International curriculum at 13 govt schools in Maharashtra

THIRTEEN ZILA Parishad schools in Maharashtra will teach an experimental and interdisciplinary curriculum to students from Nursery to Class III from June, state Education Minister Vinod Tawde said on Thursday following the first meeting of Maharashtra International Education Board’s governing council. The new curriculum will be at par with the curricula taught at international schools, said Tawde, who had earlier announced that 100 state board schools would teach an international curriculum. The new curriculum will borrow heavily from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CICSE) curricula and focus on interdisciplinary subjects.

“Students will get a choice to select subjects. The board will have the independence to design the curriculum. We are focussing on an inquiry and theme-based approach,” said Tawde. In yet another experiment, the state will also attach the local anganwadis to these 13 schools. “This is a unique experiment. We want to expose children to international curriculum right from the beginning. We have been in discussion with the department of women and child development to bring them on board,” said Tawde.

An official said the curriculum for the first term (first six months) has been developed. “After the first three months, we will review the progress of the students and make changes to the curriculum as we go,” she added.

Textbooks will not be printed as the curriculum will evolve over time. “Since there are only 13 schools, the material will be printed out for students’ use. At the end of the year, after several reviews, a final curriculum will be prepared for next year,” said the official. The minister aims to scale up the experiment to 100 schools in the 2019 academic session. The state has identified 70 teachers for an extensive 22-day training programme to implement the curriculum.

Besides government officials, the board’s governing council includes education reformist Sonam Wangchuk of the 3 Idiots fame, actor Swaroop Sampat, who has experience in training teachers and Shaheen Mistri, CEO of Teach for India. “The implementation of the curriculum will create a tremendous impact on out-of-school children in districts like Nandurbar,” said Sampat. Tawde said such schools will also address the growing demand for English medium schools. “In these 13 schools, the medium of instruction will be Marathi but English will not be a third language. English will get equal importance as the first language,” he added. While the government is hopeful that the new curriculum will bring a major reform in rural education sector, academicians and education experts were not sure how the experiment would pan out.

Vasant Kalpande, former chairperson of Maharashtra State Board, said the difference in the quality of education provided by international and state board schools was not dependent on the curriculum. “The teaching-learning process and the evaluation system are what decide the quality of schools. The socio-economic status of the students also have an impact… Having an experimental international curriculum may not have such a great impact,” said Kalpande.

Basanti Roy, former secretary of Mumbai division of the state board, said: “International schools are the need of the hour but time will tell how effective this curriculum will be. A lot of work needs to be done since the educational sector is not just dependent on the curriculum… there are many other factors that need to be taken into consideration.”

Arundhati Chavan, head of the Parent Teacher Association United Forum of Maharashtra, said that the new curriculum would put additional pressure on the children. “The minister is not talking about quality improvement but is trying to bring an external course to our state curriculum. Our children are taught rote learning and will not be able to adjust to this rigorous curriculum. Even parents do not pay attention to basic requirements such as reading and writing for children… so they lack these skills. The idea is good — more activity-based, critical thinking, logic-related approach — but are our children prepared for this? International schools have less children and are able to provide facilitated and guided education.”

Incidentally CBSE and CICSE boards, too, have tried to introduce international curriculum. “However, there were not many takers. Not many schools showed interest because such changes require rigorous preparations,” said Kalpande.