Ed-Innovate I Innovate to Include

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Educational Innovations Series #2

(This article is a part of the Educational Innovation series, by Pukhraj Ranjan, which explores global innovations that are helping solve critical issues in K12 education with the hope to spread it to the Indian education landscape and beyond.)

“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” — Muslim Origin

As an Indian growing up, I have heard the phrase “unity in diversity” a million times. However, I am often surprised by the absence of it in practice, both in my country and worldwide. For me, the inclusivity of our society shows in how we treat our helpers, our drivers, our employees. It shows in the kind of empathy we hold people up to as well as what reactions or judgments we presume by someone’s looks or CV alone. Additionally, how do we react and what do we say when our sons want to become fashion designers instead of engineers and when our daughters want to become radio jockeys rather than gynaecologists?

Inclusion in education is highly influenced by what is considered the safe-track. Any child who is doing well in school and getting good grades — while maintaining a positive behaviour — is considered aspirational by teachers and parents alike. A child not fitting that box can automatically feel the exclusion and the talk of unity in diversity is immediately forgotten. If we, as educators, promise to value diversity and practice inclusion, it must be demonstrated in the words we use with our kids, inside and outside the classroom. Further, it must show in how we treat our children with special educational needs and disabilities, with un-gendered sexualities, with varied socio-economic backgrounds as well as from diverse geographical homes.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As per UNICEF (2010), Inclusion requires responding to the diversity of needs among all learners, through increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities, and reducing exclusion from and within education. It involves changes in content, approaches, structures, and strategies, driven by a common vision that covers all children and the conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all of them.

Our research team at HundrED recently published an extensive report called Every Child to Flourish, where we identified and attempted to understand global perspectives on improving education. While exploring the scope of inclusion and diversity, I noticed myself majorly thinking about students with SEND (Special Educational Needs & Disabilities). But conversations around inclusion should include a broader spectrum of support for students at even the most minimal to extreme risk. At HundrED, we have split innovations meaning to include as innovations supporting causes around:

  • SEND
  • Gender
  • Rural, Distance, and Homeschooling
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Identity
  • Socioeconomic Equity
  • LGBTQIA+

Additionally, as educators it is crucial to address and assess barriers to equitable education, which can range from Social Factors (poverty, gender, migration/mobility, health/nutritional status, conflict), Sectoral Factors (lack of materials, legal and policy barriers, numbers and attrition rate of teachers, school safety) to Infrastructural Factors (lack of transport, long distance from/to school, speed of rural development, seasonal factors like flooding/rains) (UNICEF, 2010, p. 7)

Having laid out the breadth of what inclusion includes, as well as the difficulties in practicing it, there is value in celebrating diversity and supporting inclusion. To start off, children who know to be open and accepting will grow up to make the world a kinder, more loving place. In classrooms, inclusion and specified supporting strategies will help hold all children to high expectations (as they now will have their own goals and plans) while making learning and teaching fun and engaging. In school, an atmosphere of acceptance helps students to flourish and set goals they are excited about while supporting and encouraging their friends. An inclusive practice at home builds children’s confidence and self-esteem. In short, the list of benefits is long.

However, our teachers, schools and parents still struggle with practicing inclusion. As promised, I am here to share a few of my favourite innovations and resources which hopefully can help in starting everyone in this mission of loving, accepting and encouraging our children.

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1. Interactive Diversity (USA): (Don’t) Guess My Race makes learning about race and identity fun, educational and meaningful to everyday life while.

2. Equal Opportunities (Russia): This project involves participation for everyone. Be it teacher or student, no matter what their qualification is.

3. Speed School(Ethiopia): The Speed School program employs an intensive, child-centered approach to reach the most marginalized populations.

4. BRAC Boat Schools (Bangladesh): BRAC Boat Schools are the product of a simple yet powerful idea: if underserved children living in isolated areas.

5. Lexplore (Sweden): Through eye-tracking and artificial intelligence, Lexplore makes it possible to identify children with dyslexia in time.

