“Holistic Learning Is The Focus”, Says Shiv Nadar School Principal
Careers360 recently interacted with Anju Soni, principal, Shiv Nadar School, Noida. Here are a few insights from the conversation.
Careers360 | Could you tell us a little about the history of Shiv Nadar School, Noida?
Soni | We are 10 years old, stepping into our 11th year from April 9 this year. It was in 2012 when we opened the doors to our students for the first time. That's when the Shiv Nadar Foundation made its foray into K-12 urban private school education. The only single purpose that the Shiv Nadar Foundation stepped into this field is to breach and surpass the existing benchmarks in education and bring the finest learning experiences to students. Learning at our school is never linear; instead, students are immersed in the multidimensional and the experiential.
Our vision statement clearly states that we will provide an environment to our students that challenges them into discovering their talents and skills, fostering a culture of creativity and becoming ethical, purposeful, happy, and responsible citizens of society.
Mr. Nadar wanted that we open two schools together. His belief was that if we wanted to be sure we build quality education, we must start two campuses together and hence, the Gurgaon and Noida branches of Shiv Nadar School opened together. Moving from strength to strength, we are now four schools (the Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon, and Noida began in 2012, Faridabad began in 2015, and SNS Chennai is set to launch in April 2023), a 4000+ students, 700+ staff, and 8000+ parent strong community.
Careers360 | Please highlight the academic offerings of the school.
Soni | When we started the school, we had a clear intent that the curriculum has to be holistic, irrespective of the board/framework we follow. We are a curriculum-agnostic school. For us, arts, sports, socio-emotional well-being of the students, all these are a part of the curriculum. They're not standalone. Arts are not separate from academics, and academics are not separate from sports.
Students play, perform, experiment, and interact. They are encouraged towards value-led pursuits so that they comprehend their role in the larger context of the community and the world. We integrate experiential pedagogy and extensive use of technology into our educational practices. Students at the Shiv Nadar School are well-rounded individuals, enjoying academics, sports, and the arts, and with high levels of emotional intelligence. Strong communication skills, social warmth, grit, compassion, and adaptability are their hallmarks.
Every child learns differently and this is the “Shiv Nadar School curriculum”. But of course, there is a need for an exit exam. We are aligned both with the national and international boards. We have the CBSE, IGCSE, and IBDP pathways available at the school. The International Curriculum pathway begins at Class 9 level. Children choose their own pathway when they're moving from Class 8 to Class 9.
We are introducing the International Baccalaureate into our Middle Years Programme for Class 5 coming to Class 6 from April 2023.
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Careers360 | So what are the subjects the school offers in higher secondary?
Soni | We try to offer as many subjects as possible, it's important that the child has the freedom to make their own informed decision and exercise their choices, hence gaining a sense of agency. We have a career guidance cell at the school, which helps every child from Class 8 onwards to help them not only understand their choices of subjects they would like to take up in senior classes but chart a pathway to their learning journey.
There are aptitude tests, conversations with parents, and one-on-one conversations with the student, to help each student understand and utilise their potential. It's one thing for me as a child to study Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, but what exactly my learning will lead me to follow a career is important. The design and delivery of our programmes focus on setting the right rigour, building competencies, and developing the right context.
Careers360 | Can you tell us a little about the cocurricular offerings of the school?
Soni | For us, curricular and co-curricular are equally important. Every child is not meant to be a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. Some are meant to be artists also. Having said that, we do have a lot of signature programs.
One of the programmes at SNS is the “AHA programme”. The word ‘aha’ actually comes from the Hindi word ‘aha’-- your moment of joy, a moment of epiphany. The AHA programme is an integrated arts program that aims to stimulate the right brain by creating appreciation and interest, stimulating life-long learning, and enabling self-discovery by gaining mastery in at least one art form and one sport. The programme starts from Class 1 onwards. It is a part of the timetable, like the other academic subjects. There is a round of sensitisation containing a module of methodically structured activities of each basket of arts and sports:-
- Modules are “appreciation-based”, rather than “performance-based”.
- Children go through a cluster of activities in each area before making a choice.
- There is an election process that enables the children to choose one activity from each area of art and sport as per their choice and aptitude.
Similarly, we have a PE period, which is free play for children. But from Class 1 onwards, the children choose whatever sport they would like to follow. The reason they're able to vote in Class 1 is that they've had exposure in Nursery and KG. In addition to this, we have a very robust IT program which is introduced in Class 3 and carried on until Grade 10 compulsorily, and then in Classes 11 and 12 by choice.
Robotics is introduced at Class 5 level and most recently, three teams have been selected for the Nationals for the World Robotics Olympiad.
