Overview

In our journey of Poorna Kaksha and designing infrastructure for learning environment, we researched, observed and learnt a lot more about education and learning as a system. We have been watching the upcoming learning and pedagogical developments which has applicability in how we approach designing learning environments. We discovered and are proposing a more relevant approach beyond STEM and STEAM education that can equip children better for future knowledge and skills, and also as positive contributors to global peace and development.

We propose the idea of SHTAM – Sustainability, Health, Technology, Arts and Maths. There has been research by education focused organisations, IB and academic institutions that have validated, sharing a more detailed approach to individual themes of Sustainability, Health and Arts, with its relevance to Technology and Maths. We will share these research links and online documents through our resources section.

Sustainability

Taking the idea of science and environment further, sustainability encompasses a holistic view of ecological bio-ecosystem, science, social development that sustains earth.

The 2001 Amsterdam Declaration, signed by 1500 scientists from four of the world’s great global research programs, stated unequivocally that:
An ethical framework for global stewardship and strategies for Earth System management are urgently needed. The accelerating human transformation of the Earth's environment is not sustainable. Therefore, the business-as-usual way of dealing with the Earth System is not an option. It has to be replaced as soon as possible by deliberate strategies of good management that sustain the Earth's environment while meeting social and economic development objectives.
Sustainability Education (SE) is not a futuristic idea of pedagogy but a critical need to currently integrate with our Indian education system for our children to understand, learn about our environment and how to sustain it for future. IB schools are already integrating SE across primary, middle and secondary school level for their students. Given the current education ecosystem in India that does not recognise sustainability with a lens towards present and future, they need to relook at their curriculum and pedagogical tools to integrate SE urgently. India’s socio-cultural and geographical context provides a vast existing knowledge for children to understand our environment, how ecology works as a fascinating ecosystem to sensitise and prepare them as children and adults to sustain our local environment. We have enough local knowledge, tools and environment that allows students themselves to critically observe, analyse and act towards the sustainability subject.

The government and large education players in India need to collaborate at an institutional level with existing scientific, environment and sustainability linked credible institutions/ organisations that are equipped with pedagogical material and tools to apply in new curriculum developed at state and national level of education.

At a ground level, larger non-profits and educational institutions from Indian social sector can introduce SE in their target/ existing schools without waiting for a national level change. This might also push Indian government and other education players to adopt and act upon this.
Sustainability education is being introduced around the world and if India wants to be one of the positive contributors to global development then it needs to equip our children and youth through education with learning ideas and tools in sustainability.

Health

Health is a critical part of a child’s overall development strongly laid in the foundation of school and education. Health comprises of physical (sports), mental and emotional health of a child.
Health is an important building block in education and learning for children that is linked directly to their learning outcomes, knowledge and skills acquired for holistic development as citizens. The relevance of integrating health as part of pedagogy and learning has three dimensions in following ways:

  • Physical health / Sports: Sports is a critical aspect of a child’s physical growth that impacts their mental and emotional growth directly linked to their thinking and learning capacity. Sports allows children at every age to develop motor and cognitive skills, encourages them to collaborate and develop team building skills. Sports is currently in the Indian education system (especially among non-affluent and rural schools) treated as an extracurricular activity. Schools have not invested in sports through infrastructure, training, learning assessment, exposure and support due to lack of prioritisation, awareness, funds, technical training and access to quality teachers.
  • Mental and Emotional health: Children often suffer from mental and emotional health challenges that impacts their learning capacities which is not the same case as special needs children. Mental health challenges such as anxiety, stress, depression, moderate attention deficiency can be easily overcome in schools when positive support, simple exercises, counselling and follow-up is provided to children. Parents have a major role to play on their child’s mental and emotional health, especially in India. Parents also sometimes need school counselling and support that impacts the child’s performance in schools. Schools need to prioritise and be equipped with resources to support parents to an extent that can aid in child’s learning capacity. The support in mental and emotional health in schools can go a long way in not just the student’s learning outcomes but also their overall development and opportunity to optimise their complete potential as adults. A positive foundation to mental and emotional health of a child has a direct impact on them as adults that will not just allow them to grow in higher education but also as professionals, contributors to the society and economy of the country.

Technology

Technology has already been emphasised in STEM and STEAM education which is widely recognised and executed across education systems around the world. It is well understood that technology is not just one of the tools for learning and development but also is a way of life. Technology is already the main medium through which the child is learning and processing their environment, and they quickly grasp it at an early age.
However, the challenges lie in India among non-affluent schools and rural regions where technology as a resource and tool is still not integrated into the education and school systems. Technology in Indian schools will first require a basic quality infrastructure that can successfully integrate and operate in classrooms that allows children to use technology as a “medium of learning” and not as a tool to explore. This is fundamental to how the state and educational players view the role of technology and still see only the provision of equipment as a checklist approach to integrating technology as a medium of learning in schools.
The Indian state and education ecosystem still views the teacher to be the main facilitator of equipping children with technology based capacity. They undervalue that the child can be the primary stakeholder as a self-learner and has the capacity to equip itself with technology if provided the support and positive learning environment.
As education in many countries is moving in a faster direction of integrating technology as a primary medium of learning (rather than teaching) for their children, India still is figuring out how to introduce technology as a way of teaching children.

Arts

STEAM education is now a well-recognised approach to learning and pedagogical tools where arts is an important medium of building capacities in children cognitively that directly impacts learning outcomes. Arts is a broader sense of painting, material exploration and performing arts (music, dance & theatre) is being applied formally as extracurricular activities in schools and informally integrated in teaching and learning methodologies by low to mid-income schools. Arts in more affluent schools and under educational boards such as IGCSE, IB schools have also introduced design and design thinking modules that allow students to explore critical thinking, imagination and creative application that has practical applications of their environment.

Arts and design have a huge impact in equipping children with knowledge, critical thinking and skills that prepares them better for the world and holistic living. Arts also overlaps with the above pillars of pedagogy, sustainability, health and technology in terms of cross – disciplinary learning and application.

Maths

Maths that continues to be part of STEM education and also part of Indian education system. Maths has been given great importance by schools and parents for child’s learning journey. However, the applicability of maths is also quite relevant in new ways of learning. Maths concepts can be a way of learning through sustainability education, sports, technology and arts apart from maths application in the mentioned areas too.

Journey ahead

We will continue to do our research and update our approach to SHTAM through our resource section. Our fundamental belief is that the child is central to learning and not the teacher in our Indian education ecosystem. The current reason of keeping teacher as central to Indian education system is because we have recognised them as the primary medium/ channel for a child to acquire knowledge and skills for future. If we create a stimulating learning environment, provide the relevant infrastructure and tools for children to learn and use the power of technology, the child will become central to our pedagogical approach. This is where the teacher plays a “facilitator” role as a co-learner/ co-participator in education process. In India, we underestimate sometimes the potential of teacher – student collaboration and student to student learning opportunity.

“I strongly believe that the future evolution of schools lies with the students. They have a deep passion for making schools work and are connected to the future in ways that no adult is. They have imagination and ways of seeing that have not yet been shaped by the formal education process. And they are eager to be involved, to become more responsible for their environment and society at large.”
Achyutha Sharma, Founder | Poorna Kaksha