Abhilasha Singh is the Principal at Shining Star International School, Abu Dhabi. Here, she discusses the latest international trends in education and leadership.
In this episode, we get her comments on the latest international practices taking place in the world of education, her views on the forever dynamic act of teaching and a concern for the students in the hinterland.
A lifelong learner, Abhilasha Singh is involved in many worthwhile causes both educational as well as societal. Her professional career guided by the willingness to associate herself with the right causes has taken her all over the world.
Abhilasha Singh attributes her success to her students and the way she learned from them all through her journey. She says, “It has been a story of discovering myself through my students’ work.” A TEDx Speaker, Abhilasha Singh was invited to speak on the theme of Glocalization at the American University of Sharjah TEDxAUS.
Following is an excerpt from the interview Wonderpublish recently conducted with Principal Abhilasha Singh:
Q. 1: You have given a TED Talk on Glocalization at the American University of Sharjah TEDxAUS. What do you mean by Glocalization and what’s the relevance of this approach?
Ans: Glocalization is all about thinking globally, acting locally. And especially keeping in mind the agenda 2030, which is the deadline to achieve the UN sustainable development goals. All of us have the collective responsibility in ensuring that we continue to contribute towards the achievement of these goals. Each goal is important and is interconnected to all the 17 goals enlisted in the sustainability charter. And although it’s a global problem we can start working on them starting from the grass-roots level through our local initiatives.
One of my favourite action points is Goal 4: Quality Education, where we work towards getting all the children around the world access to quality education and inclusiveness so that nobody is left behind.
Q. 2: How do you think this pandemic is going to affect the agenda 2030?
Ans: 2020 was the declaration year of the decade of action. But due to the pandemic, all the actions and plans took a hit. We have sort of slid back many years because it’ll take that much more time to achieve what we could have achieved all this time. And especially at the grass-root level, the students have experienced an immense learning loss. Back home in India, not many children have access to technology. The teachers don’t have the much-needed access to resources with which they could support learning. And we need to ask what was the support by the governments.
I know some teachers from Maharashtra who conducted lessons through WhatsApp. But these are aberrations. Of course, these kinds of stories need to be told and celebrated but we should also ask the questions of the administrators.
Q. 3: You have written a wonderful piece, ‘The Road Less Travelled’ where you chart your journey in a very interesting way. you attribute your transformation to your students. Why do you say that?
Ans: It all started with this beautiful school called, Pine Grove School. But before that, I taught in British Curriculum in Seychelles as my husband was posted there. My experience was an eye-opener over there as a teacher. Whatever theory I had learned during 11 months as a B.Ed student, Seychelles helped me to understand that in the practical term.
From there to Pine Grove and getting to lead the Model United Nations (MUN) Club and connecting classrooms with British Council, my work is ultimately exhibited through the achievements of my students. So, my children helped me to understand my own potential. When you spend time with your children out of the classroom, and when you travel with them, there is so much that you learn from them.
And I am very grateful to my headmaster, Captain A. J. Singh. I have learned so much from him. The leader that I am today is because of Capt. Singh. I am very grateful to him.
Q. 4: You have been involved with some of the best schools in the world. You have also been in various positions with the United Nations. Tell us what makes a school truly international.
Ans: Internationalism in schools is not about studying an international curriculum, it’s about Global Citizenship, making our students aware that our world is very interconnected. We need to make our kids realise that our actions in one part of the world have the ability and scope to impact other parts of the world. So it is a lot about learning each other’s cultures, it is about learning tolerance, empathy, respect and also knowing what’s happening around the world.
Internationalism in schools is about collaborating with education fraternity all across the world, and then having conversations which help in bringing down walls and creating a healthy space for meaningful conversations.
Q. 5: You have also been involved in curriculum designing. What changes do you think COVID would bring to it?
Ans: I am working on a collaborative project where we are designing a new curriculum. We are four people involved from different parts of the world. And now we are making a common curriculum. We all are putting in our experiences and our knowledge to come up with a curriculum that has the best of all the worlds in it and can be adapted by schools.
When the pandemic hit and the schools locked down, it was dubbed as a great disruption in education. At that time, we all sort of pivoted and fell on our contingency plans where we looked at our curriculums backwards. And to compensate for the learning loss we redesigned our curriculum. At the same time, the children also learned the building blocks. Also, NEP 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time. What the government has initiated is wonderful. While CBSE’s is a very content-driven curriculum but at the same time when you look at the CBSE manuals, it gives very structured guidance to the teachers and schools to work in a way that is students centric and holistic.