International schools, different curricula & academic regression
Supriya Atal is the director of studies at the Bombay International School in India. She started working in education 15 years ago and has ever since witnessed the remarkable development of the Indian education system..
In the podcast “School must go on” Supriya Atal talks about the role of private players in education in India and the different curricula at international schools.
– Number of international schools is growing –
“Historically, the state has always tried to manage schooling in most parts of India,” Supriya Atal explains. Private players saw poor benchmarks and very poor quality of education and realized that there is a huge opportunity. “In the last 20 years, a lot of private players have moved into education in India,” sums up the director of studies. In 2005 there were only three international schools in Mumbai, while today there are 50 and the number is still growing. “The parents started getting aware of the fact that if their children go to an international school they have greater opportunities,” Supriya Atal says. “In other aspects the infrastructure in Mumbai has not changed, but in education there was a huge development.”
– Curricula at international schools –
The Cambridge curriculum and the International Baccalaureate curriculum (IB) are the most represented in India. “The Cambridge model is economically extremely attractive,” Supriya Atal explains. It is a very low cost curriculum, the assessment model is simple, all fees are very cheap and teacher training is moderately priced, she says. “It’s an easy and small transition and it’s incredible how beautiful it runs!” Overall, the Cambridge curriculum works like an autopilot for schools and teachers and it has a more traditional understanding of subjects, tests, and skills.
“The IB actually defines the purpose of education as development of the learners’ profile, so basically working on students' values and attributes,” the education expert says. In the context of IB, approaches to teaching and learning (ATL) were formulated. “These approaches have two parts: First, the approaches to learning skills like self-regulation, communication, academic writing and research – they call these the 21st century skills. Beyond that, the approach to teaching defines the pedagogic. It is basically telling you that in order to develop these skills in our students we need to have pedagogic skills like conceptual learning, inquiry based learning, formative assessments and collaborative platforms,” Supriya Atal explains. “These approaches are extremely seductive for the teacher, because it's so exciting to read!”
The US curriculum is not as common in India because it does not have a board exam in 10th grade. “When there is no top up board exam at grade 10 parents in India will not like it and will question its validity. It’s hard to break that believe system,” the director of studies says. “Otherwise, it's an internal assessment programme, which allows good schools a lot of autonomy and freedom to really drive contemporary education.”
Supriya Atal also talks about school during and after the pandemic, academic regression due to school closures, the National Education Policy 2020 in India, the development of state schools and the role of social aspects in school.