Category Archives: Shwetangna Chakrabarty


Photo of my IBDP math HL classroom where I painted one whole wall black and used chalk and portable stairs to explain complex problems and help students visualize the concept prior to AI.

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in teaching and learning has the potential to simplify complex concepts in mathematics. AI also has the potential to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics. In my experience as the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP), Higher Level (HL) Mathematics teacher I have spent hours breaking down abstract concepts into real-life applications. In the past year and half I have experienced a new joy by using AI to explain difficult concepts to students. The IB math curriculum does provide practical applications of concepts but the skill of explaining these concepts lies entirely in the teacher’s competence. With AI I feel I have gained a teaching assistant who has my back!

Let’s Take an example of Calculus in DP Mathematics HL. Calculus forms a large chunk of the DP Mathematics HL course, and it can greatly benefit from AI applications. AI-driven tools and platforms can assist in various ways:

Automated Problem Solving: AI has helped me to create problem-solving frameworks AI has helped me with calculus problems by suggesting steps towards the solution and providing comments that will help students understand the process. Additionally, platforms like Wolfram Alpha or Symbolab use AI to solve integral and differential calculus problems, showing step-by-step solutions that enhance student understanding. For example, I now create mark schemes for the questions I put up for my students, here is a screenshot of an explanation generated by AI. Understanding these steps not only helps solve this particular problem but also builds foundational skills in calculus for dealing with more complex functions and differentiating them. Here is a markscheme crreated on ChatGPT for a calculus stater problem.

    Personalized Learning: AI algorithms can adapt to individual learning speeds and styles, offering personalized resources and challenges. For example, as a teacher I can inform AI about the competency level of the student on derivatives and integrals, adjusting the difficulty and topics covered accordingly.

    Visualization Tools: Complex calculus concepts like limits, continuity, derivatives, and integral applications can be visualized using AI-enhanced software, making abstract concepts more concrete and understandable.

    Data Analysis: Another large area of exploration in DP higher mathematics is data analysis and visualization. Due to the ability of AI to manage large datasets, it can be used in teaching statistics by creating a framework for the analysis of large datasets. The visualization allows students to make predictions, thus fostering a deeper understanding of statistical concepts through practical exposure.

      I have experience benefits of using AI to teach mathematics. Firstly, it enhances engagement as AI tools make learning interactive through simulations and visualizations, which are particularly effective for abstract concepts in higher mathematics. Next, AI can act as a personal tutor hence provide support for differentiated task creations, allowing educators more time to focus on in-depth instruction and support where needed. Finally, the ability to adjust as per student performance is a big hack as I can evidence my students processing/problem solving ability and use by AI in identifying learning gaps and adjusting teaching strategies accordingly.

      The use of AI in teaching DP mathematics is a pandora’s box, waiting to be explored. By integrating AI tools, we can provide a more tailored, interactive, and efficient learning experience, especially in complex areas like calculus. As AI technology evolves, its integration into educational frameworks like the IB will likely become more refined, offering even greater support for students and teachers. Teachers must remain adaptable and informed about these technological advancements to fully utilize AI’s potential in teaching mathematics.

      AI-written or human-authored?

      Image source: DALL-E, OpenAI. “An image to portray whether a text is AI-written or human-authored? in the style of the artist M F Hussain..” 2024. OpenAI.

      As the Editor of TIE, I have recently been reading a lot of submissions that were written, and/or co-authored by AI. I am extremely thankful to those authors who cite the AI-created work and make it easier for the readers including me to understand the narrative and the context. I find it challenging to determine whether a text is written by an AI or a human without specific context. This is the same when I am marking students’ work. I teach IB Business Management and Mathematics so if you are a teacher you will relate to my predicament!

