PRIMARY SCHOOL: INDIVIDUAL SKILLS
At the primary level, we decided to prioritize three individual skills – reading, logical thinking, and speaking.
We believe, in the foundational years, textbooks are the enemy of skill-building. How can a student learn to read by reading a 70-page English textbook 15-20 times a year? We all learnt to read well by reading a variety of material: novels, newspapers, magazines – so why not replicate that process?
However, the challenge was to find so much of reading material appropriate for children of primary classes. Children’s books available in the market did not fit the bill. Only large fonts and lots of pictures do not make a good children’s book. Children love stories with richness and complication, as long as they are told in simple language. Dissatisfied with what’s available in the market, we set out to create our own library of reading materials by simplifying many classic stories like ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ or ‘The Gulliver’s Travels.’ Our huge library of in-house developed reading material now ensures that even our primary-grade children do around 1500-pages of reading a year.
Our ‘independent-reading-module’ is finely graded, starting from simple material which uses only the top-200 most frequently occurring English words, and goes on to become more difficult step-by-step. The ‘independent-reading-module’ is so effective that by the middle school, most of our schoolchildren can read grown-up books independently. Indeed, grown-up books like ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry, or ‘Empire of the Mughal’ series by Alex Rutherford is part of our middle school program.
Similarly, we try to build the thinking skills of the students by giving them exposure to new varieties of problems every day. Other than the thinking-oriented problems in math and science that we developed in-house, we take inspiration from Japanese puzzles like Nonogram and Shikaku, and oriental board games like Go or Gomoku. The idea is to get children to think every day, so that exercising the mind is a habit for them. Here, too, we have built a large library of problems in-house to foster the skills, most of which is now encoded in our Web-based Math Program: Math Delta, and in our Android apps.