In ALF, we have always had three objectives; 1. Students do well in school, 2. Students do well in their board exams, 3. Students develop skills to become leaders in order to benefit their community.
There have been times when these three objectives have aligned with each other. For example in geometry, the students had to draw a two dimensional cube on paper, then discuss it in their groups, pick the best design, and finally cut out the design and turn it into a three dimensional cube. This activity helped the students understand concepts such as coplanar lines which is important for their school work and board exams. Also, they were using skills such as problem solving, teamwork, confidence which are important in order to become a leader.
There have also been times when these three objectives have not aligned with each other. For example in algebra, we are learning about algebraic expressions which is quite monotonous and unexciting. The material is important in order for them to do well on their school exams, but much of this material will not be on their board exam, and it can be difficult to use this material to teach skills that define a leader.
As teachers we are very much aware of the difficulty that sometimes arises in trying to fulfill all three of our objectives, and the tension that comes out of that. This is very apparent during times of the school year when students have their school exams. During these times, our students have to memorise large chunks of material that they will have to write word by word on their exams. Because of this, we will be giving them one hour every day during ALF to memorise these portions of their textbooks. Even though this is necessary so that our students to do well in school, it can be frustrating that we can’t use this time to fulfill our other objectives.
Thinking about this has made me reflect on how schools in general operate. Even if students, parents, or teachers aren’t aware of it, there is this tension between teaching skills, preparing for internal exams, and preparing for external exams. What exactly are we looking for in a school? I would hope that the answer would be more than just a school that would help my son or daughter attain as many marks as possible on exams (whether internal or external).
At ALF we want to change this mindset and create a community where learning is more than just to get as many marks as possible, that we would be as concerned for the development of our daughters in growing to be successful and productive individuals. We hope that our students will be judged as much for these qualities and skills as they will be for their academic achievement.
The photos in this post were taken by Dibyaroop, a Goldman Sachs volunteer.