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Young students feel confident when trusted and treated as partners in teaching-learning 

By Ashok Pandey,

Classrooms need a redesign to elicit students' love for learning and self-development.

Schools with a clear vision, positive culture and participative decision-making have higher chances of making a change, writes Ashok Pandey.

During several interactions with parents, we posed a question, “Visualise your children holding a mike, as a celebrity, years down the line. What would you like them to share as your major contribution to their life?” The answer was surprisingly common across demographies. We heard parents say, “ I would like my child to say that my parents stood by me; they believed in me when everybody else refused to." They also said my child should proudly recall the values, relationships and emotions that we invested in them. Similar are the sentiments that teachers, too, would like their students to remember; how they made them feel important; allowed them to make decisions and solve problems - should figure on top. Therefore, teachers and parents need to invest in children, their values, energy, and time to achieve that goal. The critical thing to note here is that both the parents and teachers are talking about the skills which fall under socio-emotional skills (SEL). 

Aristotle said, “The purpose of education is to ensure the flourishing of the individuals characterised by the 'goodness' of character and 'goodness' of intellect." In Sanskrit, we say, "Vidya Dadāti Vinayam", meaning that education brings humility. Unfortunately, character building has taken a back seat. The entire focus seems to be on maximising academic performance.   

Transforming education for sustainability requires a systematic approach. The teachers must eschew being a broadcaster and acknowledge that there are several alternative sources to knowledge. The classrooms need a redesign to elicit students' love for learning and self-development. The pedagogy must shun predictability and encourage curiosity, innovation, and participation. Schools are where students learn to become responsible citizens and engage in community development. The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the new classroom objectives- encompassing both Maslow and Bloom- around which new pedagogies and assessments should revolve. The task of initiating mindset shifts can be performed by transformative schools and transformative leadership, experiencing and facilitating positive changes. Schools with a clear vision, positive culture, participative decision-making, and modelling best practices have higher chances of making a change. 

Recognising and managing emotions to set and achieve positive goals, developing empathy to maintain positive relationships and making responsible decisions are at the core of the Socio-Emotional Learning and development process. As educators, we must acknowledge wholeheartedly that SEL competencies are necessary for success. We need to develop pedagogical practices to engage students in SEL by restructuring classroom discussions and creating contexts to freely express themselves and reflect on their behaviour.  

It is fascinating to observe that reflecting on what went wrong, what went well, how could I improve the situation in the classroom results in improved relationships amongst them. Teachers can trust students with responsibility, assign essential responsibilities and inculcate role modelling. Young students feel confident when trusted and treated as partners in teaching-learning. The emotional connect, research proves, is very helpful in developing cognitive excellence and cultural quotient. 

The foremost thing about SEL is that all stakeholders understand why these competencies are essential. The McKinsey Global Research has identified that by 2030 careers involving socio-emotional skills and higher-order cognitive skills will be in high demand. A recent study from the Economic Cooperation and Development Organization revealed that lack of SEL instruction is responsible for increased unemployment, poor health, and behavioural disorder. The collaboration of the academic, socio and emotional learning (CASEL), one of the leading authorities in promoting SEL education, has identified five critical core competencies to succeed in life. These are: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness. 

Reframing our understanding of curriculum, pedagogy and classroom challenges demands a mind-shift, developing a global outlook and encouraging students to aim for high-value contribution to the society.  

Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC states that" Life will be a roller-coaster ride. You can be a top dog one day and nothing the next. Ultimate success is an illusion, but contentment and honesty of intention are real.” That sums up the story of SEL.  

Ashok Pandey is the Director of Ahlcon Group of Schools. He is also a Delhi-based educationist, SDGs evangelist and National Coordinator of Climate Reality Education, India. Views expressed are personal.  

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