Canadian International School Shares Their Vision for a Future Ready School

Canadian International School Shares Their Vision for a Future Ready School

To provide students with the education they need to thrive in a globally connected world, we must find ways to design, fund, acquire, and maintain the infrastructure that will make connectivity a reality for every teacher and student in every classroom.

That's what a school guide should highlight because it is required that school leaders are actually concerned to create and impact on learning and lives of kids. Schools who keep a tab on the trends are being able to face all challenges in this ever changing world; and we are happy to write about one of the great Indian schools 'Canadian International School, Bangalore' sharing their journey on running a forward thinking school in India.

We would like to thank Ms. Shweta Sastri, Executive Director, Canadian International School, Bangalore and Shane Kells (Head of School), Melanie Kells (Dean of Studies) and Shefali Jhaveri (Tech Integrationist) for their inputs on technology.

What should the vision for a 21st century school be and how can school leaders create and work on one?

The vision for a school of the 21st century should be to look beyond the 21st century, and to a world that one cannot entirely envision at this stage in time. 22nd century? Not quite, but certainly beyond what was originally thought of as 21st century. Change will be the new norm and adapting to change and staying ahead of the curve will be vital if one's school hopes to remain relevant. New technologies will be the standard in the workplace. Technologies will come online that will eliminate one set of jobs, but simply create others. The days of developing factory workers for these positions is long gone, and in its place, educational facilities will need to develop designers who can create and maintain the robotic-driven factories of the very near future. It is also about developing problem solvers and students who have the ability to reason, to think and to adapt. School leaders must embrace the change ahead and pursue the goals of developing flexible, empathetic, creative and enterprising students.

What should the technology agenda/goal be for a school? Why is it a must that we talk about technology integration as part of vision in the 21st century?

Every school has to accept that smart phones are here to stay, so let's accept and embrace the knowledge that they can provide. Research is possible and easy to access.  The phone in most of our student’s pockets can replace trips to the library and expensive text resources.  Each school has to decide upon how best to use this valuable resource.  Each teacher has to be comfortable with that decision. Technology integration is all around us, but that doesn't mean that it is easy to use.  School leaders meeting with students and teachers and parents to decide on their technology guidelines and policies are a key part of helping a vision succeed.  In our ever-changing world, we have a wealth of information available to us and it has become critical to teach students and their families how to use this information.  Critical thinking skills, collaborative skills, and communication skills are not technology skills per se, but these skills help us use technology appropriately.

Job Outlook 2015, a NACE publication rates the "ability to work in a team structure" and the "ability to make decisions and solve problems" as the most important job skill sought by employers.  Both of these skills involve technology, but are not strictly technology.  Many skills are blended and linked. These skills are not necessarily taught in our traditional Math, English, and Science classes. 

How important do you think Media literacy and Digital Citizenship is for students, teachers and leaders today? What program do you suggest to promote this?

Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship go together with a curriculum based on Technology, and in a world where so much is based on it, we at CIS have integrated technology in every classroom with the teachers taking great pride in enhancing teaching and learning through the selective and effective use of the same. While we have firewalls and internet safety protocols in school, knowing the difference between what’s right and wrong, real and fake, appropriate and inappropriate is something we cannot put aside. Modeling appropriate digital etiquette is a big part of this and making students aware/ prepared for the increasingly complex work environment is brought to light with the TechConX – an educational technology conference that happens each year at CIS.

Keeping this in mind, we work towards our vision, “Canadian International School strives to prepare students for an ever-changing global community” by developing lifelong skills including digital citizenship. At CIS we encourage our students from K-12 to safely, ethically and consciously explore, create and communicate in a 1:1 environment so that every student at CIS will become good decision makers and consider their digital footprint from a personal and community perspective.  As knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens our students will be able to harness the learning potential of an increasingly connected world and lead happy and successful lives.’ In order to promote Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship, we integrate the Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship Curriculum. From kindergarten through to Grade 12, students explore and discuss themes such as Self Image & Identity, Creative Credit & Copyright, Information Literacy, Internet Safety and more.

