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Asking students to learn the multiplication tables is teaching content. Showing them how 2 times 8 actually equals 16 provokes thought. Explaining algebra as it is focuses on content. Helping students to develop models of some real-world scenarios is all about thought. Even now, most education systems around the world tend to focus heavily on content. Our examinations still evaluate content retention and memory. But the ultimate goal of proper education has always been about enabling. Handing over the required thinking skills to students so that they can make their own informed decisions.

The best boarding schools in Sonepat, however, prioritise content and thought to their deserved levels. At a time when we are collectively acknowledging the importance of soft skills, the best schools do not de-emphasise content because both have their own place in our evolving educational requirements.

Content, memory, retention – these are necessary

We cannot deny that learning multiplication tables help with long divisions. Neither can we deny that some concepts of algebra have to be taught as is. Content-oriented teaching helps to form the base upon which thought can develop. A student oblivious of the background concepts will imagine instead of thinking when asked a question. He/she might come up with irrelevant answers as the foundation is still weak. We, thus, have to teach content first and then ask students to think based on the content already taught.

Additionally, teaching through thought only is time-consuming. If we ask students to figure out every concept by thinking or group brainstorming, no school can cover their curriculum in a single academic year. In contrast, teaching content through direct lecture is quicker as students get help forming associations.

Thought-oriented teaching develop soft skills

The best school in Sonepat will also recognise that fast teaching is never the agenda. Students need to understand the subject matter rather than memorise to develop real skills around the topic. When asked to correlate themselves, students form critical thinking and problem-solving skills along with fluid intelligence and high curiosity levels. The need-to-know factor comes in education that naturally promotes better knowledge retention.

Thought-based teaching also makes space for increased collaboration and unique ideas. Numerous studies have shown that young students learn better in peer groups when compared directly to one-directional classrooms by helping each other to achieve excellence and raising the educational benchmark. Content teaching limits the group’s brainstorming capabilities. But when allowed to think, collaborative learning can deliver excellent results.

How do the top boarding schools balance both?

The direct lecture method is still the best way to teach content. Smart technologies inside classrooms enable visualisation of content that assists students to form better understanding of the underlying content. Let’s go back to our multiplication table example again. Teachers in the top 10 schools in Sonepat now do not merely ask their students to learn. Using smart boards, they also show how multiplication actually works and how knowing the tables by heart can actually help the students in the long run.

Thought-based teaching majorly radiates from the assignments set. If the classroom was all about teaching content, then the assignment is thought-provoking that compels the students to go beyond their textbooks to come up with answers. Home assignments also have scope of collaborative learning, given the current age of EdTech and easy accessibility to the internet.

Projects are another way to teach both content and thought simultaneously. The associated research, almost always, begins with a revision of the underlying content upon which the students’ ideas are built. Project-based learning is thus becoming an important tool of modern-day schools to teach lessons like never before. Inquiry-based learning also has a place. After all, curiosity is the best driver of knowledge.

Both content and thought are important

And we cannot merely prioritise one over the other. It all boils down to the school’s goals for a particular academic year and what the lesson is trying to achieve. Among younger students, teaching content is more important as they have just begun their education. At middle school and secondary levels, students need a more thought-oriented approach as they are about to enter a world that will prioritise skills over subject knowledge.

The right balance between content and thought – that is what Swarnprastha Public School tries to achieve. As a boarding school, SPS students spend more time in the school environment that conveniently accommodates both content and thought-oriented teaching. Both in the classrooms and through assignments, students learn content first and thought next to critically think about their subjects, analyse the information received and develop a knowledge base infused with the required soft skills. SPS knows how to embrace the benefits of the conventional and yet acknowledge the contemporary.

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