This morning we held our annual Careers Day, where we invite parents and other professionals to come and speak to the students about what they do and how they got to where they are. One of the speakers also talked about the warmth of the welcome he receives at OIS, compared to other schools (he speaks at a great many schools). This is what he said:
"There are many good to great schools, and you're one of them. But you're also nice, and that's important"
And that just made my Monday morning!
It has been three months since my last blog post. Three whole months! That is disgraceful, and I do apologize.
In my defense, this has been a very busy time for me. This is the recruitment season, the time when most of the hiring of new teachers for next year takes place. And with an existing faculty of 276 teachers and a new campus to staff, this has been a particularly hectic time.
Our retention of existing teachers has improved considerably, but we still have some turnover (I think the word is “churn” in this country). So why do teachers leave OIS? There can be a number of reasons:
Recruitment of local teachers is getting easier for me. The OIS reputation has spread among the Indian international school community, and the school’s name is one that ambitious educators want to get on their resumé. I think for the past month I have averaged at least four local teacher interviews per day.
Expat teacher recruitment is a different matter. The OIS reputation is an international one, and any international teacher who wants to come to India will come to my table first at the recruitment fair. The problem is, most of them don’t want to come to India.
In January, I made an offer to a young British teacher I knew well. She had been a student at the International School of Dusseldorf when I was the Head, and after university she started her teaching career at that school where I was still the Head. She then moved on to an international school in the UK, and attended a recruitment fair in London. She was a fantastic teacher, and she had always liked working for me.
She was very excited when I made her an offer, and I was very disappointed when a few days later she rejected my offer. “Dad won’t let me come to India – he says it’s too dangerous.”
Seriously, dangerous?!!! I feel a higher level of personal safety here than I did back in Germany. But she told me her father would not be persuaded.
I blame CNN, and BBC, and all the others. Last week I heard “India has overtaken China as the country with the worst air pollution.” What a meaningless statement! India is a huge country. It has places where the air is very polluted and places where the air is pure and clean. I don’t live in “India”, I live in Mumbai. The air in Mumbai is sometimes OK, sometimes not OK, but it’s not even close to the “worst in the world”.
When CNN reported some assaults on women a while back, they didn’t say they happened in Bangalore – they said they happened “in India”. Everything is sensationalized, and everything happens “in India”. I asked a candidate if she had ever considered Mumbai as a destination, and she said “Oh, no – not India. You have all those rapes in India”.
International teacher candidates have literally the whole world at their fingertips. At the major fairs there are jobs on offer in London, Paris, Rome, Germany, Switzerland, Hawaii, Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo……….and India. There are schools on the Riviera, there are schools in the middle of ski resorts. And with all the bad press surrounding India, Mumbai schools are a pretty hard sell.
There’s another factor influencing expat teacher recruitment. There are now sooooo many schools. I’ve been on the recruitment fair circuit for many years now. In earlier times I could wander around the fair and recognize every school – I knew most of the Heads. Now, more than half the schools are ones I’ve never heard of before. New ones keep popping up.
For the past five years, the People’s Republic of China has averaged one new international school per week!! The city of Dubai now has 254 international schools. 254 – in just one city! So many new schools are emerging, hungry for teachers, and offering good packages.
This is why the international reputation of OIS is so important. Many candidates have heard about this school, some have friends who teach here, some have attended IB workshops here, some have seen us and heard our presentations at conferences and recruitment fairs.
The most important influence on school quality is the quality of its teachers. And the most effective way to attract good teachers is to have a good reputation
I have not been a very regular blogger of late, and I'm afraid I'm not going to improve any time soon. From now until at least the end of January is the busiest time of my year, so I'll be quiet for a while.
Did you see the PISA results? PISA is a world-wide study carried out every two years, which compares the effectiveness of national education systems around the world by randomly selecting students to set tests of numeracy and literacy. Over a half million children around the world take these tests, which are written in such a way as to eliminate any cultural or language bias.
Now those of you who know me well will be aware that I am not a great fan of exam results (because they tell us so very little about a child's learning), but in this country the ability of children to perform under test conditions is highly regarded, so I thought there might be some interest in the results.
(Google "PISA results")
There are two countries I'd like to draw your attention to, Finland and Singapore. Time after time these two countries are ranked at or near the top of the table, and I think it's interesting to look at one thing they have in common.
