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.

Teach Mathematics for a Sustainable Future

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Recently while discussing the solutions of the International Baccalaureate Year 10 e-assessment online exams with my extended mathematics students I was impressed with their competencies. Along with mathematics skills and competencies, they were able to predict trends, identify patterns, propose solutions for a sustainable future. This made me think about how important it is to teach mathematics if we want a sustainable future. Unfortunately, in the recent past, research has indicated that high school students are opting out of mathematics as they are unable to truly appreciate the nature of the subject.

To understand the gravity of the matter, let me first start by explaining in very simple terms how is mathematics related to sustainability. The rate of the destruction of the ozone layer is mathematically estimated; percentage of oxygen saturation in the atmosphere for a healthy air quality index is simple mathematical calculation; renewable energy consumption and replenishment is mathematically predicted; climate change is statistical data; planetary and galactic balance is deductive mathematics; business intelligence and economic viability are reliant on conditional probability; even artificial intelligence is a pattern identification of quantitative data. Some specific and easy to understand examples for non-mathematicians: 

  1. Conditional probability measures the chances that an outcome occurs given that another event has also occurred. This helps in forecasting trends in economics, predicting what will happen in the future by taking into consideration events in the past and present. In economics, this conditional probability is used as a decision-making tool that helps businesses cope with the impact of the future’s uncertainty. Math helps economic sustainability.
  2. Calculus helps us to measure the rate of change; differential equations of an energy balance model of climate change help us to maintain the balance with simple calculations. Infact environmental sustainability can only be achieved with the right differential and integral calculus. Math helps environmental sustainability.
  3. Functions help to predict pandemic outbreak patterns and models of differential or probability equations equip us to fight the outbreaks. The virus containment is also a mathematical problem seeking a global consensus on the solution. Math helps biological sustainability.

There are many such examples that prove sustainability is a mathematical quest, therefore, by not motivating students to learn mathematics we are negatively impacting the sustainability of our future. Mathematics defines the possibility, pattern and probability of events, hence it is essential for a sustainable future. Mathematical competency is fundamental in students’ academic success, they perform better in other subjects, develop problem-solving skills and become more likely to complete higher education. 

The rationale behind math education for children has been reinforced by multiple pieces of research in the past few decades. As per the Carnegie Foundation commission in 2007, a nation’s capacity to be innovative and survive the current economic demands depends on the learning of mathematics. Further, this research also highlights that a nation’s capacity to innovate and thrive in the modern workforce depends on a foundation of math and science learning. There is clearly a need for strong mathematicians as it is becoming a widespread phenomenon in the world not only because it is a prerequisite for professional competence, but also because is an important part of learning to harness artificial intelligence and computer literacy. Research also indicates that learning mathematics prepare students for 21st-century competencies. Finally, if mathematics is taught well students’ will develop an interest and positive attitude toward it. This in turn will improve motivation in their future careers in mathematics as students will develop problem-solving and critical thinking early in life. This will also ensure future generations are creating well-calculated sustainable models for survival on planet earth.

But the question remains: why have we not been able to instil a love for mathematics in our high school students or how can we achieve the goal of generating interest in mathematics? There needs to be an intentional effort in investing in mathematical expertise in educational organisations. Schools must invest in teacher training to continue scientific and mathematical innovation in pedagogy in a technology-driven world. Other strategies like teaching coding should be integrated into curriculum planning right from the primary years. Approaches to teaching mathematics should make connections with specialist subjects like music and art to explore abstract ideas into meaningful connections. Teachers must plan for real-life experiences that are functional in the world of a high school student to help them understand abstract concepts. Creating Maker Spaces with Lego and other educational toys will give students confidence, experience and develop a natural interest in learning mathematics. Therefore schools need to identify and cultivate future master teachers in mathematics. Mathematics teaching and learning should be more student-led and teacher-guided. Strategies like flipped classrooms and interdisciplinary teaching can help teachers to bring mathematics alive in the classroom.

Finally, one strategy that has worked miracles for me is not to correct student mistakes immediately. With mathematics, students learn better when they identify their mistakes themselves. We need to look through their mistakes to the intelligence that lies behind their thinking process. Therefore, it is essential to allow students to make mistakes and reflect on their thinking process. Teachers must set high standards but they should not punish students if they make mistakes, in fact, teachers should provide a safe space for making mistakes and learning from them, especially in mathematics. After all, a lot of discoveries have been accidental or in other words-mistakes. 

