This year’s Republic Day saw a young girl receive the National Bravery Award from the Prime Minister of India. 12-year-old Zen Sadavarte displayed exemplary courage during the fire that engulfed the 12th floor of Crystal Towers, Parel, in August 2018. A week later, while researching the problems with India’s midday meal scheme, she read up on the death of a four-month-old boy at a protest in Delhi. Disturbed, she wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India, describing the participation of infants and children in protests as “torture and cruelty”, violative of “child rights and natural justice”. Her letter prompted the Supreme Court to turn her informal appeal into formal public interest litigation. Zen has also been granted permission to represent herself and speak in court at the next hearing. Zen was raised to be strong and responsible. She knew when to react and how to react. She knew what it took to be the next leader of the world, and in her own words, “I want to be a lawyer representing India at the International Court of Justice”. For someone who is ferociously independent and focus driven, casual environment cannot help her cause. Her current school, Don Bosco International School, Matunga, Mumbai, is the perfect place for determined youngsters like her to thrive.
Don Bosco International School (DBIS) offers IB PYP for Jr Kg to Grade 5 students, CAIE for Grades 6 to Grade 10 students, and IBDP for Grades 11 and 12. Through this blended approach, DBIS provides the flexibility to students in their choice of higher education, which otherwise would have been a limiting factor in terms of national and global institution, as well as a financial burden. Using self and peer assessment strategies along with reflection sheets and KWL (Know about the topic, what you Want to know, and what you’ve Learned) sheets, DBIS makes the students actively responsible for their own learning. The school’s peer mentoring provides an opportunity for senior students to meet their juniors, conduct webinars and also have one-on-one sessions with their juniors, with the issues discussed ranging from study skills to time management.
Instilling a Sportsperson Spirit
The school, interestingly, do not encourage comparing or competing with others in academics. Instead, all the competition is brought on the sports ground. The school has a huge campus that includes 3 basketball courts, football turfs, 1 International Hockey turf (one of its kind in the city of Mumbai), and 6 nets for cricket. This unique infrastructure and the training given is the secret behind the success of DBIS students who have done well at MSSA, DSO and at SFA.
“The school has a compulsory sports program designed for every student in the school and our students undergo training for one hour every day because the school believes in the adage ‘A healthy mind lives in a healthy body’. We were ranked 2nd from over 700 schools in the city of Mumbai, yet we believe in setting our own benchmarks and bettering them along the way. We believe a balanced child approach will add to their overall development and our students will fare well when applying through competitive entrance tests including viva-voce for securing admission in top global universities. Access to the best of resources, including resources on demand is granted to the students, even though such expenses are not justified by the low tuition fees that a student pays. We have found this approach conducive to their academic growth as well as a pragmatic approach to life maturing with the responsibility of independent free thinkers,” says Meena Saldanha, Principal, Don Bosco International School.
The school’s strong focus on sports and physical fitness is reflected in the one-of-a-kind Sports Day held for the year 2019-2020. With ‘All-Inclusive’ as the concept, the school provided an opportunity for the students to take part in at least 2 Sports activities. The objective was to showcase skills learnt in the various sports being taught during the Sports program, with the active participation of every student in the school. The traditional athletics races took a back seat, with students participating in only 1 race per category. The 6 Sports, all part of the schools Inclusive Sports Program, which students played, were Hockey, Football, Handball, Cricket, Basketball and Roll Ball.
Healthifying Body and Mind
Paying equal attention to mental health, DBIS also hosts emotional wellbeing sessions for students, parents, teachers and ancillary staff. “In these tough times, our behaviour counsellors stepped in to help all the stakeholders in dealing and managing their emotions. The support extended by the counsellors have helped the community in navigating with anxiety and answer some unresolved questions for the students. DBIS presents holistic, well-balanced development of heart, mind, body and soul. We believe that our students after the culmination of their academic journey at DBIS, will be balanced and resilient inquirers ready for the challenges of life as participants and not as bystanders,” adds the Principal.
Although the school was going full steam ahead with respect to Industrial Revolution 4.0 since 2015, the pandemic and the consequent world lockdown only firmed up the path towards. The school understands that the disruption from the physical to the virtual world, though disturbing to young minds, is one of the most positive outcomes of a doomsday situation. DBIS was quick to adopt and adapt as early as March 2020, during the onset of the pandemic. DBIS also have several freeship students who were admitted based on the school’s freeship policy, which was in place for the first four years in the school. DBIS provided each of these students a device and network connections in the form of a dongle so that their learning was not affected.
Thanks to the excellent rapport the school has with the parents, combined with an enthusiastic faculty and management, the step to remote learning was “just what the doctor ordered”. True, DBIS comprehended this leap of faith into an ethereal world of technology as petrifying at the onset, but through grit and determination, it soon turned gratifying. With collaboration at the heart of DBIS’s teaching-learning experience, the teachers view themselves as lifelong learners and learn from one another. They also use digital Pineapple charts on slack, whereby teachers invite the peer teachers to observe their best teaching practices, creating an open and interactive environment.
The teachers mentored each other, attending webinars, self-learning, slowly unravelling a mysterious digital world. This decoding was satisfying, and the school is poised to tutor young minds in the rudimentary of IR 4.0. DBIS firmly believe that young minds are like sponges, excellent at absorbing and comprehension, provided it is systematic and does not overload. With an inhouse ‘decades-old rubric’ for the academic development of the child, the school is positive that at the PYP stage the students would achieve levels that would be far higher, comparatively.
Further explaining the school’s shift to remote online learning, the principal says that DBIS followed a blend of synchronous and asynchronous sessions for the pre-primary and the primary section. The Early Years timetable comprised of 3 synchronous sessions per day with each session lasting for 30 of 40 minutes per class. While the Zoom platform, Wheel of names, Kahoot, Linoit, Nearpod, Jamboard, Toy Theatre etc. were used for the Synchronous sessions, the asynchronous sessions comprised of the assignments shared by the facilitator on Toddle, which include simple tasks which serve as a recapitulation of concepts done during the synchronous sessions.
These assignments enable the facilitators to create a visual memory of their students learning journey through photos, videos, audio notes, empowering the students’ voice and choice to demonstrate and share learning. The tech-savvy school and students used tools such as Toddle, Google Suite, Padlet, Brain Pop, Flipgrid, whiteboards, orange slice, slideshow, podcasts, movie trailors, Quizzes, Gimlet, Wizer, and Quizlet while playing academic games and work on virtual science experiments and simulations.
What is Genius Hour?
The subjects taught at DBIS are English, Math, Inquiry Music, Speech and Drama, Visual Art, PSPE and GeniusHour. The Genius Hour celebrates the IB students’ journey of self-discovery, passion, curiosity, creation, research, purpose by showcasing it to an audience. Senior school students initiate, plan and organise school events; they have the liberty to work at their pace, some alone and some in pairs. The aim of introducing Genius Hour was that the students independently learnt to create their own learning pathways and discover their passion. DBIS, though in its fledgeling state, has gained recognition amongst the International School fraternity as very tough competitors, especially in the sports arena.
At almost all events, the school has achieved either a gold or silver or bronze in team as well as individual sports. In academics front, the ASSET exams have benchmarked a majority of DBIS students at A and A star level. DBIS students have also been winners at the MISA science project competitions for the last three years which had students from most of the international schools in and around Mumbai participating. DBIS is also a part of Eumind, an International exchange programme with Europe and has partnered with a school in Helinium in the Netherlands. With this and several other bouquets of awards and recognition in its bag, Don Bosco International School is surging ahead setting milestones after milestones.