Another signature programme at Shiv Nadar School is the “Capstone Programme” led by IT. The introduction of this program was in 2014 to help develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills in children. Here, we use inquiry as the mode of learning for children. In Class 9, the children start looking for a social problem around them that they would like to help solve, and through Class 10, they work towards identifying the problem as a team, and what can they do to solve that problem, sometimes building a prototype also. This learning journey culminates in what is called the “Colloquium”- where technology experts, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders evaluate, discuss and investigate the ideas developed by our students. This is the time when ideas incubated in the school are synergised with the actual world outside. We believe this is where future entrepreneurs, social scientists, innovators, and leaders are also being birthed, along with the ideas.
Outbound Learning Experience
Another programme is the Outbound Learning Experience or OLE. It is like a school trip, but this school trip has a complete learning outcome and objective. For us, outbound learning is associated with the curriculum and what children learn, and how they can contribute to society.
In the age of a perceptibly commercialised and visualised cultural and social space, introducing the concept of “Thrift” is challenging but much needed. Thrift shopping is a ‘public pedagogical’ learning and teaching intervention, where a space is created for the learners to breathe a second (or third) life and history into an object or experience. At Shiv Nadar school, we have taken it a little further and engaged students not only about fiscal matters of spending, saving, and consumption but also about how thrift is interwoven more broadly within the context of everyday life.
A space has been created for the students to creatively sell at subsidised rates, “Lost and Found items”, which have not received any claimants in the last few years, objects like books, stationary, handicrafts, or any other items which the students collectively decide. Each object is given away at a nominal price and has a handwritten note by the student giving away the object, articulating the emotional value, and memories associated with the object and what the giver wants to say to the receiver.
Education For Life
Education for life is an especially prepared programme to impart skills that are not a direct part of the curriculum. It was introduced as a pilot for Classes 9 and 11 in the year 2018-19. It typically runs for 12- 16 sessions between the months of July – Dec. Each session is for an hour. The facilitation and knowledge sharing are by both internal and external resource people. Some of the topics undertaken during this programme are:-
- Post-Independence History of India
- Effective Communication
- Financial Literacy
We celebrate inquisitive minds, independent thinking, and a scientific temper. The school also hosts its own Physics Conclave, the inaugural edition of which had Dr. Archana Sharma, a senior scientist at CERN, as the keynote speaker.
Careers360 | What is the student-teacher ratio in the school now?
Soni | In the lower classes we have two teachers, all years have two teachers. 2:25 up to KG, 2:30 up to Class 2, and 1:30 from Classes 3-12. For specialised programmes, it is usually less.
Careers360 | Could you please elaborate on the infrastructure of the school?
Soni | We have a world-class IT lab, dedicated classrooms, a sports ground, basketball courts, and a gymnasium.
We have the auditorium- it's called the Wildcats Hall. Our houses are named after the big wild cats- the tigers, the leopards, and the panthers. The wild cats cannot live in classes 1A and 1B. They have to have a homeroom. So we don't call them classrooms, we call them homerooms, and our classes are called “Corbett”, “Sariska", “Gir”, “Ranthambore” and “Kanha. It gives an opportunity to the children to talk about what is relevant – “What does Sariska mean?” “Where is Sariska?” it automatically takes you into a conversation and an awareness of the environment around you. We lay a lot of emphasis on teacher readiness and how continuously developing and challenging teachers to be better at educating is a core principle of excellence.
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Careers360 | We have the board exams for 2023 coming up. Any advice you have for the students?
Soni | We need to change our mindsets and pass that on to our children. Also, assessments and exams are an interesting part of our learning and they should not be seen in isolation. That's my sincere advice, not just to the educators and parents, but also to the students. It's a holistic endeavour.
A few ways that I can suggest to the students to help them prepare better and take their exams is that it is something that they have been working on throughout the year. Hence, there is no need to worry but rather be confident.
Students need to start by making connections. Connections that they're learning to the areas that they're living in. Connect whatever you've read in your textbook to what's happening in your life. When you relate your experiences with what you study and try to understand them, it stays with you. You don't forget it because it becomes like a story for you. And stories we generally remember.
Another important thing to remember is the first hour of your study must be dedicated to recapitulating and revising what you have learned the previous time you studied.
Most important is to take breaks and frequent rest. If we take breaks, it also works like a reward system. You study for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute break, it becomes like a reward. You will focus better because you know that after 45 minutes, you will be taking a break of 15 minutes and could use that time to do what you like.
Another thing that works very well is study groups. We learn from our peer group the best. It'll just help you understand better. You might want to play the teacher or ask questions. or maybe create a quiz for each other.
Lastly, remember, notes are your personal notes. When you're making notes, it is for your own reference and not for anyone else to see. Make your notes attractive and catchy, such that you feel like going back to them when the need be.