Future generations need to be mathematically accurate to not only make the world a better place but also sustain itself for the next million years.

Virus Variants

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The virus mutates into many variants just to survive. Infact, viruses mutate constantly, at least that is what I learnt in high school Biology. Their genetic code is prone to changes called mutations that can change how the virus looks or attacks its hosts. The interesting thing is that viruses mutate depending on their host environment. They read the virus genetic code and replicate it, making more of the virus. A mechanism that teaches us a lot to adapt to new changes. Here I am trying to be positive and discuss what we can learn from a virus variant.

This is one of the biggest lessons the Covid19 pandemic has taught me and many others. To survive we have to mutate or in literal terms, we have to learn to change and adapt.

So what does change look like? In a recent recruitment fair, I was asked by an applicant when was the last time I experienced change? Even though I was a bit taken aback as I was the one supposed to be asking questions; I got asked this rather nervous and unsure question. It made me ponder on the whole cataclysm of change. The nervousness, the edginess, the uncertainty makes us question a lot of things. Everyone, everywhere in the world is experiencing this strange unsure variant feeling. It is nerve-wracking, any change big or small. It is a feeling that you are losing control over your life or you do not know what to do next or you hesitate to make big decisions… It forces you to rethink everything, it is merciless, it torments you till you act, think and become different. The essence of survival. We need to adapt to survive. 

To answer the question when is the last time I experienced change? For me, it is every day, I can truly say I learn through change. The way variants learn to adapt in a new environment, I have adapted to or forced myself into new environments to learn. Moving home, moving countries, moving jobs and moving friends and family has been the greatest educator. Moving away from an established home every time taught me resilience and reason for hopes and dreams. Moving away from a country has taught me to respect other peoples’ opinions, to immerse into cultures and celebrate diversity. Moving from jobs has helped me to unravel fifty shades of myself; I can be fierce, loving, ambitious, complacent, helpful, ruthless all at the same time. There is so much more to discover who I am? Moving away from friends and family is the hardest and the most bitter-sweet feeling. You need to move but you don’t want to. This has taught me to keep my faith and develop courage. Even in the darkest hour of leaving everything behind have the faith and courage to see the silver lining. 

In the recent past, the world has undergone a massive change. A decade down the line this specific time will be as important a phase in the history of the world as the Renaissance or the two World Wars, changing the world forever. Whether it is artificial intelligence or the space frontier, we are undergoing cataclysmic change. The virus variants should teach us to keep evolving till we have achieved our purpose in life, change is for the best teacher. Don’t wait for change, force it if you want to grow or survive. Teach for Change and Learn to Change. Be Your Own Best Variant

Spread Some holiday cheer

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This term too ended with a bittersweet feeling; since the last year and a half, every holiday has been the same: no travel plans, no duty-free shopping, no family dinners, no tight hugs, no gift exchanges, and no adventures with friends. On the last day of this semester, I had my students discuss holiday plans while sharing hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies. They all had the same bittersweet feeling; a long holiday but does not seem exciting. I felt a wave of sadness sweep over the class and I had to do something. Gulping down the hot chocolate helped as the sugar rush gave me extra adrenaline and a bit of warmth in the biting cold. I had to get rid of the cold air somehow for the sake of my own sanity and my students’ morale. After all, it is the time of the year to spread some cheer and happiness. I asked my students to list all the things that they usually did before the Covid19 restrict during the winter break. And then the next challenge was to come up with ideas that would be in the same spirit in the new paradigm of travel-less holidays. 

