While K-12 schools have been moving toward digital teaching and learning for many years, COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the progress. The rapid move to remote online learning at the onset of the pandemic is an experience that I am sure most school and district administrations would not want to relive; however, the results will have a lasting positive impact on their teachers, students and parents. Digital instruction can no longer be considered ancillary for K-12 schools. Despite the overwhelming consequences of the pandemic, this global crisis was viewed as an extraordinary time for learning by D Y Patil International School (DYPIS). They perceived it more as an opportunity than a problem. Being an IB school, digital learning was not an unexplored arena. Hence, the school focused on making the online learning experiences more engaging and exciting for the students.
Despite irregular attendance and technical glitches faced by both teachers and students, DYPIS teachers have used interactive tools and methods to ensure the smooth progression of the learning journey. The institute had to ensure that not only teachers but the entire ecosystem at the school was ready for this migration and were able to function with equal efficiency. Hence, they decided to hold frequent informal discussions along with the regular collaborative meetings ensuring an exchange of ideas among the staff members. “Curriculum and resource audit for the changed circumstances helped us in indemnifying areas of improvement. The Senior Leadership Team at the school took charge and devised a plan of action to strengthen those areas. The school has functioned well even during a pandemic due to the consistent and synthesized efforts of all its stakeholders,” says Kinnari Shah, Head of School, DYPIS.
Coping through the COVID Storm
At DYPIS, the varying needs of students are given the utmost importance that helps them to gain self-confidence, personal accomplishment and become lifelong learners transforming them into future leaders. Students are encouraged to participate in various competitions and have won many prizes at the district, state, national, international, and interschool level but what makes the difference is when students start reflecting their learnings for the benefit of society. There are some noteworthy contributions made by the students of DYPIS. The students had raised over INR 35 Lakhs for Habitat of Humanity to provide essential and hygiene kits to thousands impacted by COVID-19. This Initiative was launched with the expectation of reaching people who were widely impacted by the Coronavirus.
There was another initiative named ‘Make Meals Matter’ taken by Grade 7 students to eradicate hunger by purchasing healthy and hygienic grains with the help of effective fundraising to provide food to people who are unable to cope with the rapidly increasing prices. The students have distributed food items to the needy, especially during the pandemic. Further to support the same cause, a ‘Virtual Games Night’ was organized by Grade V students to raise Rs. 35,000, which was utilized to purchase the community fridge and donate it with the help of an NGO.
Similarly, Students of Grade V had taken the initiative to spread the awareness on ‘ECO Bricks’ through their club called ‘Let’s Be Kind’. Ecobrick is a plastic bottle packed tight with used plastic. It can be pieces of plastic bags, polythene bags, chocolate wrappers, Packaging wrappers, straws, or any other plastic material at home dumped inside the plastic bottle till its bottle rim with the help of a stick and later used to build furniture, gardens, play parks, houses for the needy, and many other structures. Students had collected more than 300 eco-bricks and donated them with the help of an NGO. “These major achievements of our students as the school believes in transforming the students to think with a global mindset and contribute towards the betterment of mankind,” opines Kinnari.
Helping Students Out Do Themselves
DYPIS was established in 2008 with a vision to offer the best education of international standards in Mumbai by fostering a well-qualified, highly-skilled, and approachable faculty and expecting and supporting their professional development. The institute believes that students should focus on absorbing knowledge with evolving technology rather than only focusing on acquiring good grades. The school wishes its students to have a global mindset and think critically, contributing towards the betterment of society. “We aspire to be a school from which students gain a sense of personal accomplishment, self-confidence, and a lifelong love for learning. By fostering critical thinking through the inquiry process, our students develop a broad range of competencies for their future endeavours,” says Kinnari.
DYPIS strongly believes in creating a partnership with the parents to ensure that the children are not perplexed by varied instructions from their parents and teachers. To make this happen, they have frequent formal and informal conversations with the parents. Coffee Mornings, Parents’ Workshops, and informal socials help parents in understanding the school’s philosophy of education. Kinnari adds, “Parents participate in celebrating students’ academic and cocurricular achievements. School newsletters and other modes of communication also help in strengthening the relationship with the parents. Together we give them the roots to grow and the wings to fly”.
Valuing a strong partnership where parents contribute to the education and success of their children, DYPIS inspires its students to strive for excellence in all aspects of their development and at the same time expect them to become productive individuals and principled world citizens. The students are taught to respect each individual and learn from the diverse culture, which is the source of strength, inspiration, and knowledge. The institute promotes the exchange of ideas and an atmosphere of openness amongst students, faculty, parents, and administration. Keeping this in mind, the mission is to create a community of life-long learners working together in a caring, challenging, and nurturing environment that encourages enthusiasm, international mindedness, independence, and responsibility where academic and personal potential can be achieved.