How has your professional journey been till now? What brought you to CIS?

What a journey! It has been blood, sweat and tears from day 1 and literally, not even figuratively. When I joined the school, it was much different from the school it is today, in so many ways. For me, it was like changing the course of a large ship that was already in motion – an incredibly tough task. One of the biggest challenges I faced was changing the perception of the school. CIS was perceived as a school that was almost exclusively for expat students, and being an Indian, I wanted the school to appeal to Indians and expats alike. People’s perception is their reality – very difficult to change – nonetheless, I believe we have managed to change that perception but it took many years. That’s just one example. There were so many challenges along the way that caused immense personal pain, sweat and tears in this journey, but I have tried to convert each challenge into an achievement. Absolutely no regrets!

Two Canadian entrepreneurs set up the school in 1996, and my family took over in 2002. That is how I became associated with CIS and moved from investment banking to education in 2006, over 10 years ago. Though my family has been in the real estate business since 1983, I chose education, because I believed I could impact the educational experience of students in a meaningful way.

What are some of the prestigious awards and recognition CIS has received in the last few years?

In the last few years, CIS has been ranked the 5th best international school in the country. We were the 1st school in Bangalore to introduce the IB Diploma program in grades 11 and 12 way back in the year 2000. In 2011, we became the 1st school in South India to introduce the 1:1 iPad integrated teaching and learning program. Earlier this year, we celebrated the school’s 20th anniversary by going live with our solar project. Our rooftops are fitted with solar panels and we produce more electricity than we consume at school. The excess energy is exported back to the grid and distributed to homes and villages around the school.

Are you aware of some specific challenges in running a school in India in comparison to other parts of the world?

In India, the independent school space is over regulated. There are too many government specified rules and regulations that limit the canvas on which independent schools are allowed to operate. In other countries, there are public schools and there are private schools. Governments regulate the public school systems whereas, independent or private schools are given the freedom to operate as best as they see fit. This autonomy for independent schools is lacking in India even though independent schools offer a far superior education than government schools.

What are the emerging trends you notice in education (in India or globally)?

It’s interesting how when one talks about trends in education, one automatically thinks about emerging technological trends. The future of education is all about technology and its integration into teaching and learning. Some trends that have emerged are:-

  • The arrival of eTextbooks: globally, over 50% of high school text books are digital
  • Personalised learning platforms made possible by use of 1:1 devices. This helps students learn at their own pace, challenging them at an individual level.
  • With the advent of mobile devices and tablets, learning is not confined to the classroom. Its anywhere, anytime learning.

How do you think your school differs from others in the region in terms of technology?

Canadian International School was an early adopter of one to one learning with our secondary school students and teacher.  We have been a leader in Bangalore and in South India in adopting technology use and in helping teachers and students use technology appropriately.  Students do not use technology in every single class.  Teachers do not use technology in every single class.  Technology is used when it enhances the lesson.  Students capture images of lab experiments to collect data.  Students record themselves speaking in additional languages.  Students play interactive review games before large tests. Graphing of math equations is fast and very visual.   All students at CIS attend a technology class and learn to code from the age of 3.  This change to our curriculum has occurred gradually and in stages. We, now, deliver and plan and record assessments online with iTunesU. Our planning and expectations are transparent and open to any members of our school community.  We try to implement sustainable technology use. We provide professional development to all of our teachers.  We are proud of the success of our one to one learning programme.

What/Who motivates you?

The reality that I have the opportunity to impact the lives and educational experience of students in a meaningful way is what motivates me. It is a huge responsibility and one that I take very seriously. My journey has not been easy by any means, but at the end of the day, I know that our students are the better for it, so it is all worth it. Students are the center of our school’s universe at all times.

What would be your success tip to other young education-entrepreneurs in the country?

Brace yourself, it’s not going to be easy by any means, it’s a journey full of challenges at every step. But the end goal is to have a positive and meaningful impact on the educational experience of students so that should motivate you!

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