Here is the list of 10 activities for the holidays in the new paradigm by modifying regular holiday activities:

Holidays Before Covid19Holidays in the New Paradigm
1Draw holiday greetings for family members and give them during gatherings.Can’t meet family members so make digital cards for friends and families, create stunning digital cards with the many online applications. Explore your creativity.
2Buy and wrap gifts for friends and families and exchange them during gatherings.Buy and wrap gifts for homeless people, children in orphanages, elderly in the care homes and send them to respective charities or NGOs.
3Eat grandma’s delicious baked goodies.Cant meet grandma, get her recipe, try it yourself and send pictures to grandma.
4Go out for big family picnics and dinners.Organise a ‘Dine Online’ on the virtual platform with family members. Eat together while sharing stories over a video chat.
5Go on an adventure with friends and family.Adventure can be taking the risk of learning something new like cooking, painting, running, cycling or even meditation. Something you have never done before is always an adventure. Try to rope in a friend or family member to do something together like online yoga.
6Go to the movies.Organise a movie night over a video call and share screen with friends and family. Laugh and cry together over some popcorn that you don’t have to share!
7Go shopping to explore new markets.Organise an online market where you and your friend can exchange clothes, accessories without having to pay other than delivery. 
8Pack bags for travel.Pack unused items, clothes and shoes, donate or upcycle. Get rid of baggage.
9Unpack when you come back from a holidayUnpack all things that you have not used yet, like the travel mug you have been saving for a holiday, use it all, don’t fear unpacking. You can even do some unboxing and post it online.
10The tight hug when you first see your mum, dad or grandma or your loved ones after a long timeSave it for when you meet them after 2 years or more. Nothing comes to mind that can replace this feeling except giving a tight hug to people around you to spread the holiday cheer.

Try this activity with your family or friends or students – it will be a great way of spreading the holiday cheer, getting rid of the anxiety of the unknown. Not being able to travel during winter holidays or other long holidays can be painful. But we need to make the most of what we have; that is being true to the spirit of holidays. Spread some holiday cheer!

Teaching teachers

Poster created by teachers at the author’s school during a collaborative meeting

Teaching teachers is one of the hardest jobs in my profession, due to the sole reason that teachers have been hardwired to teach and not learn. With the paradigm shift in education, teachers have to be lifelong learners rather than lifelong teachers. This is possible through peer collaboration; teachers may initially resist collaboration but will have the epiphany that collaboration creates an amazing work culture and school environment. My leadership approach is to share best practices within the team instead of just holding them to yourself. In international schools, it is a challenge to work with a diverse group of people, but as a teacher, we must remember that our main goal is to get the students to learn and at the same time learn ourselves. Hence, teachers have to overcome differences to support students by creating a culture of collaboration. Teacher collaboration needs to be intentional. Sharing is the key, collaboration can create lifelong learners. 

The best way to teach teachers is to do it their way. Here is an interesting strategy I recently used, a unit plan to teach teachers. As the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) Coordinator, I organised a whole team collaboration meeting to discuss the new interdisciplinary unit (IDU) guide. It was run like a lesson plan:


Objective: To understand the new IDU criteria for creating meaningful IDU units​ for MYP students.

Set up: All teachers from different disciplines are seated in groups of 4 (total 52 teachers). On each desk, they have the new IDU guide, the IDU flowchart, the old and new criteria, markers, pens and a big manila paper.

Prior Knowledge: Teachers are asked to discuss the IDU units they completed last year and in groups write down the challenges and strengths of the units and then take turns to share with other groups (Think-Pair-Share).

Starter Activity: The first activity is a deep dive into the changes in the IDU criteria and process. The task is to compare and contrast the old IDU criteria and the new ones to create a poster clearly identifying similarities and differences. Teachers will create a visible thinking wall with their posters. (Skills: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication). Here are a few examples of teacher-created posters, an example of the creativity that teachers bring into mundane everyday affairs.

Poster created by teachers at the author’s school during a collaborative meeting

Plenary: All teachers will take a tour of the visible thinking wall and summarise their learning of the new IDU criteria.

IDU Process in each Discipline: The next activity is to sit in subject groups to use the IDU process flowchart and identify the stages that each department has completed and aligns with (Skills: Transfer, Reflective and Critical thinking). Once each subject group has finished discussing they will use markers to highlight sections of the flowchart that they completely align with and share with other disciplines.

Plenary: After discussion, create agenda for department meetings next week. Review/create unit plans for IDUs to align with the new criteria.