Making Learning Innovative – Teachers at DYPIS
Teachers of DYPIS have used varied IT resources to enhance the learning experience of students. It also helped children in understanding the concepts well. They have strategically used the engagement platforms like hyperdocs, bitmojis, various online quiz apps, Pear Deck, flipgrid, etc. in their lesson plans. The school keeps on organizing virtual webinars and workshops for students that help to broaden their skills, as well as their understanding of their field of interest. The school also planned various events for students virtually like STEM Fest, TED-Ed Students Talk, Model United Nations, Aavishkar Art Competition, TOK Fest, CLS Quiz, Knowledge Bees which provided an opportunity to bring the outliers in, to build school spirit, and create a sense of belonging.
With such events, students remain engaged, organized, and enjoy the learning process. “We have also organized the DYPIS Skill Enhancement Programme virtually as part of summer camp that included workshops on Personality Development, Coffee Painting, Contemporary Dance, Music & Instruments, Career Counseling, Art and Craft, Anger Management, Communication Skills, Animation, App Designing, etc. and has received overwhelming responses. The students are also encouraged to form various clubs,” adds Kinnari. Many of the activities offered by clubs help students to extend and elaborate on the more formal knowledge learned in school. It also provides an opportunity to participate in new roles.
DYPIS maintains its student-teacher ratio that enables personalized attention to each child. They offer IB and IGCSE curriculum for different age groups. In the primary years, the school offers the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), which highlights inquiry-based learning and differentiated instructions. Typically, in the PYP classroom, different learners are found working on the same topic at very different levels according to their understanding and comprehension. The PYP focuses on student agency, where the emphasis is given to the student’s aptitude and interest. The teachers and students work together to decide & what and how the students will learn. The teachers use different strategies and tools for each learner to ensure that each child meets their potential.
In addition to the differentiated instructions in the classroom, some students need extra support from all stakeholders for creating an engaging and meaningful learning experience. In such situations, the school’s inclusion team, along with all teachers, collaborate and design an individualized education plan commonly called IEP. It is an extremely detailed plan, specifically created keeping in mind the student’s learning needs. SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals are set, and progress is minutely monitored.
Helping Students Achieve Excellence
Starting college and career guidance for their students from Grade 8, the coordinators and career counsellors at DYPIS have individual meetings with students along with their parents to decide their subjects for IGCSE in alignment with their perceived career goals. This support not only continues but becomes more intensive as the students move to senior secondary school. Correct subject choices, university preferences, desirable and future career options, summer internships, college applications, exposure to various universities, and much more form the basis of the college’s placement program. This is all done under the mentorship of Dr Pratibha Jain, who heads the Eduboard consultancy. “We believe that our responsibility as an educational organization ends only when our learners are placed in the university of their choice. And we are extremely proud of the fact that we have 100% placement for our students in the colleges where they aspire to reach,” points out Kinnari.
The school was established with a vision to offer the best education of international standards in Mumbai. With its constant efforts, DYPIS was ranked as the 3rd best school in the International Curriculum Category for the zone south Mumbai & Midtown Bandra and 6th Rank (Overall International Schools in Mumbai) by Times School Survey 2020. It is also the recipient of Times Education Icons for 3 consecutive years, 2018, 2019, and 2020 for the Category Top School International Curriculum (IB & IGCSE). It has also been ranked amongst the best 5 schools in the category of Top International Schools in the 11th edition of ‘HT Top School Survey 2019’. The school is also the recipient of the Mid-day Excellence Education Award Excellence in International School Education 2019-20. Recently, Times Online School Survey 2021 recognized D Y Patil International School, Worli as ‘Top Best International School in Online Class Management. This was a result of constant efforts by the teachers to implement innovative teaching methods to deliver online content through a virtual learning platform.
Planning to strengthen the existing online schooling with new innovative teaching methodologies for which training will be organized for teachers, DYPIS is already in the process to devise the plan on which days the students will attend the school physically and on which days function online to promote blended learning. A hybrid curriculum will also be structured catering to the specific requirement. However, if the Government of Maharashtra allows running the school in a regular format completely, DYPIS is ensuring that their entire staff and teachers are getting vaccinated to its full strength. They have already prepared guidelines with utmost care for re-opening, keeping in mind the Covid protocols. It is not only health & safety measures, but the school will also be focusing on psycho-social and emotional support for students with the help of counsellors because of the prolonged school closure. “Academically, the school will now be offering Cambridge AS & A Levels for grades 11 & 12 from the next Academic Year 2022-23 along with the existing IB Diploma Programme. In IB Diploma Programme, Theatre Arts will also be offered in Group 6. Apart from this, the senior management team will continuously monitor teacher professional development and a mental wellbeing program for all its stakeholders,” concludes Kinnari.