiful but chaotic fabric of diversity.

Identity texts can be used in any classroom particularly in a diverse inclusive classroom. In a diverse classroom, students are from different cultures, nationalities, socioeconomic background, hence they can use their context for learning to feel included. There are opportunities to include identity texts into pedagogy; while activating prior knowledge; when providing a rich contextual background to make the input comprehensible; actively encouraging comprehensible output; drawing the student’s attention to the relationship between form and function, developing learner independence. The whole idea is to make it an integral part of pedagogy, this will also have academic benefits; students will take ownership of their learning; improve communication; learn vocabulary. This is an approach to the holistic development of the student. 

Let me explain with a personal example, I speak four languages, but being multilingual has been very challenging. I think in one language and communicate with another, I even switch to a particular language when I am stressed or angry. Rewinding to my early years, I spent my childhood in the beautiful country of Bhutan, I started my schooling in school in a town called Wangdue Phodrang where the medium of instruction was English. After completing my primary and middle years in Bhutan my family moved back to India where I started school in the Indian system. Though the medium of instruction was English the methodology was very different, and I had to learn a new language-Hindi. Even though I was in my home country India, I felt like a misfit. This experience evoked a sense of wanting to go back into a very diverse classroom with friends who would look different, speak different languages and yet have a sense of camaraderie, belonging and understanding each other’s differences. I had to adapt to this new system without questioning or asking for help as there was no system in place that helps students to transition and adapt to a new environment. I struggled the first few years due to a lack of support for cognitive development and negative stereotypes towards students not fluent in Hindi. My parents hired a tutor to teach me the language, even though I picked it up I struggled with it even through high school. For most of my school life, I focused on improving on Hindi while I could have used that in subjects that mattered to me. I could have benefited if my curriculum included a provision for identity texts. If I was allowed to share my story, I would have felt more included in my school and probably learnt better. Identity texts did not exist in pedagogy or curriculum.

Respecting cultural identity improves teacher-student interactions and peer-to-peer relationships. This also allows the development of language, vocabulary, identity and self-esteem. The use of identity texts can improve cognitive engagement and identity investment (Cummins, 2001). Identity texts will help students in their journey of self-discovery.

Cummins, J. (2001). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. 2nd Edition. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education. 

#ChoosetoChallenge GENDER GAP: Don’t just mind the gap, Mend the Gap.

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8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It was first observed in the United States as a remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. This has evolved through the years into a plea for equal rights. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China declared March 8 an official holiday (; in 1977 the United Nations declared March 8 to be the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace. 

As per the above evidence, we have been minding the gender gap since 1908. Its time to mend the gap. The pitch for international women’s day this year is to; celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, take action for equality.

This also means we have not made enough progress in the above areas, hence the need to challenge stereotypes. To choose to challenge is to come up with an action plan for every woman out there. This has to be done by women, as lack of the female voice and choice has increased the gender gap. All we have managed to do in the past century is to mind the gap, bridge the gap, but never to mend the gap. 

Interestingly our students are ahead of us, at least I have experienced multiple interactions where students have challenged stereotypes with passion and purpose. Recently while discussing ideas for celebrating International Women’s Day, there was a suggestion of a dress-up day- ‘dressing like a woman’. This did not go down well with most students, the idea was vehemently argued by almost 60 students in the whole year group (grade 11) as stereotyping what women need to or should wear. They even went on to discuss other gender stereotypes like the signages across the globe on every building that defines male and female. I am very glad that my students think this way, they are actually mending the gap by participating in discussions on gender equality; practising plurality of perspectives; preventing stereotypes and discouraging toxic masculinity or feminity. In fact, the Millenials don’t consider gender as a constant in the equation of equality and equity, they consider it as a variable that can change as they discover their identity. This approach is empowering and can actually reduce gender inequality and discrimination. 

As teachers and educators, we must tread cautiously as sometimes we tend to overlook sensitive issues related to gender. There are many characteristics specific to a gender that has to be acknowledged but it cannot be used to discriminate. As any inequality, in the large scheme of things, creates an imbalance. For example, a study in schools in America has alarming gender trends: 80% of high school dropouts are boys; 80% of all classroom discipline problems are boys; 70% of students with learning disabilities are boys; 80% of behaviorally disordered students are boys; 80% of students on medication for ADHD are boys; 44% of college students are boys (Coniglio, n.d.).