Summary: Each department shares its takeaway points as a reflection. Teachers shared that this was a very successful session as it helped the experienced teachers to understand the changes and the new teachers to learn about the IDU requirements, planning process, assessments, and delivery of an IDU unit. Overall, the big takeaway was teachers collaborating and sharing best practices to discover relationships and interconnectedness between subjects.

My Takeaway

Teacher collaboration is crucial to restructuring the way teachers need to teach. But teacher collaboration faces a lot of pushback in schools. There are many ways recommended to promote and encourage teacher collaboration, one of the ways is to think of creative ways to engage teachers like teaching teachers with their tools-a lesson plan.

Another good way of encouraging collaboration is to create interdisciplinary units with teachers within the department, for example, a unit with Geography and Economics or Biology and Chemistry. The success lies in discussing the instructional design that lays the foundation for collaboration and individual teachers may agree to disagree on certain elements of their practice. ”Collaborative teams must approach these conversations non-judgmentally, striving to remain open to the ways that other teachers think about their work” ( Tran, 2015). This is also the process of lifelong learning. The idea is to break out of silos and come together for the common good of the student as teacher collaboration is a crucial factor in a student’s progress and development.

 Tran. (2015). If you want better collaboration around STEM, build infrastructure. 

Assistive technology for inclusive pedagogy

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What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology includes a wide range of strategies from assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices and other resources used to compensate for the lack of certain abilities. In an inclusive classroom, there are needs that have to be met with specific resources, for example, for students having specific learning disabilities educational software can help in skill-building with multisensory experiences and individualized instruction.

Why Use Assistive Technology?

Inclusive pedagogy focuses on identifying and overcoming barriers in education. It provides the least restrictive environment (LRE) to include students with special needs and disabilities. Hence there emerges the need to plan for instructional strategies in an inclusive classroom. Assistive technology is also known as technical aids or assistive equipment. For example, students with dyscalculia can use onscreen calculators that are integrated with the online assessment task, other examples are speech to text and larger font size options.

Similarly, teachers can use assistive technology to address diversity challenges, for example, if a student is ELL/EAL they can be allowed to use an online translator to translate content and tasks, also use speech to text software for capturing teacher lectures. Assistive technology connects a student’s cognitive abilities to an educational opportunity that may not be accessible due to their disability. This tells us that assistive technology in an inclusive classroom can have multiple ways for students to articulate their understanding and complete tasks with more agency and accountability.

How to Use Assistive Technology?

There are many ways to use assistive technologies in an inclusive classroom. Assistive technology can enhance the basic skills of students with needs to be part of the classroom by being able to access the materials and resources which were limited due to their needs. Teachers should consider a list of factors in order to select the type of assistive technology, some of which are; determining the specific student need; identifying the student’s strengths; engaging the student in the planning process; choosing the assistive technology which is affordable and easy to use. Other guidelines include choosing an assistive technology that suits the student, not the other way around. The instructional strategies should be allowing students to learn the technological skill, this also requires the teacher to be up-to-date with the assistive technology available in the market.

What type of Assistive Technology to Support Inclusion?

There are many types of assistive technologies available nowadays to successfully manage an inclusive classroom:

  1. Written Assistive Technology Tools: students struggling with writing skills can use spell-checkers, proofreading tools, speech recognition and speech synthesizing tools.
  2. Reading Assistive Technology Tools: students with reading challenges can use online documents to increase the size of text, phone recorders or variable speech control (VSC) technology, optical character recognition devices(OCRs).
  3. Mathematics Assistive Technology Tools: students with dyscalculia or dysgraphia can use online calculators, others struggling with math can enrol for Khan Academy video lessons.
  4. Listening Assistive Technologies Tools: students with listening disabilities can use speech to text, listening devices and recording devices.
  5. Memory Assistive Technologies Tools: students struggling to remember can use graphic organisers, glossaries, personal data managers to be able to retain information.

The use of assistive technology (AT) in an inclusive classroom is necessary to support students with learning disabilities. AT can help students function without any hurdles. The AT tools range from technology to tools to props to anything that helps the students to feel included. Even though the AT tools do not take away the disability or learning challenge, it supports the student to access the teaching and learning in the best possible way.