6. Initiative for Peace (Singapore): An initiative to train young people to become peace-builders, with the aim of facilitating peace conferences for youth.

7. Afghanistan National Institute of Music (Afghanistan): Afghanistan’s first institute of music train children in traditional Afghan and classical Western music, while providing a high-quality academic education, regardless of gender, social circumstances and ethnic background.

8. NaTakallam (Lebanon): NaTakallam connects displaced people — primarily Syrian refugees — with students around the world, to provide affordable, flexible and tailored language practice, intercultural exchange, and experiential learning opportunities over Skype.

9. Worldreader (USA): Worldreader champions digital reading in under-served communities to create a world where everyone can be a reader. They feature over 40,000 digital books, stories, and teaching materials in 43 languages to use, for free and through a mobile app.

10. Microcampus(China): A fully immersive travel programme to connect young people growing up as expatriates in Shanghai with the local, rural community.

It is important to clarify that innovations that support inclusion are ones to celebrate as they propel the education system towards a society that accepts and supports differences and variety of students, teachers, and communities while grounding the work in the needs and aspirations of the students.

Please note: These are some of my favourite innovations that also have the official endorsement of HundrED as they have been interviewed, researched and recognised in their Global 2018 collection. However, these are only some examples from around the world that are working in the Diversity and Inclusion space.


Pukhraj Ranjan is an Indian educator based out of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Teach for India 2010 cohort and staff alumni. An Educational Leadership graduate from the University of Jyväskylä, she is currently working with a not-for-profit educational organization, HundrED.org as their Global Community Manager. She believes in education as a means of understanding self and reaching one’s true potential, in edu-connections and collective power. She is also a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

Additional Resources

5 Benefits of Inclusion Classrooms Studies show that all students benefit from the resources available in an inclusion classroom. Here are five of many.
How Can We Make Education A Rich Experience For Everyone – Not Just The Privileged? Education can help in one of the biggest issues of our time – the fact that we are quickly becoming once more a polarized global society between those who have and the ones who do not.
Here’s How to Help Your Kids Be Kind and Inclusive People Six questions that will help you raise kind and inclusive kids.
Want Kids To Be Happy? Teach Them How To Communicate What can we learn from the longest study in happiness in order to help our young people stay happy.
Why Should Dyslexia Be Difficult? Sharing new technologies that present opportunities to quickly diagnose children and provide useful information about children’s reading abilities and practices.

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Queer Infocus | July 2020

The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression

Ed-Innovate I Dismantling the Bullying Culture

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Educational Innovations Series #1

(This article is the first in an Educational Innovation series by Pukhraj Ranjan, which explores global innovations that are helping solve critical issues in K12 education with the hope to spread it to the Indian education landscape and beyond.)


 

As a girl child growing up in the capital of India and attending an average, middle-income private school, I was bullied for being too tall, too dark, too hairy (body hair) and for having very thick eyebrows.

In an article written in 2017, it was mentioned that 42% of Indian kids were being bullied in school.

It did NOT surprise me.

Bullying can take physical, social or psychological manifestations.

Also, Indian children aren’t the only ones who face the culture of bullying and negative peer pressure.

Globally, 246 million children and young people experience school violence every year (Plan International, 2017).

 

A bully is generally defined as someone who uses their superior strength or manipulating skills to force someone to do something. Common synonyms to the verb bully include words like oppress, torment, coerce, nag, harass, intimidate, etc.

The Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying (UNESCO, 2017) further explains that bullying more often than not, is majorly driven because of a student’s physical appearance, gender, social status, disability, ethnicity, linguistic or cultural preferences and sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Furthermore, such harassment and abuse can manifest itself in Physical (physical violence, corporal punishment), Psychological (verbal and emotional abuse, social violence) and Sexual coercion and discrimination with some extreme cases of sexual abuse and rape. A new manifestation that is taking the millennial world by storm is Cyberbullying, where we see that 42% of kids have been bullied while online and 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once. (i-SAFE Foundation)

Why does Bullying happen?

