The primary goal of this course to introduce UW students to India’s environmental policies pertaining to conservation and development. Through lectures, discussions and individual research, students will gain insights about how these policies were developed, put in place, and their outcomes.

This blog site highlights student accomplishments and travel experiences to India.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Experiences of a U.S. Science Educator in Coimbatore, India

By Sarah 'Katie' Guffey 
July-August 2016 trip to Coimbatore, India

With the population in the United States rapidly changing, it’s helpful for US teachers to understand educational systems throughout the world. Traveling to India allowed me to experience their educational system first hand. Perhaps surprisingly, our schools systems have many commonalities, including the types of schools, subjects offered, and teacher training programs.

While in Coimbatore (a city in Tamil Nadu state), I was able to witness the K-12 system and observe the primary school teachers. Overall, the education system in India and the US are quite similar. Primary schools in India (kindergarten & standards 1 through 5) are equivalent to US elementary schools (grades K-5). Similar to the US public, charter, and private schools, India has various types of K-12 schools including State Government Board, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), among others.

Tamil Nadu State Board schools use a card system to keep track of academic milestones. Teachers use this and supplemental materials as a curriculum guide.

There are Tamil medium schools where all subjects are taught in Tamil and English medium schools where subjects are taught in English.

The first school I visited was a Tamil medium school that was following the Tamil Nadu State Board curriculum. All students will enroll in an English language course however, but rest of the subjects were taught in Tamil.

The majority of students were from a low socioeconomic background. The teachers will have roughly 35-45 students in each class. There was no cafeteria on the school grounds so most students pack their lunch. Similar to the US, if a student’s family falls within a certain socioeconomic status, lunch is provided by the government each day.

On average, only 3 to 4 students miss school each day and it is the student and teacher’s responsibility to make up missed work and instruction. The card system allows the teacher to know exactly where the student was academically before he/she missed school.

The second teacher was from a CBSE, English medium school. All subjects were taught in English with students given the option to take an additional language (Hindu, Tamil, French, etc.). The majority of students are from a middle, socioeconomic background. Generally, teachers will have between 25-35 students in each class. This school differs from the state board school in that the students have access to computers. This allows the teacher to implement the use of a class website. In addition to the card system, students also have a textbook and a workbook. On average, 1-2 students miss class each day however, most teachers will receive notification from the parent if the child is planning to miss school. Individual instruction will be provided during the child’s physical education class to make up for missed classwork.

Visiting these classrooms and talking to teachers allowed to interact with many talented teachers and gain valuable insights that will help me to teach an ever-changing student population in the US.