Adebisi, R.O., Liman, N.A., & Longpoe, P.K. (2015). Using assistive technology in teaching children with learning disabilities in the 21st century. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(24), 14-20. Retrieved from

Ahmad, F. H. (2015). Use of assistive technology in inclusive education. Transcience, 6(2), 62-77. Retrieved from

Dean, M. (2019). 13 ways to incorporate assistive technology into the classroom. Retrieved from

Safety first

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We feel, therefore we learn; learning is an emotional journey. But what if all we feel is, threatened, angry, scared, sad and unwanted, then what do we learn?

The first thing to consider for education organisations is safety! If safety is compromised, learning is compromised. Safety is everything, a child and even an adult learn only when they feel safe. Some common threats to safety seen in many schools are:

  1. Abusive language
  2. Bullying
  3. Racial discrimination
  4. Gender discrimination
  5. Microaggressions
  6. Body shaming
  7. Lack of health and safety, child safeguarding policies
  8. Patriarchial dominance
  9. Digital safety
  10. Lack of emergency protocols

While some of the safety issues are taken care of by the following state, country or international standards for safety; emergency protocols, health and safety, child safeguarding policies are mostly covered under the authorisation of a school or educational institute.  But alarmingly many other issues are still prevalent and more threatening.

Let us focus on some existing issues; firstly it is hard to identify these silent safety risks, therefore educators need to be very vigilant. Here are a few ways of identifying safety risks:

  1. Some teachers in your school use abusive language when disciplining students.
  2. Students form cliques and always work in cliques never allowing “others”.
  3. There is a culture of favouritism, supremism and indifference.
  4. Your school does not have a social-emotional learning (SEL) programme and/or coordinator.
  5. Your school does not have diversity in teaching staff.
  6. Student agency and student voices are not valued.
  7. Undesirable behaviour is always punished but good behaviour is never acknowledged.
  8. All important positions are held by the male gender.
  9. There are no firewalls for digital content accessed by students in school.
  10. All decisions are made by heads of sections without any input from teachers, students or parents.

There are many more ways of identifying an unhealthy environment that leads to students feeling anxious, unsafe and distant. There needs to be a unified approach to creating a safe haven for students.

Firstly, schools and other educational institutions need to hire diverse staff, representing different genders, colours, accents, interests and experiences. This creates harmony in the school culture as there is always that one person a student can find who speaks their language or has the same interests. Students can connect better with people around them as they get used to differences. They learn to agree to disagree and most importantly they learn as they feel safe.

Next teachers have to model caring and mindful behaviour. Use of anger and foul language should not be allowed or tolerated. Teachers’ arrogance, anger and rude behaviour are one of the main reasons students fear to share ideas and even ask questions. If schools can have zero tolerance for plagiarism, they can also enforce zero tolerance for rude behaviour! Another prevalent issue is reprimanding students for their mistakes and never rewarding their efforts. After some time students run into the danger of not caring about it and there comes a breaking point after which students do not care at all about anything. This leads to poor self-esteem and hidden insecurities which become massive identity issues as they grow up. Always encourage when learning, never discourage when teaching.

Finally, students should be discouraged to be part of strong cliques, this leaves out shy or new students, leads to bullying of students who are not in the clique and changes the behaviour of students on both sides, in the clique and outside. Students need to be made comfortable with handling unknown and unfamiliar circumstances so they won’t try to get into a comfort zone to try to “fit in”. I still remember one of my students confiding in me about vaping in school; the reason shared by the student was that she was trying to be normal to “fit in”. Therefore mixing students into different groups in the classroom really helps them to get comfortable with the unknown and unfamiliar.

Safety first is not only a requirement it is a necessity. A student who does not feel safe tells us many things about ourselves, our systems, and our culture. Create a happy space for a happy learning experience to foster a happy person who will create a happy future and a happy world.

Future of Assessments: AUTHENTIC Performance-Based

The Future of Assessments

Performance-based assessment requires students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and strategies by creating a product or process; it requires students to perform the task instead of writing about it or answering questions about it. For example, an authentic performance task in sciences requires a student to conduct research on the impacts of fertilizer on local groundwater and then report the results through an informational brochure. These assessments are authentic as it imitates real-world scenarios and issues.

