The British School, New Delhi
What makes a school not just outstanding, but also award winning? Vanita Uppal OBE, Director of The British School, New Delhi, (TBS) which was recognised in 2018 as the British International School of the Year, places digital technology, independent learning and community values at the heart of her school’s approach.
Like other schools, we want our pupils to be confident, autonomous learners, and in the 21st Century we have no doubt this means offering dynamic opportunities for children to discover things for themselves using digital technology. We also want pupils to become socially responsible users of a wide range of innovative software and devices from a young age.
Helping children to operate confidently and safely in a digital world must not be an after-thought – it should be at the heart of a learning policy. It is equally vital for pupils to be able to determine when technology adds value and when it might not be the best way to learn.
If our children are “digital natives” we want them to be discerning digital natives who are ready to take their place in the increasingly competitive and global world of work.
As is the case in many parts of the world, the number of young and impressionable mobile device users in India continues to increase, and the region has experienced a rise in incidences of online bullying in recent years. To support the integration of technology into education and help our pupils understand how they can stay safe online, we have introduced a Digital Citizenship programme, which is now deeply embedded in our school.
Through this programme, children learn to understand how they can minimise the risks associated with operating in a digital world – protecting personal information, tackling online abuse and preventing identity theft, for example. We also teach them to recognise when technology can support their learning and when a traditional approach or hands on approach might be more suitable: few apps can truly replicate the experience of carrying out a chemistry experiment, for example.
We take a one-to-one approach to teaching younger children how to use technology responsibly and have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for pupils in our secondary school. Our aim is to open up the exciting world of technology for our pupils in an age-appropriate way, but within a safe and secure learning environment. We know people question the BYOD approach, but because of the emphasis our whole programme places on responsible and thoughtful use of technology, we have no doubts that it is right for us.
An important part of our vision for encouraging children at TBS to become accomplished users of technology is the establishment of an “Innovation Lounge”. This area is full of resources such as iPads, Apple TVs, Robotics kits and 3D printers. Children can explore these during timetabled technology and PSHE classes, in a hands-on and interactive way. It helps them to become familiar with the latest tools for learning and think about how they can use them effectively in lessons.
Learning across the generations
The lounge is also available after school, with clubs encouraging children not only to share their knowledge in using technology with each other, but also passing these skills onto their parents and grandparents. We hold classes for parents every fortnight, which cover a wide variety of topics, to help families get to grips with e-safety and the latest technology. This embodies the deep-seated Indian principle that family comes first. With 55 different nationalities represented in our school, multi-culturalism is highly valued and sharing our experience with older generations is an opportunity for our Indian spirit to shine.
The challenges of rapid growth
As a school we have grown very quickly – from 600 to 1200 students in just 6 years. In this context, continually scrutinising provision to ensure that initiatives have had a positive impact on pupils’ learning and development and tracking children’s achievement (we use SIMS) have both been central to identifying needs quickly and providing additional help when necessary. The insight that data provide has been essential for helping us continue raising achievement, maintaining progress and ensuring children are happy in their learning even during a time of rapid growth.
Sharing best practice
We’re immensely proud to have recently been recognised as British International School of the Year in the British International School Awards 2018. We also won the Outstanding Initiative to Support Student Safeguarding award in recognition of our digital citizenship programme. It is my belief that our educational approach helps our whole community – both inside and outside the walls of the school – to become safer and more proactive users of technology.
Future plans involve opening a centre of education excellence to expand our ethos into other schools and help to ensure that more children achieve the academic, social and technological skills they need to compete and succeed as global citizens.
Vanita Uppal OBE is director of The British School, New Delhi
Images: By kind permission of The British School, New Delhi, India