      I thought, how do I create a checklist to measure the authenticity of the text? Is it even possible? I started putting together several indicators that might suggest it could be authored by AI or humans. Here’s a breakdown of factors that could point in either direction:

      AI-Written Indicators

      • Depth and Nuance: While the text is detailed and covers a broad range of ideas related to the topic, it lacks the nuanced personal anecdotes or depth of emotion that a human writer might include for example, narratives based on lived experiences are very much written by humans.
      • Structure and Coherence: The text is well-structured and coherent, which can indicate both AI and skilled human writers. However, AI tends to produce particularly well-structured texts due to its access to vast data of written material. It is also a matter of voice; the voice changes when the structure is too accurate and coherent almost like writing on a fixed template.
      • Repetition and Patterns: The text occasionally repeats themes or phrases (e.g., references to a specific resource or concept over and over) in a way that might suggest a patterned approach to writing, which is common in AI-generated texts. Almost all sentences start with a verb, for example, ‘demonstrating…; elucidating…; navigating…
      • Left Brain Approach: Scientific research informs us that the left brain controls our language and logical decisions. AI has been able to learn all about language and logic from the online data hence one of the indicators of AI-written work is the logical approach to a narrative, unlike a storytelling approach.

      Human-Written Indicators

      • Personal Perspective: The text is usually written from a first-person perspective, discussing personal reflections and experiences. This could suggest a human author, especially if there are specific references to the author’s background, experiences, and roles.
      • Complex Ideas: The exploration of complex emotional and psychological concepts, such as vulnerability and empathy, and their application to the narrative, could indicate a human author with personal experience and theoretical knowledge in these areas.
      • Specific References: The text includes references to specific organizations and individuals, for example in international education I find a lot of references to the Principals’ Training Center (PTC), The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), Association for International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC), and some named individuals. This use of proper names and acronyms is more commonly found in human-authored texts.
      • Right Brain Approach: Science also tells us that the right brain controls our creativity and instinct. AI will find it challenging to learn creativity and make a human decision based on instinct or intuition. Hence the human-written work usually is a narrative similar to storytelling.

      The Way Forward

      If the source of the text is not indicated it becomes extremely difficult to classify the text as AI-written or human-authored. Let us take the example of the image in this blog, I mentioned the source hence the context of the abstract art and repetitive design is relatable. Another important observation, since it is a creative piece of work one can almost immediately recognize it is AI-generated! The dilemma with text is it will have qualities that could be attributed to both. The way forward isn’t to make a clear distinction as that is almost impossible, considering how much AI is evolving each day. But the way forward is to start valuing human-written content as it paves the way to originality, innovation, and creativity. A left brain vs right brain conundrum, maybe the way forward is synergy between both AI-written and human-authored!

      Triumphs and Trials: A Teacher-Mother’s Journey with an International School Student

      Triumphs and Trials. Photo taken by Shwetangna Chakrabarty in Tanzania

      The moment was heart-stopping: my son, the captain of his school’s varsity football team, leaped to save a critical goal in the tournament final, only to land with a head injury. The impact was severe, a head injury just four days before his final International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma exams. As a mother and his teacher at an international school, the fear and uncertainty of that moment were overwhelming. Yet, what followed was a testament to resilience, dedication, and the transformative power of education within a diverse and supportive environment.

      Balancing the dual roles of teacher and mother to a graduating IB student is a journey fraught with unique triumphs and trials. Witnessing my son’s journey through the rigorous IB Diploma Programme, I’ve seen firsthand the sacrifices required and the competencies honed—critical thinking, time management, and a positive mindset, to name a few. His achievement of an almost perfect IB score of 44 out of 45 is a beacon of his hard work and the high-quality education provided by our international school setting.

      Upon reflecting on my son’s journey, I have learned to be a better teacher. I have learned that learning happens when students are supported emotionally and cognitively. Another learning is the positive impact of diversity in international schools on student achievement. Students from varied cultural backgrounds come together, to teach each other the life skills that extend beyond academics. For my son, it wasn’t just about mastering the subjects to secure those 7s in all his subjects (Mathematics AA, Physics, Chemistry, English L&L all at higher level and French LA, Business Management at standard level); it was about learning to navigate and thrive in a dynamic, multicultural world. This environment, underpinned by the right expectations, personal ambition, and guidance, fosters empathy, adaptability, and a broadened perspective—qualities that are as crucial in the classroom, on the sports field, and in life.

      Speaking of sports, my son’s role as the captain of the football, basketball, and volleyball teams—each clinching major championships—further amplifies the invaluable life lessons he learned and I witnessed from team sports: leadership, collaboration, resilience, and the spirit of fair play. These experiences prepared him for unforeseen challenges that he had not imagined.