This is evidence of the negative impacts of inequality, inequality in the way we treat and teach. Surprisingly we have created a toxic stereotype of the male gender that has pushed our boys to behavioural, disciplinary and dropout issue. Celebrating International Women’s Day is about balance, balance in how we teach and treat all genders. 

Can we choose to change, yes we can, if we choose to challenge it. Happy International Women’s Day: Mend the Gap, Don’t just Mind it.

 Coniglio, R. (n.d.) Why gender matters in the classroom, the differences between boys and girls. K-12 Teachers Alliance.

The Changing Face of Feedback: Tools, tips and tricks.

Bitmoji Image
My Bitmoji for instant feedback to students.

Learning is an emotional experience and feedback is an integral aspect of the learning experience. It is a tool for knowledge construction and for making the emotional connection to learning. The hybrid learning model is changing the way we give and receive feedback, teachers need to learn to innovate feedback with the help of technology.  Feedback is the tool for developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills; there are many apps, extensions and tools that facilitate ‘on-the-spot’, ‘continuous’ and ‘formal’ feedback. Here are a few tools, tips and tricks that will help teachers manage the changing face of feedback.

On-the-spot feedback: This feedback focuses on one area only to help the student master one component. This is useful for students who need to master basic components of the curriculum, some tools which I find useful for on-the-spot feedback are:

  1. Pear Deck: This is a google chrome extension and a web-based application, a very convenient and easy tool for immediate feedback in a hybrid class.
  2. Evernote: Captures and organises thoughts and voice notes for immediate feedback to students on their digital notebook. A google chrome extension that can sync with multiple devices. Useful in giving instant feedback, for example, annotating works that are still being produced by students.
  3. Kaizala: Mobile messaging app, useful for users of MS Office 365 email groups in order to easily message, share photos, audio recordings and videos, and run instant polls. Students needing instant feedback on their work can just send a photo and teachers can easily provide feedback.
  4. Mentimeter: This tool helps to create interactive presentations to get instant feedback. Teachers can involve students to contribute to presentations with their smartphones and show the results live. Great for online lessons where students tend to be bored.
  5. Bitmoji: A Google Chrome extension and mobile application, Can easily insert your own emojis to show your feedback to your student’s work. Very effective for younger students.

Continuous feedback: Also known as closing the loop feedback, it means providing students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning or to submit their work with revisions focusing on learning; from product to process to progress.

  1. Kaizena: An add-on for google suite products; teachers can attach a rubric and give voice feedback, students can listen to the feedback over and over till they reach the objective.
  2. Edpuzzle: This tool is available on the app store, has desktop and tablet editors. It helps to crop, customize, remix online video content with an interactive tool and complete formative assessments while watching the video to record feedback.
  3. Classkick: This is a web-based application that allows for real-time monitoring, feedback, and assessment on student work and can be a bridge to more personalized learning in 1:1 online classrooms. It can be used from anywhere by anyone-parents, students, teachers!

Formal Feedback: Being a business management teacher, I would explain formal feedback as Kaizen-“change for the better”. Formal feedback is a process of improvement, beginning with goal setting and reporting on the extent to which the student has achieved the goals.

  1. Spiral requires no integration with the school learning management system and takes seconds for students to actively participate in live lessons and assignments. Spiral is free to support remote learning and has a range of formative assessment apps in one platform.
  2. Screencastify: A google chrome extension that records screen video feedback that can be instantly downloaded, shared and stored as formal feedback.
  3. Thinglink: A Web 2.0 tool used to annotate text, images and videos and record formal feedback. Runs on the cloud; accessible anytime, anywhere, and has desktop and tablet editors. 
  4. Poll everywhere: Allows to receive formal feedback from a live audience. Student responses are shown on the screen in real-time. A google chrome extension, add-ins to keynote or MS PPT, or a web tool.