With the socio-economic demands for a highly skilled workforce, teachers need to design performance-based assessments. Another pressing reason is the paradigm shift in approaches to teaching and learning; with hybrid and online teaching, assessments need to be performance-based to be authentic. Traditional paper-pencil tests are obsolete and archaic, hence the future of assessments is performance-based authentic assessments.

Performance-Based Assessments

Performance-based assessments are a very effective way of assessing and teaching. These assessments engage the students in hands-on activities and help them develop skills by solving real-life problems. It aligns with contemporary learning theories and also helps teachers employ best practices in teaching and learning. Performance assessments reflect how students acquire and use knowledge, they can include research projects, STEM investigations, mathematical and computer modelling. This approach helps to foster critical thinking skills and conceptual understanding while providing an authentic learning experience to the students.

Three Big Ideas 

Here are three big ideas for designing performance-based assessments tasks:

  1. Focus on the purpose of the task: Since performance-based tasks are dynamic and can be created to suit the learner’s needs and context, I would advise new teachers to focus on creating tasks that enhance the students conceptual understanding of the subject. 
  2. Design student-centered or student-led activities: Performance-based assessment tasks should be completed by students to demonstrate what they know about a given topic. The difference between this type of assessment and the traditional method is that students can better communicate what they know and how they know it.
  3. Define the criteria for success: Once a teacher has listed the learning objectives and the performance assessments tasks that can be done to achieve the objectives, they should list the criteria for success. The criteria should define everything that is expected from the students through the performance-based assessment. For example, the material required, the content knowledge, the online resources and the ways to get the task completed. Without defining the criteria a teacher cannot successfully implement performance-based assessments.

A Few Roadblocks

Teachers might find it challenging to design and implement performance-based assessments. This is mostly because these assessments move away from traditional types of assessments and sometimes teachers are not trained to create such tasks. A big challenge is the lack of teacher training, therefore schools and organisations need to invest in teacher training for addressing challenges related to creating authentic assessments.

Another major challenge is the time and effort required to create these tasks. Some strategies to overcome this challenge is to plan in advance and focus on achievable goals instead of starting a huge project that takes up a lot of time and students lose interest.

Useful Tips 

Here are my top five tips for designing authentic performance-based assessments :

  • Align performance-based assessments with learning objectives to make them meaningful for the students as they understand the purpose.
  • Make the assessment realistic, relevant and contextual, students are quickly disengaged if the task is not age-specific or at par with their ability.
  • Keep the assessment student-centred, they should have an option of how they want to complete it and articulate their understanding.
  • Plan for group tasks, students get an opportunity to discuss, collaborate and complete the task without anxiety or stress.
  • Allow students to reflect on their process of learning, this helps them to identify how they can learn best.

Design the future of assessments by designing authentic performance-based assessments.

Gender Disparity in STEM

Women are considered to be less interested in STEM subjects and careers. While much research has been done to attain a better understanding of the gender disparity in STEM, one reason comes up again and again and it is the bias and stereotypes associated with genders. A recent study found that both men and women were twice as likely to hire a man for a job that required math (Hill et al., 2010). Here is an attempt to understand why this gap exists and how can teachers contribute towards reducing the gap. Gender disparities continue to be a defining characteristic of STEM education, as per the research done by Kenney-Benson et al. (2006) female students’ STEM grades are equal to or better than those of their male classmates in elementary and secondary school. Yet when it comes to gender equality male dominance is seen in all fields of STEM. 

Our society has created gender stereotypes since ancient times when humans started farming and the role of physical rigour was assigned to men. Gender role stereotypes convince us to allow the male gender to be agentic, take the lead to inquire and explore and find solutions to problems. This has manifested in the male gender made to conform with cultural representations of math and science. Even the attributes of a STEM learner are problem solvers and innovators which are associated with role stereotypes of the male gender. This itself proves that we orient our thinking towards STEM to be a masculine subject. Gender bias comes into play when assigning tasks for problem-solving. Typically in many classrooms across the world, girls are given the task of decorating or designing, while boys are given the task of research and investigation in a task. This is due to masculine stereotypes prevailing in the teaching of STEM, peer expectations, and lack of fit with personal goals (Dasgupta & Stout, 2014). This type of bias makes girls move away from STEM fields creating a huge gender disparity in STEM.

