Happy Teachers’ Day: A former British Royal Air Force officer, hockey player, a musician and an international educator, Pauline Stulberg, from UK, has added many feathers to her cap. For the past seven months, Stulberg has been working in India as a consultant and advisor at Shiv Nadar School. On Teachers’ Day 2018, Express Parenting got in touch with Stulberg to talk about how teachers and parents can ensure the holistic development of a child.
You have taught in institutions across the globe. How would you compare the education system in India with those around the world?
It’s really hard to pinpoint. Having said that, the respect that the students have for the teachers and the staff here is immense, which has a massive impact on how a school is run. Students in England, for instance, have experienced years and years of ownership where they speak up if the education isn’t up to the standard. Children know they have the right to education. It is only as we grow older that we learn social graces and understand that it is polite to sit in a class. In India, however, I have seen students sitting through some of the worst and best lessons, listening respectfully.
Isn’t it good that students can raise their voice and question the standards of education?
Yes, but one needs to strike a balance. Teachers in the country need to set a national standard of teaching. Students here work hard and their behaviour is managed. Now, what we need to do is say to teachers that there needs to be a standard to the level of teaching. After all, learning is all about the natural progression of mindset. The process of teaching is evolving in the country. Teachers are actively taking the onus upon themselves to improve.
A lot of academic curriculum in Indian schools is centred around rote learning and textbooks. Do you think there’s a need to move beyond it for a child’s holistic growth and are you incorporating the same in your teaching methods?
That’s exactly what we are doing. Yes, you write your exams but it isn’t the most important part of your education. It’s so important to come from a background where we recognise the social graces needed in a person. You can’t just boast about getting the highest degree in education if you don’t have the social graces to talk to somebody. And if schools can’t take ownership of that then whose job is it? Schools, along with parents and the community, need to develop every single facet of the child. Our organisation, for instance, has a massive sports and music programme as well as an academic programme. The two are inextricably linked and equally essential. We are trying to open the eyes of our teachers to saying that it is not just about the book, but much more than that.
Children need to be actively involved in the education process. In England, gone are those days when a teacher would stand in front of the class and go through a book. Students there write their own lesson plans, with guidance from teachers, of course.
The question that arises here is that between teaching and learning, do you focus on teaching, which denotes a teacher-led process or on the learning process of the students? Books can give you instructions but the impact is a lot different when the child is made to do things on his or her own. It really helps the child develop, which is precisely our goal.
There are many parents who fear playing can affect their child’s academic career. Do we need to pay more attention to physical education?
Fortunately, I have come from a background where playing and studying simultaneously has been the norm but I have seen schools where it isn’t. I have seen children who are introverts or have no leadership skills. All of these qualities comes from sports, like leading your team, taking control or making sure you still get your homework done even though you’ve got a match. I think we don’t put enough emphasis on the qualities that can come from playing sports. I have never yet seen anyone, who does sport as part of their education, be worse off in life. Again, striking a balance is tough, no doubt, but children can be made to learn to do so very early on. And that’s what we try to ensure. We all know that the most formative years of our lives are between the ages of three and nine. That’s the time when kids will soak up anything you give them.
So, do you think there’s a need for change of mindset?
There’s a strong possibility for people to become apathetic. It takes a huge amount of courage to try and move out of the comfort zone. But people tend to be content and avoid taking risks. That’s how generations of parents have been tuned and it hasn’t harmed them. But is that enough now? Clearly not. The child needs to be able to grab every single opportunity available to him or her and then, they should be allowed to choose. It helps them develop a sense of reasoning, and they learn to take responsibility of their choices. Parents, of course, need to support and guide them throughout the way. We still need to hold their hand, but being a child doesn’t mean they cannot make choices. They need to develop and start acknowledging what they really want.
A lot of children tend to lack a sense of social consciousness in them. How do you think parents and teachers can play a role in instilling it?
It is up to parents as to how they want to raise their child. At the same time, what they also need to do is to be there for them. Parents and teachers should keep those lines of communication open, and try to have conversations with them–be it discussing religion or social issues. It is important to listen to your children while they speak. For instance, you need to speak to abused children. If it is not dealt with, it starts impacting them negatively as they grow older. I am a big believer of communicating and talking about things. Children are inquisitive by nature and you need to talk them. Having some form of conversation is definitely better than not addressing issues at all. When you shut them off, the child might try to satisfy his or her curiosity from a fellow classmate or friend. In such cases, how can we be sure that the child is exactly getting the answer that we want him or her to have? Yes, you cannot open your doors to every question in the world. As an adult, however, we need to move out of our comfort zones and find out a way to give the information that the child is asking for because it is only going to empower them.