India as a country boasts of 1.5 million schools. Comparisons always revolve around good schools and not so good ones. The diversity of schools is unimaginable. There are schools without even the basic facilities essential for learning and yet there are schools that can match the best in the world. The school fees in the private sector also vary from a few hundred rupees per month to several thousand. There are schools with great infrastructure, great teachers, great work. Yet there are schools with no teachers and no teaching. On top of all this the sibling rivalry between Govt and private schools is a phenomenon raging for decades.
Given this context the question arises; what is a good school? How to define this “goodness”. Subsidiary propositions are; what is more important, infrastructural features or students’ experiences? I have been in the sector for a pretty long time. My experience suggests that the necessary inputs for any school to qualify to be good are;
- Physical/ Financial infrastructure/ Capital.
- Intellectual Capital (Competency of teachers).
- Moral and Ethical Capital (Culture and Value System).
- Vision, Mission, Accountability, Futuristic Orientation.
Most of the schools established in the last few years have focused more on infrastructure in terms of physical facilities. These features are important but not sufficient. Features such as a posh building, shining resource centres and swanky corridors are fine but soon they take a back seat and do not correlate much with learning outcomes.
What really matters is “experience” learners gain in the school. How classes function; what discussions, activities define their daily experience are more important. Has the day spent in the school added value to the learners is more relevant to a child’s growth. Have teachers created an eco-system which is engaging, stimulating and inclusive?
A school where teachers co-create learning with the students, they are seen both as learners and teachers, encourage students to take lead, promote peer learning and collaboration are the ones which distinguish itself from the rest. Good school is not one goes to, it is good schooling one gets out of it.