Finland has been around for some time, but Singapore is brand new. The BBC points out that it became an independent nation only in 1965 (I was in Grade 11), with a poor, unskilled, mostly illiterate workforce.
Both countries have invested heavily in education. In both countries, the teaching profession is the most highly regarded (and highly paid) of all professions. Consequently, the best and brightest of their young people compete for places at university in the most prestigious of all areas - the schools of education.
Both countries, I believe, have made a decision to direct the larger portion of their resources to the development of what they consider to be their most valuable natural resource, their children. And I find it very difficult to disagree with that policy.
I know some of you will be wondering "Where does India stand in all this?", and I'm not going to tell you, because I'd like you to be inquirers like your children and find out for yourself! (Google "PISA India" as a starting point)
This time, Singapore has emerged on the top of most of the tables - but they aren't celebrating. Because the ability of their education system to produce graduates who can think divergently and creatively, who are willing to take risks, collaborate and innovate, lags behind much of the rest of the world.
As I said, tests only give you a smal part of the picture.
Dear OIS community,
Yes, I've been busy (and I had a lovely Diwali break), so you haven't heard from me for a while. The recruiting season is almost upon us, and for me that means busy, busy, busy as I set about the most important part of my job. The most effective way for me to make this school into the very best it can be is to hire the very best teachers I can. That's why recruiting is so very important.
The season actually starts next week, with a recruitment fair in Bangkok which is for international school leadership candidates. I'm looking for a primary principal to help us get the second campus up and running to the same standard as the present school. I think we've set the bar pretty high on this campus, so I'm looking for someone very special.
Actually, the recruitment fair itself is only a small part of the process. Already I have spent hours searching through the candidate database, and I have identified eight very promising educators that I'm in touch with. It's important to make this early contact, to start the conversation, to begin to build the relationship.
Only one out of the eight had even considered a move to India. To the other seven it had never occurred to them that India might be their next career move - in fact one of them confessed that he had been "open to all locations - anywhere really, except India".
Well, their opinion has changed during the (e-mail) conversation! I think they are all quite excited by the possibility now and are looking forward to hearing more about the school, the job, and the country from me next week. They're a mixed group - four from the UK, one Aussie, one Kiwi, one American and one Canadian. Three men and five women.
They currently hold leadership positions in international schools in the Emirates, Vietnam, Oman, Iraq, Canada, Thailand, Australia and China. I've read their CVs thoroughly, and I've checked their references. Now all I have to do is meet them in person and try to evaluate how well they would fit into this environment and this particular job. Being a founding principal is a very different challenge from taking over an established primary school, and it requires a different skill set.
I'm hoping that two or three will stand out enough to warrant my bringing them to Mumbai for further interviews and ultimately an appointment. That's the process.
And of course this is just the beginning of recruitment for the year. I will need a number of new expat teachers, which will mean more recruitment fairs. My January is almost entirely taken up with expat recruiting. From December 30th to January 24th, my life will be made up of flights, hotels and interviews.
Recruiting local teachers takes place over a longer period. Interviews start around this time of year (my first is on Monday), and they usually continue through to June or sometimes beyond. We never seem to be really "finished" for the year, because teachers' situations change sometimes, and when we have a large faculty (276 teachers) we get a lot of changes. Pregnancies, changes to family situations, husbands being transferred......life is seldom "convenient".
Of course, we don't need to take this much trouble. We could get the required numbers of teachers in the right areas quite easily. Our reputation is good, and teachers (especially locals) are keen to have Oberoi International School on their CV. It's easy to find "teachers", but finding "the very best teachers I can get" is an entirely different matter.
If we lower our standards when recruiting, we have a much easier job requiring much less effort. But the quality of the school would suffer, because that is defined (more than anything else) by the quality of the teachers. And if the quality went down, so would our reputation, and consequently our ability to attract the best teachers. We cannot let that happen.
I find it astounding to consider some of the things that are now possible through technology. It's hard to believe how far the world has come in a relatively short time.
I think the year was 1970 when I received as a birthday gift my first calculator. It could multiply, divide...even calculate square roots. And it had a "floating decimal" It was a bit of a luxury, costing as it did just under $200.
Now a calculator like that comes as a free trinket in a corn flakes box!
It all moves so quickly. Computers are getting smarter and smarter. Will they ever be able to think for themselves? Apparently, the answer to this question is a resounding "yes", and this bothers me a great deal.