There are many other innovative ways of receiving and providing feedback through technology; choose the one that suits your context best!

My Bitmoji reminding students to work on feedback.

Teachers burn out as they are burning alone

Teacher burnout rate has always been a concern. Teachers burn out as they carry the burden of the education system, policies, national ideologies, global perspectives, parental demands, societal pressures while doing their day-to-day job. Burnout is definite and drastic! Teachers burn out as they are burning alone, all other stakeholders in education are adding fuel to this burnout. How can important stakeholders help prevent teacher burnout?

Role of Society – Teaching is considered a noble profession but at the same time not a highly rewarding (monetarily) job. On top of that everyone has a say into the teaching business of teachers. Teachers groom the next generation of thinkers, doctors, sportsmen, artists hence they need the utmost reverence and respect. The respect in the profession will help in addressing the most important cause of teacher burnout-emotional or affective exhaustion, as teachers will feel valued and needed. A few things to be considered:

  1. Remuneration at par with other industries in terms of experience and qualification,  investing in education by increasing teacher salary will bring in the much-needed esteem and respect to the profession leading to self-actualisation for teachers
  2. Retirement benefits especially for teachers, this will keep teachers in their profession, and act as a retention incentive to prevent turnover or burnout.
  3. The societal value of the profession has to change, a country’s GDP is deeply connected to its literacy rate. Teachers have most of the responsibility for improving the literacy rate, hence society needs to invest in teacher well-being and value. As per World Economic Forum 2021, Finland has the world’s best education system as they invest in teacher training and value the profession (Colagrossi, n.d.); in fact, teachers has the same prestige as a doctor or engineer.

Role of School -The organisation that is responsible for educating the youth has to be responsible for the wellbeing of its teachers. Schools can play the most critical role in preventing teacher burnout. As a business management teacher, I am able to identify one of the main reasons for burnout is the lack of motivation, intrinsic or extrinsic. Here are a few things schools can do to avoid this:

  1. Invest in an experienced and supportive human resources (HR) department. A strong HR can ensure that teachers are supported with their basic needs, they feel safe, motivated and happy to work. The HR should also be responsible to create and maintain teacher professional development framework.
  2. A clear and detailed job description (JD) with an outline of expectations is another big necessity, this is also a requirement for getting an international accreditation. The JD should limit non-teaching duties and focus on the core skill of teaching. 
  3. A support system for teachers should be put together by the school, for example, hiring an adequate number of teacher assistants, meeting all software and hardware requirements, creating a culture of teacher appreciation and of course reviewing the salary scale to be fair to all teachers.

Role of Students – Students can act as a catalyst to break down a teacher. Disruptive, disengaged and disobedient students are a product of multiple failures of the school, society and parents; but the blame is always on the teacher. On top of it, teachers are victims of violence in the hands of students; from verbal abuse to physical abuse to being shot, teachers have experienced it all. Students need to foster a mutual relationship of respect and understanding as this directly impacts their future.

  1. Students should sign and comply with a behaviour agreement to be cognizant of their responsibilities in a classroom.
  2. Students should undergo orientation at the beginning of the year to be more accountable for their academic and non-academic performance in school.
  3. Students should be made to realise that their success is an outcome of a healthy partnership with teachers. 

Role of Staff – Teachers can get the most needed support from peers; #staffforstaff. Teachers understand each other’s challenges hence should offer solutions to common problems:

  1. Form support groups and professional learning communities to provide an open platform for discussing curriculum-related issues. Be a part of existing groups either within the school community or outside like social media groups.
  2. Create a teacher ready toolkit to ease the transition for newbies in the school or into teaching. This should have all necessary resources for effectively managing a classroom for a newbie, for example, a list of all staff with phone numbers or subject guides or past papers/assessments, unit plans etc.
  3. Encourage, motivate each other, a kind word goes a long way and comes back quickly; smile and say something kind to your peers and it will come back to you.

Teacher burnout can be prevented; if you are reading this, you have a part to play. Support the growth of the next generation by strengthening the foundation-the teacher.

Colagrossi, M. W. (n.d.). 10 reasons why Finland’s education system is the best in the world. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from

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 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 than 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.