It is quite hard to explain the root cause of the problem as it depends on the individual’s situation, both the bully and the bullied, as well as the context or environment. Experts have diverse opinions where some say it illustrates the power struggle amongst peers while some are of the opinion that it is a reliever for people who have issues with low self-esteem, anger management problems, revenge or jealousy. Often, it is also a way to seek attention and/or maintain popularity. Students like Trisha Prabhu (watch the TEDxTeen Video below) put it as a deficiency amongst adolescents to understand the consequences of one’s actions.

So, what is needed to fix the problem?

Educators and policymakers in India and globally are planning for a range of things from value education classes and practical social-emotional skills to harsher consequences for the bullies and counselling services for the bullied. Parents want their children supported. Student themselves are asking for systems and structures to prevent bullying, often creating them themselves like the Rethink App, as well as spaces to share and feel heard.

In the field of dismantling the bullying culture, it is not that innovative solutions and practices don’t exist. It is simply that we may not be aware of those who are changing the narrative.

 

I am always acknowledging and sharing K12 education innovations from around the world through my work at HundrED, and now through these series of articles, that seem to work. I intend to share these global innovations that I feel are innovative, have the potential to spread, scale and impact the Indian education landscape and beyond.

1. MeeTwo (UK)

A unique early intervention solution to adolescent anxiety from the United Kingdom. The MeeTwo app allows young people to post their problems, share solutions, access educational resources and receive expert help anonymously or otherwise. The app is mostly used in the UK but also in US, India and New Zealand with hopes to reach out to more children and communities.

2. Roots of Empathy (Canada)

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program from Canada for primary school children that decreases aggression and bullying, and increases prosocial behaviours such as caring, sharing and inclusion. At the last count, it has scaled to 11 countries and lives by its motto: Changing the world, child by child.

3. The Child-Oriented Model for Wellbeing (Finland)

This Finnish child-oriented model for well-being improves students’ behavior and communication education with support at three varied stages. Students are given support that focuses on well-being and finding joy in learning.

4. PROJECT ROCKIT Online (Australia)

PROJECT ROCKIT Online is built BY young people FOR young people and encourages students to self-reflect on previous…hundred.org

PROJECT ROCKIT Online is built BY young people FOR young people and encourages students to self-reflect on previous experiences while simultaneously equipping them with credible and risk-free ways to stand up to hate in the future. The program consists of three interactive online workshops that focus on the issues of bullying, online hate and social leadership. The online program was externally-evaluated by the University of New South Wales and at the end of the study, 96% (initial count: 46%) of young people felt confident enough to stand up against cyberbullying.

5 Everyday Kindness Project (Vietnam)

Students will perform kind works everywhere, such as at home, at school, in public, etc. These actions need to be…hundred.org

A 5-week long classroom or school-based project where students will perform kind works everywhere, such as at home, at school, in public, etc. These actions will be recorded in photos, videos, kind stories, etc. and shared with parents weekly. This innovation has already been shared with 11,000 students in Vietnam!

6 ChalkPeace (India)

ChalkPeace, based out of Chennai (India), is a peace education program incorporating games, thinking and art to effect a shift in mindsets. Their Peace Education Resources and Workshops revolves around the core idea of peace being a process that begins from within: as empathy, respect for diversity or cultivating the value of mutual trust and tolerance.

These are only some of the innovations around the world that are doing some incredible work to eliminate the culture of Bullying in their local as well as global contexts. Please note that only MeeTwo and Roots of Empathy have the official endorsement of HundrED as they have been interviewed, researched and recognised in the Global 2018 collection. Others are ideas and innovations shared openly on our website and are of my personal liking.


Pukhraj Ranjan is an Indian educator based out of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Teach for India 2010 cohort and staff alumni. An Educational Leadership graduate from the University of Jyväskylä, she is currently working with a not-for-profit educational organisation, HundrED.org as their Global Community Manager. She believes in education as a means of understanding self and reaching one’s true potential, in edu-connections and collective power. She is also a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

Feature Image Credit: John Michael Lindsey on Unsplash

Additional Resources

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National Centre for School Leadership

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An answer to Indian school Principals’ woes?