Because when I consider the manner in which so many children in this country are force-fed information under the guise of "education", I am compelled to ask a question:
"Does it make any sense at all to develop machines that can think for themselves and people that can't?"
I am pretty sure this post is redundant, because I have already sent an e-mail.
Monday, October 17th, will be the first day on which the school's doors will close at 07.45. All children who arrive at school after 07.45 will be sent home.
Please make sure your kids are here in time.
We talk a lot about preparing our students for the world they will inhabit. All schools do. But do we know what that world will look like?
A child in Early Years will be at the peak of his/her career in 2050 - 2055. Do we have any idea what the world will look like in 2050? These days, looking even five years ahead is a perilous endeavour. The truth is that we have little idea what 2021 will look like, let alone 2050. And when we try to predict what 2021 will be like, it's usually pretty scary!
2050 will be different. That much is certain. It will be different in ways we cannot imagine. The noted futurist Ian Jukes claims that the quantity of information in the world doubles every 73 days (i.e. five times a year). So this time next year we should be in a world with 32 times as much information - that's a little disquieting. In two years time, 1,024 times as much information - that's a bit frightening. If you do the Math, by 2050 the world should contain two nonillion (that's two, followed by thirty zeros) times as much information.
And that's if the current rate of increase in information remains the same. According to Jukes, it's accelerating, and will continue to do so. So two nonillion is a conservative estimate!
How do we prepare children for this future when, to be honest, we haven't a clue what it will look like? We cannot prepare them for a specific set of conditions because we don't know what those conditions will be, but we do know they will be very, very different.
We must prepare our kids for a constantly and rapidly changing world. We must make them into confident, creative and adaptive learners who will thrive in a rapidly changing environment. We must teach them to be joyful learners, so they never stop learning.
And I believe we should look at what will not change. I believe that things like integrity, humility, compassion, courage and perseverance will serve them as well in thirty years time as they do now. I think that good people will still be good people.
I believe that content-based curricula will disappear. So much of what we are currently teaching will be irrelevant. It's happening already. I can use logarithm tables to help me with multiplication and division. Not very useful. I was taught to use a slide rule - why? I can do long division. I never do, but I can. I can recite the first two lines of the periodic table.
It's fun to read about some of the next-generation technology possibilities. Driverless cars - we're all used to that idea, although I must confess I'm not sure about how they would work in Mumbai. What about micro-chip processors that can be implanted in the nasal passages, and allow us to simultaneously translate spoken foreign languages? Will they come? Should we continue to teach French?
At a conference recently, I was in a group of heads that was asked "What things should we drop from our current curricula?" A lady I have enormous respect for responded immediately "Anything that can be done by a machine".
I can see where she's coming from, but my conservative nature makes it hard for me to agree with her. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear your comments.
Deputy Head of School
Recently, Neil and I were having a conversation about this blog. As we are both new to blogging, we just sort of hopped in with both feet, not really thinking too much about how we would use this space. However, we did know that, with the demise of the monthly school newsletter, we wanted to make this a must-read space and attract as many subscriptions and comments as we could.
And here’s why: At one point last year, we asked our Communications Team to track the number of times that the monthly newsletter had been opened from our website. During that particular month, the data seemed to indicate that we had a whopping readership of…10.
Therefore, it was soothing to our egos to discover the other day that all OIS blogs have had just over 3,000 views since we went live a couple of weeks ago. We are most interested, however, in subscriptions, and at the current time, there are 50-odd parents who have subscribed to the Heads of School blog. We would like more of you to make this part of your regular reading, and as a result we have had a re-think about how we can best use this space.
Now that we have been blogging for a few weeks, we have decided to continue to use the daily School Announcements sent via email for the “nuts & bolts” stuff: event reminders, operational notices, reminders, health and safety alerts, and things of that sort. Given the high attendance at Neil’s Coffee Mornings, it seems like the blog is a good place to continue the conversation about some of those big ideas that he spoke about…things like how we can best prepare our kids to be happy, successful adults…the nature of education in the 21st century…the things that we hold dear as a school community…and the list goes on and on.
In Neil’s first post, he mentioned our collaborative approach to leadership. We make a very interesting team, Neil and I. He has been a school head for “donkey’s years” (I love that expression!) and has a story for every situation, which to me is a true indicator of wisdom and experience. I am at the other end of the spectrum: This is my first position as a senior-level administrator, and every day at OIS is a learning experience for me. You could say that our level of experience is reflected in the number of posts here: by my count, Neil has contributed 6 posts to my 2…and that seems about right.
In any event, we will do our best to encourage you to stop by our blog as frequently as possible. I am hopeful that we will entertain you, inform you, and help you think a bit more deeply. We welcome comments as it helps to keep the conversation going, and we will do our best to reply whenever appropriate.
Thanks for reading, and please do click on the “subscribe!”
Congratulations! This morning every one of the 31 OIS buses arrived before 07.45. The buses went around their routes as designed, without waiting for latecomers - just like normal public transport.
This morning one of the OIS parents sent me an e-mail she had sent to the school four years ago. In this original e-mail, she protested against the situation where her kids were at the pickup point every morning at the right time, and yet day after day they arrived late to school because the bus had waited at the other stops until everyone had made their way downstairs. In the e-mail she made some very relevant points, which I will quote here:
"Waiting for latecomers is equivalent to a reward for unpunctuality and serves as a positive reinforcement for coming late.
Making punctual students wait is equivalent to a punishment for punctuality, and serves as a negative reinforcement for being on time"
I think this lady has a point, don't you?
Anyway, congratulations OIS. Every bus here before 07.45, for the very first time this year. We're getting there!!!
A small child laughs, on average, 400 times a day.
An adult laughs, on average, 7 times a day.
I wonder what happens as we get older to make us so grumpy?
I spent the weekend in Delhi, at the TAISI (The Association of International Schools in India) conference. The theme of the conference was the role of design and design thinking in education, and much of the talk was of the inadequacy of the current, exam-driven system.
I heard about a fascinating experiment which took place early this academic year in the USA, at one of the more prestigious private schools. In this experiment, grade 11 students were required to retake their final grade 10 science test, exactly three months after they took the test for the first time. (The students were not given any notice of the re-take)
First time they took the test, the average grade was B+
Second time they took the test, the average grade was F.
This is why I hesitate to equate exam grades with learning.
Today, all buses were instructed to not wait for kids who were late. The buses were not to leave any of the pickup points before the pickup time, but they were not to wait for kids who were not there at pickup time.
What a difference this has made to the arrival times! Almost all the buses were at school by 07.45 - I think only two were late, and only by a couple of minutes. More importantly, we knew that for any bus child who was late, it was not the fault of the child - he had been where he was supposed to be at the time he was supposed to be there. When our "Closing-the-door-at-07.45" plan becomes operational, those children will be given passes to allow them to enter the building.
Of course, there are still those parents who are unwilling to comply. The Oberoi Spring route is a good example. I believe there are three stops at Oberoi Spring. At the first stop, not all the kids were there at the pickup time, so the driver did as he had been instructed. He went on to the next stop, kids were on time there, then on to the third stop where again everyone was waiting.
Then he proceeded to the main gate to leave the complex, but he was not allowed to leave. Why? Because the parent whose kids were late at the first stop had contacted the main gate and got security to stop the bus, turn it around, and send it back to the first pickup!!!!! (note: This will only work once)
But the good news is that almost all the buses were significantly earlier this morning, and we had a better, smoother start to the day's learning. So well done bus parents! So much better, and all it took was being on time at the pickup.
My goal is to have every kid in school by 07.45 before the Diwali break. It shouldn’t be too difficult, I’ll just do what other schools do. I’ll shut the gate at 07.45 and send home everyone who arrives after that.
But that will be step 2. Before I can take that step, I need to sort out the buses. I want to be sure that all kids get to their bus on time, so that, if the bus still arrives at school late, I know it’s not the kid’s fault. (So I can have them given passes to enter after 07.45).
What happens right now is that if kids are not waiting at the pickup point when the bus arrives, the bus waits for them. Sometimes the bus attendant will phone the apartment to let them know that the bus is downstairs waiting. This happens a lot on some routes and it makes the bus late. As the year progresses, the problem gets worse. And, as always, it’s the same kids day after day after day.
Not any more. Starting Monday, October 3rd, the bus drivers will be directed to leave their pickup points at the designated time. They will not be allowed to wait for kids who are running late.
So, if your pickup time is 07.05, then your kid will need to be there by 07.05. If he gets downstairs at 07.06, the bus will be gone. If you want to be sure he doesn’t miss the bus, get him down there at 07.00.
Please tell everyone about this. Use your Whatsapp.
I’ll give you a couple of weeks to get used to this, then we’ll move in to step 2.
Welcome everyone to my very first blog post. I hope this can become a convenient and regular means of communication for me, particularly with OIS parents. You will have noticed that the category is “Heads of School” rather than “Head of School”, and this perhaps needs some explanation.
Because learning happens best when it happens collaboratively, I think schools run best when they are run collaboratively. The correct answer to the question “who is the head of OIS?” is “Neil ‘n Steve”. This team approach to leadership runs throughout OIS, because this is the model we want to show our kids.
I notice that Steve has already been active on this blog, and that he has included a photo, so I guess I should as well. There is a tendency, as we age, for us to dig out older and older photographs (because we have to go back further and further to find a time when we looked OK). As you can see, I had to go back a very long time indeed!
I would like this team approach to extend to how we raise our children. I would like the parents and the school to work together to do the best we can for our kids. But, if my endeavour to get all our kids to school on time is any indication, this does not seem to be happening.
I have sent many e-mails. I have spoken to over 1,000 parents at 15 coffee mornings. Everyone I have communicated with is in agreement that this is a worthwhile pursuit. Kids should not be allowed to wander in to school when they feel like it. Parents should not be allowed to bring their kids when they feel like it. It just reinforces the message that school is not important.
I stood at the front gate this morning as 100+ kids came in between 5 and 15 minutes late. I explained to each and every one of them that they were late, and that this could be rectified by getting up a little bit earlier. Everyone looked at the ground and said “sorry”, but I’m willing to bet the same 100 kids will be late tomorrow.
Because they just don’t care. In classrooms throughout the school, teachers are trying to get their classes organized for the day’s learning, and they are continually disrupted by kids (in the lower grades accompanied by their parents) wandering in whenever they feel like it. They don’t care.
I know this makes many of you angry, because you have made the effort to get your kids here on time, yet your kids still have to suffer the disruption caused by latecomers, and your kids are still exposed to this lack of respect for the school.
This makes you angry, and you look to me to do something about it. And I won’t let you down.
Watch this space!
On Tuesday, September 20, the OIS Food Committee held its initial meeting for the 2016-17 academic year. The committee consists of 8 parent representatives (2 from EY, 3 from Primary, and 3 from Secondary), regional and school-based Sodexo staff members, and members of the OIS management team.
Following brief presentations by the OIS and Sodexo members, the parent representatives were able to observe lunch being served to students in Senior Kindergarten, and then helped themselves to lunch in our Primary & Secondary Cafeteria. The reviews were quite good: all agreed the food was excellent in taste and appearance and very similar to what they would serve at home.
Afterward, we spent some time talking about suggestions to improve our food service. One recommendation focused on menu labeling, noting that the names we give to certain dishes correspond to what one would find in restaurants, where food is typically heavily spiced or loaded with not-so-healthy ingredients. Instead, the names should reflect the fact that the food served by Sodexo is healthier, tastier, and much closer to home-cooking. We have already acted to implement this suggestion.
We also talked about how we can encourage students to try all of the food on offer, rather than loading up their trays with just one or two items that they prefer. In the lower grades, in particular, teachers do encourage students to try different items, but we all agreed that parents play a central role in exposing children to a variety of foods and building healthy habits at home. By the time they reach school and can make choices for themselves, they will be much better prepared to make the right choices.
It was a very productive session for all involved. Our school management team provided an overview of food service at OIS. It was quite surprising for some to learn that Sodexo serves over 1,500 meals per day! On a monthly basis, that number comes to over 30,000! Our Sodexo staff shared information about the policies and procedures that both support their operations at our school and ensure that our students are eating healthy and wholesome food that is prepared fresh daily (I am attaching this presentation for your information). We also identified several ways in which we have improved the food service at OIS since the start of this academic year:
Early Years: Ms. Krupa Bhimani: Krupa.email@example.com
Ms. Jarna Doshi: Jarnadoshi@gmail.com
Primary School: Ms. Alpa Jhariya: Alpajhariya@gmail.com
Ms. Sonal Khanduja: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Harini Maru: email@example.com
Secondary School: Ms. Kanchan Wadi Dhingra: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Geetanjali Chitale: email@example.com
Ms. Sonali Kumar: firstname.lastname@example.org