      He earned the International Major Entrance Scholarship (IMES) from the University of British Columbia (UBC) Canada recognizing not just his academic prowess but his all-around excellence in sports, community service, and music. As a mother and a teacher, I experienced the joy of success for a student who never gave up and believed in the good of academic pursuits and team spirit.

      However, this journey was not without its sacrifices. The head injury before his final exams was a stark reminder of the thin line between success and setback. The days that followed were tense, filled with doctors’ visits, rest, and uncertainty. Yet, the resilience my son demonstrated, fueled by his dedication and the competencies developed through the IB program, saw him through. He not only sat for his exams but excelled, a testament to his strength and determination.

      Even after earning offers from many universities and scholarship offers from top universities in the world, my son could not get to his university on time. He had to miss an entire term waiting for his Canadian study permit to be approved. This was probably more painful than the stitches he had to endure during his head injury. He applied for the visa in April 2023 and only got it in November 2023. Missing the first term of his Engineering course. He had declined all the other offers as he was confident he would continue at UBC as the place that valued his talents. I witnessed his breakdown and frustration due to uncertainty and missing out on important life events: first day at uni; course selection day; activities sign-up day; varsity tryouts; scholarship recognition awards day and much more. The teacher in me would counsel him and motivate him to remain hopeful but the mother in me cried in pain to see him suffer. My son and I reflected on our situation multiple times to come out of it stronger due to the wonderful friendships that we had experienced. The support he got from teachers, friends, and family was the strength that kept us going and helped us understand that true joy comes from genuine relationships and friendships. That is our true success!

      This experience has been enlightening for me, both professionally and personally. As a teacher, it has reinforced the value of fostering a supportive, diverse, and challenging learning environment. As a mother, it has been a journey of pride, worry, and ultimately, immense joy in seeing my son overcome obstacles and strengthen his trust in friendships and people. This trust helped him to settle into university all by himself when he went to UBC in December 2023!

      In reflecting on this journey, it’s clear that the challenges we face, whether in the classroom, on the sports field, or in life, are growth opportunities. The diverse and rich atmosphere of an international school, coupled with the right intention and guidance, can transform these challenges into stepping stones for success. As my son steps into the next chapter of his life, I am confident that the lessons learned and the qualities honed during his time in an international school moving many times across continents will serve him well.

      As for me, I am grateful for the dual perspective this journey has afforded me, enriching my understanding of the profound impact of teaching, guiding, supporting, caring, and educating to shape young minds and futures.

      Women’s Day or Not?

      Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on

      Every 8th March is marked as international women’s day. We see a lot of enthusiasm in organizations across the world promising change, equity, respect, and breaking gender bias. What we really need to do is measure the impact of our actions, is there a change in the status quo of women?

      A few examples will refresh our memory and probably make us think critically about how we celebrate women. Women still fight to claim their right to education. In the 21st century, we have countries abolishing women from schools and colleges. Women in many countries do not have bodily autonomy; female genital mutilation is still a celebrated ritual; virginity is still a virtue in many cultures; and the right to abortion is a contested topic. The irony is all these decisions remain with the opposite sex. So even the right to make the decision about herself is not vested in women.

      This essentially means we the women of the world are forced to agree with all oppressive, inhuman, unjust decisions about our lives, our bodies, and ourselves for centuries. Celebrating women on 8th March for the last 10 decades has not made much impact. It’s time to audit our actions to measure real impact. Auditing our actions at the grassroots level of changing the mindset would be a great place to start.