School leadership is needed to develop learning communities, build the professional capacity of teachers, take advice from parents, engage in collaborative and consultative decision making, resolve conflicts, engage in effective instructional leadership, and attend respectfully, immediately and appropriately to the needs and requests of families with diverse cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, while delivering to national and international reforms and goals.

In a nutshell, school leadership is supposed to tackle all issues in education from every angle and take it to the next level. It is directly linked to the quality of teachers and school culture, which then defines the quality of education provided to our students.

And yet, the Indian spirit and philosophy regarding leadership is still conditioned by the British rule. ‘Loyalty’ and ‘hard’ work was and is still regarded over skills and knowledge. It is a common understanding that the most senior teachers in India are promoted to a school leadership position on the basis of their tenure, and not on their motivation, knowledge, skills or ability.

But there is a tide developing.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has started to see the role of a School Principal as critical.

The National Centre for School Leadership (NCSL) was set up in 2012 by the National University of Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA), to ensure that Indian school principals are ready and successful in their roles, no matter why they were chosen for the role. The centre aims at “developing new generation leaders to transform schools so that every child learns and every school excels,” while, “enhancing leadership capability at a school level for institution building to deliver quality education.”

Wouldn’t we all appreciate that?

The centre further recommends a curriculum framework that has been designed by the collective effort of resource persons, individual specialists, mentors, national resource groups as well as the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL, United Kingdom). In the framework, six key areas are explored for school leadership trainings and development:

• Perspective on School Leadership — which aims to understand the role and impact of a leader on school transformation, and the role of a school as a learning organisation.

• Developing Self — which aims to help leaders reflect on their values, capabilities and attitudes, and develop a positive self-concept.

• Transforming the Teaching and Learning Process — which aims to make classroom practices more engaging, creative and child-focused, by expanding on schools as creative units.

• Building and leading teams — which focuses on group dynamics, opportunities for collaboration, conflict resolution tactics and teamwork.

• Leading innovations — which aims to set conditions, systems, structures and processes that support new ideas and actions within schools.

• Leading partnerships — which focuses on developing strong and fruitful relationships with external stakeholders such as parents, community leaders, officials in education departments, other neighbouring schools, etc.

This training is provided through a 10-day face-to-face programme, with a follow up through a year-long cycle of leadership development for the central school principals. The state is responsible for conceptualising and contextualising the curriculum and modules given by the NCSL, translating the work in local languages, providing additional state resources and expertise, etc. with the help of the State Resource Groups (SRGs), the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERTs), and the District Institute for Education and Trainings (DIETs), etc. The State Resource Groups are expected to develop a consortium of experts which will then act as Leadership Academies to ensure sustainability of practice and learning. The attempt to decentralise the implementation of the training — namely curriculum and material development, capacity building, networking and institutional building, and research and development — is an integral component of the programme design.

The impact of this program on the level of education and the quality of school leadership will be seen only in the next decade or so. A realistic viewing of the implementation of this program does showcase various enabling factors as well as quite a few restraining influences. Administrative apathy, lack of coordination and spread of responsibility are factors that can restrict the pace at which such training reaches the local school principals, whereas the setting of local expertise groups can enable collaboration and faster, local action in communities. Having said that, I am still very thrilled with the direction we are taking.

While I taught in a public-private partnership school in Mumbai, followed by training teachers across the city of Pune as well formally studying Educational Leadership in Finland, I saw the dire need of training and more importantly support and respect, for our school principals. The establishment of the centre has started a new drive to raise the quality and productivity of school leaders, which is more than welcome by the Indian as well as global education space.

 

Feature Image Credit: Indian Literacy Project

 

Pukhraj Ranjan is an Indian educator based out of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Teach for India 2010 cohort and staff alumni. An Educational Leadership graduate from the University of Jyväskylä, she is currently working with a not-for-profit educational organization, HundrED.org as their Global Community Manager. She believes in education as a means of understanding self and reaching one’s true potential, edu-connections and collective power.

We’re updating our website!

Queer Infocus | July 2020

The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression