The vice-principal of The Samhita Academy tells you how to look for a good CBSE school, especially a school that handles key transition points in middle and high school.
I have more than 17 years of experience in teaching in CBSE Schools. This has been very helpful, because I have been around for two very key changes in the CBSE curriculum. One was when the CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation) was introduced and the other was when the government subsequently removed it. It was interesting to see how children transitioned from one system to the other.
Many people have different ideas about the CBSE curriculum and what it entails but just to be clear, I would like to say that everything depends upon the school that is implementing the curriculum.
Here are 5 things to look for while choosing a good CBSE school for your child.
1. Go by the school’s early years program
The pre-primary years are crucial. Let me give you an example. The current English curriculum – ELL (English Language and Literature) in the high school lends itself to more opportunities for the schools to give ample scope for enriching reading and creative writing experience. Many people are of the opinion that the CBSE curriculum may be a disadvantage if you want to write excellent statements of purpose or great essays, or that your writing skills are not as strong as the writing skills of children coming from an ICSE background. This is far from reality as the ability to cultivate the interest and develop the flair for writing is very much dependent on the school.
In the school where I work, the English teachers in middle school and high school work in tandem with pre-primary and primary teachers. They offer a lot of scope for creative writing right from the primary grade. Pre-primary children are introduced to a lot of stories, poems, books and words. We expose children to a lot of literature and writing. By the time the child is older, he or she may want to sit for the SAT, and in that case, English isn’t a problem at all. This exposure really stands them in good stead when they go to the higher grades and are thinking of diversifying into a syllabus that is more lateral in nature or if they want to look at a foreign university.
2. Look for a school that values multi-disciplinary learning
The content of the NCF document until the 8th Grade is very child-friendly. The expanse is horizontal. And here’s the thing that most people don’t realize. There is a lot of scope for multi-disciplinary learning. There is no necessity whatsoever to go into rote learning or memorization till Grade 8. This again depends on the school that is implementing the curriculum. In these first 8 years, children will have enough time to focus on co-curricular activities and on their passions. They can pursue many interests that will shape their personalities. You have the time to discover what you like. Did you know that physical education is an integral part of the CBSE curriculum? Enough emphasis is laid on it to ensure that the schools take it up in all earnestness.
CBSE also has an interesting subject covered under the co-scholastic areas: work education in Grade 9 and 10 where there is a lot of flexibility for schools to take up programmes of interest to students. CBSE gives broad guidelines in terms of themes to be taken up. This adds to the holistic growth of the child. For instance, in our school, we expose students to the concept of giving back to the society by involving them in a highly structured and planned ‘ adult literacy programme.’
Did you know that physical education is an integral part of the CBSE curriculum? Enough emphasis is laid on it to ensure that the schools take it up in all earnestness.
3. Make sure the school handles important transitions
Once you get into Grade 9, the serious rigour sets in. Of course, CBSE mandates that subject enrichment activities should be implemented and assessed. All CBSE Schools have to do projects and make the learning as hands-on as possible.
A good CBSE school starts preparing them from Grade 8 in a gradual manner, scaffolding them in such a way that they are ready for rigour in 9. This means it should train them to start writing descriptive answers, focus on key words and establish strong study skill sessions so that the children become independent learners by the time they are in the 9th Grade. Once your child comes into Grade 9, science, math and social studies become more expansive. Everything depends upon the kind of guidance that children are given in the primary and middle schools.
In our Grade 9 math curriculum, for instance, we gave students a few math riders. These are to test the student’s high order thinking skills so we decided to make it interesting for them. We actually gave them the solution but didn’t give them the approach. They had to reason it out for themselves as to how the answer could be arrived at. The children were curious to fill in the blanks by comparing the given data and figure. They finished the task in 7 minutes because the puzzle really tickled their curiosity.
4. Check if the school is offering options for different learners
I really like that the CBSE curriculum gives the child so much time to discover interests and to really explore the curriculum in a hands-on manner. The CBSE also is very flexible to all kinds of learners. Children with learning difficulties get various exemptions. A child with dyscalculia for example doesn’t have to take the math paper and can take up another subject. We offer painting and we train the children in this and assess them. Some schools offer other subjects in place of math. In the CBSE exams, spelling errors aren’t marked negatively. Children with severe LD can drop the second language.
The most recent change is that children with dysgraphia can use the word processor. This is in addition to the option of availing a scribe that was provided earlier. Now the limitation of the scribe being younger to the child has been done away with which in turn makes it far easier for the parents and school to support the child.
The CBSE also is very flexible to all kinds of learners. Children with learning difficulties get various exemptions.
5. Does the school offer a strong emotional foundation?
Parents should be alert right from Grade 6. This is when we get into structured academic writing. Till Grade 5, we use a lot of other ways to help the children express themselves. They draw, use mind maps and find different ways to communicate. When academic writing sets in during Grade 6, it is a sudden turn and parents should help the children get through that. The teacher discusses questions and puts the word web or mind map on the board. The children learn how to use key words in an answer and to structure it properly.
The 6th Grade is also a huge leap developmentally and academically. There are many physiological changes and parents struggle with these changes because everything comes all at once and it can be overwhelming. The parents should work with the school to help their children through this transition point. Discipline, routines, negotiables, non-negotiables and a good deal of love and care helps a great deal.
Look for a CBSE school that implements a solid life skills curriculum and fosters lateral thinking. This should be integrated into the syllabus. A supportive and nurturing environment will help the children develop their personalities and explore their interests freely.