This has multiple ramifications, for example, female students of colour (SoC) struggle to complete STEM experiences, which becomes a barrier to shaping identity and academic success (Jones, 2019). Multiple frameworks highlight the lived experiences of female SoC in STEM including identity theory, and intersectionality. It demands consideration be given to the space, community, and present structures where identity work is produced. The decline in the number of female SoC graduates in STEM disciplines is partly due to discriminatory approaches by public universities, schools and colleges of race-based affirmative action. Till this date, many educational institutions require students to declare their race, ethnicity, religion even before getting an admission offer. Furthermore, STEM programs are often structured in a way in which students have to essentially prove their intellectual worth to stay, they may be forced out if they don’t meet high academic standards. Minority students already face unfair stereotypes about being intellectually inferior, and this is likely exacerbated in STEM programs, according to the study (Jones, 2019).

Teachers Can Bend The Arc

Since stereotypes and biases still exist, teachers need to make a conscious effort to bend the arc towards gender equality in STEM. For example, practising a pedagogy to instigate an inquiry mindset in young girls. Inquiry-based tasks that teachers create by understanding the student’s needs is a great way of including girls and students of colour in STEM learning. Also, teachers do not consider the need to address the lack of interest in STEM subjects by girls. If they were made aware of this as an epidemic plaguing the education world, they will guide the girl child towards inquiry or problem solving or experimenting.

Furthermore, STEM integrated with authentic science projects engages learners, hence girls can be engaged in activities that they would usually not be interested in due to societal stereotype or bias. Planning group work for fostering peer support for female SoC is also an effective strategy as peer support matters to participants’ success in critical ways both academic and social. The group work fosters safe, engaging climates for asking questions. 

In summary, equity, relationship and students’ interest should be the core elements and practices for encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects. Teach them to ask uncomfortable questions, create a space for them to discuss uncomfortable questions and teach them to bend the arc.


Dasgupta, N., & Stout, J. G. (2014). Girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: stemming the tide and broadening participation in STEM careers. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(1), 21–29.

Hill. C., Corbett, C. and St Rose, A. (2010) Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Amer Assoc Univ Women, Washington, DC).

Jones, T. C. (2019). Creating a World for Me: Students of Color Navigating STEM Identity. The Journal of Negro Education, 88(3), 358–378.

Kenney-Benson, G. A., Pomerantz, E. M., Ryan, A.M., Patrick, H. (2006). Sex differences in math performance: the role of children’s approach to schoolwork. Dev. Psychol. 42

technology vs teachers-an International teacher’s day debate

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Technology is a game-changer, it has helped teachers to create active learning environments, increase assess to content, differentiate for varied student needs and very recently even teach remotely. Throughout the history of technical innovations, technology has aided the art of teaching but not yet replaced the artist, in this case, the teacher.

On the occasion of International Teacher’s Day on 5th October, a question was discussed: Can technology replace teachers? in a professional learning community (PLC) forum. The overwhelming response was in favour of teachers and almost everyone believed that technology cannot replace teachers. Ironically, in this very forum, we all are learning sans a teacher! This made me realise that teachers have been replaced from their traditional role of lecturing, teaching and being the knowledgeable other by technology. As professional development has increasingly become technology-driven, a lot of learning is happening without the teacher.

Let us examine the current teaching interface in many schools and universities across the world. Students use a computer to log into a website, download content, check the assigned tasks and complete the tasks with the help of technology or through online research. So where is the teacher? There might be a facilitator, not a teacher depending on the nature of the topic/subject. There are many teachers at this moment completing professional development delivered without a teacher, there might be an instructor or facilitator to manage the logistics of the online modules, but mostly all learning takes place without a teacher. Therefore, is it accurate to say that technology is replacing teachers? Moreover, with artificial intelligence barging its way through every threshold, it is a matter of time that teachers will be completely replaced by technology.

There is another way of looking at this developing scenario. The teacher as a human being. We cannot overlook the social-emotional benefits of having a human leading the job of teaching. Teachers do more than one way or one task at a time. The job of a teacher is not just to deliver instructions, it is also to gauge the students’ context, ability and interest in the topic to modify it constantly. As a teacher, I always keep changing plans in the classroom to be engaging and responsive to my students’ needs. In a real-world scenario, things evolve and change every minute, therefore being dynamic and constantly improvising is a teacher’s job. One cannot rely on pre-programmed instructions to think independently and find instant on the spot solutions. One thing is sure, technology may not replace teachers but it will replace teachers who cannot harness or use technology.

An automated teacher robot or artificial intelligence would be great to deliver content, but it will not be able to make decisions or judgements related to human emotions, for example, sometimes students are too tired to solve problems hence reinforcing concepts is a better strategy to teach tired brains instead of introducing new concepts. These decisions that require humans to consider emotions and feelings cannot be mastered by the robot. Even though in recent years artificial intelligence has taken over a lot of iterative mechanised jobs, it is yet to start teaching full time in a classroom. One can use technology to aid the process of teaching but not completely replace a teacher’s cognitive, intuitive approaches to teaching.

Teachers take on the caring role of a parent’s stead, they advocate for students who might be otherwise forgotten, and they shape a nation’s future (Fedena, 2018). Therefore it might be even dangerous to hand over these crucial responsibilities to a machine or an interface. With a geometrical progression in technology, machines might soon be able to develop the ability to be just like humans but not humans. It is therefore a responsibility as humans to make an ethical decision of how much to give to the robots or how much to replace humans with robots. “Many education reformers outside of Silicon Valley say no. The people in the Valley think technology will solve everything. It won’t. There’s a human side to education that won’t go away” (Norris & Soloway, 2016, p. 63).

In summary, the decision to replace a teacher in the classroom with a robot needs ethical considerations, as we are interfering in the process of character building early on in the formative years of young children. If we want our children to develop kindness, emotional intelligence and empathy we need to model it the human way, not the robot way. 


Fedena. (2018).Technology vs Teachers: Can technology replace teachers?

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2016). Uberizing K-12: Use Software… But Keep the Teachers, Too! Educational Technology, 56(1), 61–63.

TEACH FOR PEACE: international day of peace

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on

21st September is celebrated as the International Day of Peace. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

Peace is the key to surviving the next decade. With pandemics, wars, natural disasters, conflicts, political power play and most importantly lack of education, observing peace even for 24 hours seems unimaginable. This is the state of the planet!

The UN celebrate international days and weeks to give us time to stop and think about issues that matter the most. This is also an opportunity to educate on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems. It is also a way of celebrating and reinforcing humanity.

As a teacher, I know that academic organizations go out of their way to celebrate UN International Days as at the core of the philosophy of education lies the betterment of the world and its people. Surprisingly it is not a pressing agenda for most organizations, corporates or governments.

Interestingly it does bother the young minds as they see and experience violence, discrimination and hatred every day, thanks to the media. Some questions that my senior students asked when discussing ways to celebrate International Day of Peace, come to my mind.

  1. Is it only the responsibility of academic organizations or organizations like the UN to care about world peace? Why do other organizations, who dominate the world markets, not take an initiative?
  2. Why does peace have to come at a cost, but violence is free?
  3. Why are women and children subjected to the most violent acts?
  4. What persuades humans to act likes animals? Or are we just animals persuaded to be humans?
  5. Can we teach peace? If yes, then where are we failing?

To promote global solidarity for a peaceful and sustainable world we need to change our ways every day, not just one day. How do we do this?

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi,

“If we want to reach real peace in this world, we should start educating children.”

A goal to educate all people in the world is truly global peace. The ability to coexist needs to be taught, hence investing in schools should be a priority for every country, every organization, every human. That would be a concrete step towards world peace. Teach for Peace should become the mantra.

In international schools, there are many innovative projects happening to instil the value of a shared planet and to take care of the shared space. For example, privileged schools supporting the underprivileged, Model United Nation (MUN) conferences, mandated community service programmes, celebrating diversity, raising voice against discrimination, building resilience against change and most importantly valuing global peace or delivering education to make the world a better place.

If we don’t act urgently and immediately, we will continue creating humans with no humanity, orphans with no countries, and a planet with no peace. This will be our apocalypse, so let’s celebrate International Peace Day every day. Let’s be soldiers but soldiers of peace to protect our planet. Teach for Peace.