The philosophy of education of Akshar Arbol International School, Chennai, is aimed at achieving infinite growth possibilities…
There are two famous phrases from two different continents that sum up the philosophy of learning at Chennai’s newest international school. One is a sentence in Sanskrit from the Upanishads: Vasudeva Kutumbakam, which means the world is one family and the second is an African saying, ‘It takes a village to educate a child’. The vision of the Akshar Arbol International School (AAIS), Chennai, is born from these two ancient Indian and African philosophical wisdom.
There is also a meeting of two important languages of the world in the meaning of the school -- Akshar, a Sanskrit word meaning both syllable and infinite, and Arbol, a Spanish word for tree. According to the school, the confluence of the two words is what it stands for, nurturing young minds by providing a firm rooting to reach out to the infinite growth opportunities.
Founded by R Subramanian, a well-known Chartered Accountant in Chennai, the AAIS is a two-campus Kindergarten to Senior Secondary school, which follows the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge programmes. Located on two campuses, one in the city and the other in East Coast Road in the suburb, the school is fast catching the attention of Chennai’s discerning residents.
“Education should be something that reaches out to the infinity,” says Head of School Padmini Sankaran. “This is possible while being rooted to our traditional values,” adds Sankaran, an IB educator, who has taught in India, Belgium and Venezuela. “Student is at the centre of the programme. We foster continual learning for all,” she adds.
The school’s founding philosophy lies in open-mindedness towards divergent thinking and innovation, backed by sound knowledge. The school’s mission statement reads, “We provide the best of contemporary educational practices in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect, through experiential learning, for life-long thinking and problem solving.”
How do you create human beings who don’t compromise on the values they come from? That is the basis of learning at the AAIS. “We are looking at nurturing these young children to be confident young adults,” says Priya Dixit, the school’s IB Diploma Programme Coordinator. “And they also become sensitive human beings,” adds Dixit, who has taught in the Primary Years Programme and handling Business Studies and Theory of Knowledge in the IB Diploma Programme.
The IB philosophy of developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people, who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect strikes a chord with Akshar and Arbol.
Balancing the philosophy of the school and learning is achieved by a professional pool of teachers led by Sankaran, who leads workshops for IB professionals across the Asia-Pacific region and has worked with IB schools in the Americas and Asia-Pacific. The school has students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12. AAIS is the first school in Chennai, which was authorised to offer the Primary Years Programme (pre-KG to Grade 5) of IB.
Another common practice at the school is integration of technology with the teaching-learning practices to provide global perspectives to students through collaborative work with other schools across the world. The school also uses technology effectively to encourage communication, dialogue and share classroom stories with the parents. The school provides an interesting mix in schooling with a fine balance between the use of technology, conventional methods of teaching and outsourcing to professionals.
Visual and Performing Arts are an integral part of the curriculum at AAIS. The school has also entered into a partnership with the World Crafts Council, a UNESCO-affiliated international body, to help the students also gain exposure to several traditional art forms and craft work.
At the school, student-centred teaching and interactive learning characterize its classrooms. In this format, inquiry-based learning and reflecting on one’s learning, both in and outside classrooms, are essential features. Students are not tied to one textbook as teachers employ a range of resources to facilitate learning. Music, visual arts, theatre, technological aids and physical education are integrated in the programme. “The focus is not only on building the required 21st century skills, but also help the learners acquire the values,” says Dixit.
At the ECR campus, an overall eco-friendly design includes specially made earthen blocks that give it the orange-red outer colour and provide an insulating protective layer; large glass windows and doors that allow natural light and ventilation at all times and a long tree-shaded ramp that allows inclusive access to all. There are state-of-the-art science labs, a spacious art studio and dedicated learning spaces for all disciplines. Open vistas characterise the campus, providing students and the school community with ample space to play a variety of sports.
The ECR campus is the hub for several education-oriented initiatives. In addition to the various community-based projects that students, teachers and parents have planned, the campus will provide sports training for a range of sports and games. The school also plans to offer programmes to prepare teaching professionals for schools, highlighting the AAIS mission “to bring the best of contemporary educational practices” to students. The school’s management has embarked on a teachers’ training and research programme called ASTRA with the objective of empowering teaching professionals.
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