      Here is where educators can make a big impact. Let us start a movement for teaching gender equality, women’s rights, and equity. Our content whether in international schools or local schools does not even come close to discussing or introspecting this issue. It is assumed that the mindset of millions will shift by marking a day in a year for women. Teaching something every day about gender equality and women’s rights would be more effective. A few things we can do as educators:

      1. Choosing texts and topics that are women-centered.
      2. Encourage young girls to opt for STEM subjects to get important jobs and careers that give them the opportunity to make important global decisions.
      3. School sports teams must give equal opportunities to girls and boys in terms of facilities, access, and training.
      4. Take away uniforms from schools, and allow students, especially girls to have an identity rather than prescribing an identity.
      5. Have gender-neutral spaces including toilets.
      6. Scrutinize the curriculum to take away toxic masculinity stories of war heroes and political leaders, and replace them with women entrepreneurs, activists, and even warriors.
      7. Include sex education and body awareness lessons in the school’s pastoral care program or health education.
      8. Put a ban on single-gender education.
      9. Make math mandatory for all girls till tertiary education.
      10. Teach financial mathematics or business management as a mandatory subject in the middle years to empower girls by learning about financial independence.

      Some of these ideas may sound unreasonable and debatable, remember it isn’t as unreasonable as shooting a young girl for wanting to go to school. The bullet came from a man holding the gun who never went to school or who was never taught to think of women as equals.

      Education can steer us toward the desired result. We need to learn from positive role models and women-centric stories. Some research on the positive impacts of gender equality has been recently documented. Countries like South Korea, Norway, and Canada are on a growth trajectory and enjoy a better quality of life due to an increased female workforce. Developing countries like Rwanda, Cuba, and the United Arab Emirates are making better decisions than first-world countries due to the increased percentage of women politicians. The success of the US economy has been with the number of women business owners increasing by 114%  over the last 20 years.

      So are we waiting for another women’s day or maybe not! Instead, as educators let’s take small actions every day to create a more balanced world. As educators, we have the power to empower women.

      A Year of Resilience

      24th February 2023 marked a year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has been a year of extreme resilience for the people of Ukraine and their leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In the words of Zelenskyy, “We have become one family …” this should become the definition of global citizenship in international education. Exactly a year ago the Ukraine war started amidst one of the worst events in the recent history-the pandemic. Yet, the tiny nation of Ukraine demonstrated mighty resilience and taught us some important lessons. International schools can use some of these strategies to fight the war on discrimination by being one family believing in one goal-education without discrimination.

      Here are a few key lessons the Ukraine war taught us in a year of resilience. These are humane approaches, and people-centric leadership traits that build resilience and unite us as a community.

      1. Never assume: It was assumed that a stronger, more powerful force like Russia will defeat the small country of Ukraine within days. Quite the contrary, resilience prevailed, and assumptions are long buried. Lesson learned-never assume that stronger voices make the largest impact, it is in fact the most resilient voice that makes a meaningful change. Let your voice be the most resilient one in the fight against discrimination in international education. Privilege and supremacy can be defeated by overcoming assumptions. Power is not mighty, resilience is!
      2. Unthinkable is possible: A year earlier it is unthinkable that Ukraine would hold out against nuclear threats and the catastrophic war. The country’s resilience has catapulted the idea that the unthinkable is possible. Lesson learned-imagine the impossible and work towards it. If you are marginalized, alienated, diminished, belittled, and dismissed, rise against all odds, challenge the perpetrators, dismantle their systems, and bring down systemic discrimination. Global citizenship will not just be a goal it will be a reality. Imagine a better world to create a better world!
      3. Unite to counter: As exclaimed by Zelenskyy: ““We have become one family …”, resilience is strengthened by unity. Unity is a primal force to counterattack. United in objectives and hearts can counter acts of aggression. Lesson learned-international educators must come together, and unite under a common objective of equity and inclusion. We must empower our students to choose unity over choosing a gun to solve their problems. Unite to counter passive or massive aggressions!

      In the above analogies, my objective is to focus on the resilience of Ukraine as an important lesson for educators. This by no means is to glorify the war. Hence this idea to use the Ukraine crisis as an example should not be read as idolizing war or conflict, it should be read to bring together communities in times of crisis. It is a time of crisis for the world of international education with rising conflicts, extremism, and intolerance. Hence it is time to be united to be resilient against the persistent storms, lessons learned from an important year in the history of the world.

      What’s New This Year?

      Photograph taken by Shwetangna Chakrabarty in Guangzhou, China.

      Happy New Year 2023!

      Did you make your resolutions for 2023? Did you consider changes that are on the horizon? Are you prepared for what the year has to offer? Especially in international education? Do you know What’s New This Year?

      The 2023 Buzz in International Education

      1. ChatGPT: The AI revolution happening in academia creates opportunities as well as poses challenges. ChatGPT is a controversial chatbot that claims and aims to refine language learning. While there are some benefits for those who genuinely want to test their language skills, it can also write essays and answers to prompts fed into the application. Since its launch in November students all over the world have been using it to generate essays to complete writing assignments. Schools have not yet figured out a way to detect this kind of cheating. Though there have been some software applications developed to identify assignments completed by ChatGPT, they are still not full proof. Finally, it comes down to the school teacher’s vigilance to detect anomalies in the style of writing. Some universities are taking this very seriously, they have developed systems to detect essays written by ChatGPT. Here are a few resources you can check to learn more about AI encroachment in academia.
      2. University Applications 2023: It seems getting into university in 2023 has become increasingly competitive. The first reason is the rebound in applications due to reducing Covid restrictions and the other reason is the test-optional strategy adopted by top universities. Post Covid, students who had deferred their entry are also applying for university admissions along with the class of 2023. According to Forbes, Common App has seen a 26% rise in applications to the US. Since the applicant pool this year is larger, it is naturally stronger, hence the early applications will be filled out quickly which means the regular decision round will be more competitive. Here are a few useful insights into admissions 2023
      3. Inclusion: The year will see a lot of changes in school policies, strategies, and practices. With most of the international education conversation focusing on inclusion, it is no longer an option to ignore diversity in its true avatar. Not just limited to international mindedness or global citizenship but truly focusing on enhancing workplace culture to be all-inclusive. Setting up support systems, and safe spaces for all learners has to be the priority of all schools. I strongly advise schools to include safe spaces and inclusion in their mission and vision statement to keep it real and focused on specific objectives. Creating a safe space ensures students develop a sense of belonging and hence learn better. Having a framework or standards of practice that provide guidance for achieving inclusion will be the number one priority for all schools in 2023. The post-Covid world is less forgiving and more aware, hence our students and parents won’t settle for lip service, they will need strategies, policies, and procedures in place to ensure their child feels safe, accepted, and valued. One example of such standards in education is the TIE Standards of Practice.

      Time to buckle up, put on your seat belts and prepare for a smooth or rough ride ahead, depending on what your school values and prioritizes in 2023.

      We Can Heal

      Image generated by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on

      A lot of harm, a lot of hurt,

      A lot of anger, and a lot of sadness,

      Alas! not a lot of healing.

      Healing after harm, healing after hurt,

      Healing from anger, healing from sadness,

      Alas! not a lot of healing.

      We cannot heal if we let the harm take over,

      We get more hurt if we keep picking on our wounds,

      Alas! not a lot of healing.

      Our wound is scabbing and trying to heal,

      Our anger keeps removing the scab and exposing it raw,

      Our sadness stops the wound from healing, we keep probing the wound,

      Alas! not a lot of healing.

      Healing from injustice, healing from bias, healing from discrimination,

      A lot said and a lot done,

      Alas! not a lot of healing.

      We heal when we find peace, we heal when we take the leap of faith,

      We heal when we do not do to others what they did to us,

      Alas! not a lot of healing.

      You against me and me against you and against each other,

      Not stopping till we bring everyone down, us and them,

      Injustice will rejoice in its victory, for it turned us into them,

      Alas! is healing ever possible?

      If we keep hurting, we will keep hurting, revenge cannot heal,

      Till the hurt engulfs us and we become what we wanted to fight,

      Alas! is healing ever possible?

      We heal by finding our space to grow, they take it away, our place to grow,

      We keep finding it as we want to heal, we want to grow,

       We can heal.

      Our hate, our hurt, and our harm cannot stop us from healing,

      Our courage of pure surrender to justice will dismantle systemic injustice,

       We can heal.

      Not naming and shaming, not crying and not shying,

      But doing and moving and growing,

      Being the better and the bigger person,

       We can heal.

      This is a long fight, the fight of color,

      Fear is the color of hurt and harm,

      As it flows red if not contained,

      Not in our veins, not on our hands do we want the red,

       We can heal.

      Let in the soul force, not the sole force of blame,

      Heal with love, heal from harm, heal for peace

      For only truly healed us will heal the world.

       We can heal.


      Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on

      Veil or no Veil? A question that women have pondered for centuries. Do we have an answer? Yes, we do-veil if others demand of us and no veil if others permit us. This demanding and permitting has not changed even though the types of veils have. Women need to wear a veil in traditional Christian weddings as a sign of purity; married women need to wear a veil or ghoonghat in traditional Indian households to symbolize their loyalty to their spouses; women need to wear a veil or hijab/purdah in Islam to keep men moral and uphold modesty. There are millions of such parallels that require women to veil and what has it led to?

      The recent death of a young woman in Iran should be the last straw for tolerating gender discrimination, just like George Floyd’s death was the last straw for tolerating racism. I have seen women in my family with ghoonghat in the sweltering heat of Indian summer as their male partners continued to ignore their discomfort, celebrating the oppression and discomfort instead. I have felt the agony of young female students hiding away in school corridors and classrooms as they suddenly had to wear a hijab. I have heard women spending ridiculous amounts of money to buy a wedding veil. I always asked myself:

      Have we women glorified the veil?

      Why have we never questioned the veil?

      What if we completely do away with any kind of veil?

      I shudder, even while writing about it, as just this might attract a lot of hate. Honestly, my intention is not to hurt people’s sentiment but to poke it hard! If the literal ‘taking away a veil’ hurts us, then let it hurt till we get rid of it. We don’t need to sacrifice our lives just to put up with meaningless subjugation. If we like the veil in any form, think of the form of violence we are nurturing in our context. Tolerate and we will be forced to tolerate, no positive change will ever take place as we continue to be veiled.

      Any form of subjugation is a form of human rights violation. While the world is still reeling from the mass murder by Covid, we continue with age old mass murder of women’s rights. We need to look past traditions, customs, and religious practices, to overcome challenges like gender discrimination. A society that limits its women limits half of its workforce, stunting its social, financial, and cognitive growth. And a society that kills women who are demanding their rights as humans, kills humanity.

      So why do we need to talk about this? We need to. This is more important than Apple launching the new iPhone, the Kardashians, or Elon Musk’s fantasies. We have managed to veil our real issues and let the veil prevail. If we do not open up conversations with our young learners, they will never be able to rise above the veil of fake news, lies, bias, discrimination and prejudice.

      One woman sacrificed her life at the age of 22. She had so much to live for; to help in solving global issues; to save the environment, to explore outer space, to give life to a human, to lay her parents to rest, to solve the Collatz conjecture; could be so many things! There were infinite dreams and possibilities, but the veil took it all. Many women have sacrificed their dreams for centuries but each decade there is a story of change propelled by a woman who had the courage to get out of the clasps of a veiled society, to make the world a livable space. Be it Jane Austin, Anne Frank, Maya Angelou or Indira Gandhi and many more like them, they were change-makers and they did not need a veil. So do we really need any kind of veil? We don’t? This is what a global education should teach its young women learners- you don’t give in to the demands and needs of a veiled society, by rising above a veil, girls and women will help themselves and the world around them. It is a choice to veil or not veil, unveil the choice to prevail.

      The Legacy of a Queen

      Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on

      The death of Queen Elizabeth II did not come as a surprise to many students in my school! When I got to school on the 9th of September it was business as usual for students while teachers discussed the tragic loss and mourned her death.

      When discussing with students I got a few blank expressions and no reaction from them. The fact that got the most reaction was her passing at the age of 96 years. The Queen lived a long life. It was difficult to explain the significance of her life and consequently her death; students in today’s classroom did not recognize this British monarch as a youth icon or a significant contributor to their context.

      A world leader passed away, so what and why should students in international schools learn or mourn? There is a lot to learn for sure. Learn that a woman could symbolize an entire nation’s service to people. Learn that a queen is remembered for her life of service, not for her beauty or jewels. Learn that even privileged people have to embody a great character. Learn that 96 years means adapting to almost 9 decades of change. Learn that royalty is a legacy and not an inheritance.

      And why should students mourn, especially when they can not relate to monarchy in the modern age? This is a good opportunity to teach them empathy and care. It is understandable not to feel sad for people you do not know, but international education should teach respect and care towards other people’s cultures and beliefs. A specific student might not be impacted by the queen’s death but must show empathy towards those who are mourning. This is where the ethos and values of international education are tested, knowing that other people with different value systems are right in their way of looking at the world. With that said other people can also feel that the monarchy represents decades of colonialism and oppression. They might not be mourning and they are also entitled to the way they want to express themselves.

      Hence, while the world mourned the death of a woman who lived a long life with dignity, there are others who also raised questions that are not being discussed. The elephant in the room-discuss the reign of the queen or the British empire as a positive impact on the world or not? The truth is it needs to be discussed and students need to express how they feel and what they know about the queen’s reign. Expecting everyone to mourn is also a stretch, at least this is something I experienced in my classroom in an international school in Asia. Truth be told it is a difficult conversation but needs to be had. While some need to understand why others are mourning, others need to understand why some are not mourning-finally everyone needs to agree to disagree. The greatest learning from this event. The values we teach in international schools-other people with their differences can also be right. I can settle for this feeling as the legacy worthy of a queen!

      School Uniform: Time to Change

      Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on

      I started the year as assistant head of secondary; my role requires me to oversee pedagogy as well as the student life of the secondary students. Of all the concerns and challenges and issues the one thing that bothers me every day is the school uniform. I have complete control and knowledge of pedagogy, in fact, I can even think of innovative strategies, and approaches to uphold excellence in teaching and learning. But the school uniform issue is something that never sees the end of the day. I am bothered by it as I do not agree with the concept of school uniforms but I need to ensure that school policies are followed by students.

      Recently, I had three girls in my office for non-compliance with the uniform policy. The Head of Year had got them to my office as they did not follow the uniform policy. A tank top, one visible bra strap and a short skirt landed them in my office. I started my conversation by asking the girls if they knew why they were in my office. Did they realize what was wrong? They had no clue! I told them they were not in proper uniform and asked them why they should be in proper uniform. To which one of the girls said’ “because it distracts the boys”. This came as a shock to me. I did react appropriately, completely rejecting their explanation. Without stretching the conversation, I told them that they were non-compliant with the uniform policy and they must follow school policies. I did tell them if someone is distracted by what the other person wears, it’s their problem. I did address the issue and it turned out to be a conversation on misogyny and gender equality. The girls also asked me why girls get picked for what they wear, that they always have self-doubts: too short, too long; too low, too high; too tight, too loose. While their male friends get away even with dirty clothes, loose, tight, low, high, short, long everything?

      This incident made me think of the whole purpose of a dress code or a uniform. It is believed that uniforms reduce disparity as everyone is wearing the same dress. This way students can focus on academics and not worry about what to wear to school or have self-doubts. But the flip side of the coin, the uniform does not improve student grades, and attendance and does not resolve conflicts or issues like bullying, and socio-emotional challenges; so what is the point?

      In fact, having a strict uniform policy can also be discriminatory:

      1. Skirts for girls vs trousers for boys-why not the same for all?
      2. Length of skirt mandated not length of shorts?
      3. Only available up to a certain size, excluding plus-size students or teens going through a growth spurt.
      4. No age-specific considerations?
      5. Discouraging self-expression is considered a violation of human rights, and uniforms inhibit self-expression…

      So what if we get rid of uniforms?

      1. Students will not be forced to buy expensive clothing that they find restrictive and uncomfortable.
      2. If we aim for diversity, creative thinking and multiple perspectives, having a uniform code only limits all of these.
      3. Positive impact on school culture as there will be one less reason to have consequences for students.
      4. The focus will shift from ‘what students are wearing’ to ‘what students are learning.’
      5. Finally, it is about student choice and voice, stifling it is not the aim. Freedom from school uniform is freedom of expression, freedom of choice and voice.

      Change is the catalyst for innovation. Changing the way we think creates a vision. Changing archaic policies transforms organisations. The focus of schools is learning not on who is wearing what. Let them come in short, let them come in covered, let them come as who they are and not who we want them to be. International mindedness, inclusion and diversity start with identity; uniforms stifle the self-expression and identity of our students. Time to change: the school uniform!