My dear students,
The oft quoted statement, ‘Change is the only constant’, though true in essence, remains only a statement in some fields. Our Education System is one of the glaring examples of the same. Means of communication, transportation, health care and others have seen unimaginable transformation, world over, in the last century. But, in most countries including ours, what we teach and more importantly how we teach hasn’t changed. Classroom pedagogy remains almost constant – didactic, uni-directional and teacher led, having undergone hardly any mutation in this vast time period. How can an Education System grounded in the past, feeling safe in its Comfort Zone, claim to prepare its students for the future??
The Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky in his theory about what we can do and can’t do talked about the Zone of Proximal Development in the 1920s. He explained that there are three zones within each of us, visualized as concentric circles. The innermost of its concentric circles he called the Zone of Comfort; he said it was reasonably passive. Extrapolating this into the education context, this may be explained as the age-old, teacher-led style of teaching in the classroom wherein students are passive listeners.
From the student’s point of view, he/she ‘comfortably’ sits back, hears and learns from the teacher who ‘comfortably’ teaches in the same way as her ancestors taught. He explained that there is very little learning in this zone and remaining in this zone only leads to stagnation. Isn’t this where our current Education system stands? One doesn’t take risks, one doesn’t challenge oneself.
Vygotsky then explains the next concentric circle which he called the Zone of Proximal Development. He proposed that for maximum growth and learning, one must step out of the Comfort Zone into the Zone of Proximal Development or more commonly called the Stretch Zone. Changing tracks to the Education context, in the Stretch Zone the assistance of the teacher is minimized. The student and the teacher, both, come out of their Comfort Zones into the Stretch Zone which is full of uncertainty, adversity and challenge. But such is life too, isn’t it? And school is meant to prepare you, dear students, for life!! That’s the reason why this is the zone of maximum development!
As educators, from the inception of Seth M.R. Jaipuria School, we have been doing calculative calibration in our pedagogy. We started experimenting with the pedagogy of Kindergarten and Junior School (Classes I-V) in 2014 and Playgroup in 2017. Our new lesson plans made the student think, question, apply and in those early years our young students ‘comfortably’ moved out of their Comfort Zone.
I must admit, at the administrative level, it wasn’t so ‘comfortable’. Initially, there was resistance from all possible fronts. But our teachers with years of experience as their forte, took the plunge and within a year of ‘discomfort’, they are now sailing smoothly on the high seas of path-breaking pedagogical practices.
Now, it’s time for us to turn our gaze towards Middle School. Our researchers are working tirelessly on lesson plans which will need collaborative research amongst the students as their very base. When students own a part of learning as their own, their take-home becomes more meaningful and deep. In this collaborative research, students will share their findings with their class and their teacher and thus learning from peers will become even more meaningful. Our architect team is designing a Collaborative Research Lab which should be hopefully ready by July 2018.
In these times, it is not enough to prepare you to become doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers. The jobs you will eventually aspire for, probably, have not been created yet. For this reason we have now introduced Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Coding as activities. Hopefully, we will be able to integrate these into your curriculum too.
We aspire to lead our students towards the exploration of newer trails available to their generation and thus gain new insights. The Seth M.R. Jaipurians who are today the VP’s of Google, Genpact, Bank of America and others could not have reached there if they would have stayed in their Comfort Zone.
We will always be there to assist you in calibrating and recalibrating your life, your choices.
We are there by your side and will remain there, forever, as you write and re-write your life’s narrative.