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An educator called Life

Walking down the woods on a learning journey

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CIS Accreditation

CIS is here!

Cathy, Abhi and Neeraja

CIS & CAN

Well, don’t confuse CIS with CSI! CIS stands for Council of International Schools (and not Crime Scene Investigation, you crime buffs!), and the school I am working for applied to seek accreditation to this esteemed international organisation almost 2 years back. Along with 2 other colleagues, I was put as a member of the Steering Committee. More about the process and organisation of the entire process of accreditation can be found in my previous entry titled ‘We CAN!’ which was written exactly 11 months back!

It was so enlightening reading through my last entry, reflecting back on the last year of activities that have finally brought us to the crossroad of the ultimate visit! The visitors are due today, as the ten members arrive from all corners of the world, Fortunately (though, only time will tell), one of the members from the last visit, Walter Plotkin, is the chair of the large visiting team this time around! I am surely looking forward to meeting him again!

Let me also open your eyes and mind to the idea of calling ourself the CAN team! We are a big school and hence, our Steering Committee was a 3 member team. My friends and colleagues on this team were Cathy and Neeraja. So when put together, Cathy, Abhi and Neeraja, we became the CAN team. At the same time, we wished to make a metaphorical statement of our purpose that was larger than the accreditation and its process. It was to enable the staff to feel empowered that they too CAN reflect on the school, its systems, documents and policies and become stakeholders in a moral and ethical manner. The CIS process was a perfect platform for all members of the community to wake up and take notice of what was going right and what wasn’t and to take responsibility for the same. Through this, we hoped to be able to steer a more concerted movement of change, the accreditation thus, becoming merely a technical part of a professional revolution that contributed wholeheartedly to institution building! Thus, we became the ‘we CAN’!

The Visitors

The visiting team is a group of 10 educators who have been working in international schools with rich expertise, from cities across the world, including Copenhagen, Riyadh, Pune and Chennai. They will be allotted to look after each committee and review it with the Steering Committee, Principals, HODs and the Committee leaders. Meetings have been slotted all through the week and they start off tomorrow!

Crossroads

We are now at the crossroads, with the visit just about to begin. We have been through the ups and downs of the process, with some committee leaders leaving school while some others moving into new roles. At the same time, the committee leaders worked with great focus and determination to examine the school, its systems and practices, in a self critical and yet objective manner, keeping the growth and development of the school over the coming years as the ultimate goal. We even had parents, teachers and students taking part in a survey based on the standards and indicators as prescribed by CIS which are required to be met, to meet international standards. We discovered areas in the school that needed a lot of work and at the same time were reassured of the school’s purpose of existence and the willingness in team members and the management to review and modify their systems, practices and documents. The committee leaders worked day and night to produce a meticulous set of a range of documents which were needed as evidence of the achievements of Pathways. The school buildings too had a bit of sprucing up of its infrastructure, including new displays in some building, better awareness and promotion of safety norms during a fire or other emergencies and the addition of smart boards. The fire drill we had for campus residents on a cold winter evening was quite thrilling while the use of more updated technology in class rooms looks promising!

At the end of the 2 year long journey of self reflection, the school has grown in the process and staff members have also developed a greater sense of belongingness. As we stand at the crossroads of the process awaiting the approval of CIS and further directions for improvement, it is truly a time to take in a deep breath, feel happy about who we are and where we are and then take the plunge to scale even newer heights, by truly becoming leaders in international education!

Abhimanyu Das Gupta,

Member, CAN team

We CAN! A journey with CIS.

CIS accreditation

The experience of having gone through the PYP authorisation in 2008 was one filled with self reflection and learning. Little did I know then, that it would hold me in good stead when I, along with Neeraja and Cathy were given the responsibility of overseeing the school’s accreditation to the CIS. I still remember the workshop that was conducted by Mr. Walter Plotkin, Superintendent, American International School, Dhaka and Mr. Gerry Percy, Director of Accreditation Services, CIS and how most of us were still groping in the dark about the intricate and complex self examination process that is required for successful accreditation!

However, over the last ten months, I, rather I can say this on baehalf of all involved in the process, we have all learned a lot! The CIS process is designed in such a way that it forces a close and authentic self examination, which is targeted at making the school a better place, for all stakeholders.

Areas of accreditation

CIS requires the members of the school community, including academic and administrative staff, students, parents and board members, to closely self examine the existing ethos, systems and practices of the school and identify areas of improvement. The broad categories are Philosophy and Objective, Curriculum, Governance and Management, Staff, Student Support Services, Resources, and Student and Community Life. Different teams of teachers were created to form committees that would look into the self study for these respective areas.

Planning the work

Planning out a schedule and pattern of organising the working of these self study groups was a mammoth task, as the members of Curriculum were spread across the other groups too. Moreover, the group working with reviewing the school’s Philosophy and Objective, needed to accomplish their task first. We also amidst all of this had to conduct an online survey that would reveal to us what different stakeholders of the school felt regarding the standards of each of these committees. Eventually, we had our timeline set and targets identified.

Revelations and Jubilations

The heads and team members of each of these seven committees, ranged from all sections of the school, with varied experiences. Guiding them with the work assigned as part of the self study was exciting to say the least. We learnt together as a team, as we brainstormed on ideas, reviewed existing practices and commended the school for its achievements so far. Pathways, being an ever growing, organic school has its own strengths and weaknesses and as we discovered and recognised both sides of the coin, it was inspiring to see an increasing sense of connect between the staff and the school and a growing sense of belongingness. Some teams had a lot to work towards, from collecting evidences and documents, to reviewing existing practices and systems. Others had a lot of their documentation already organised and thus had a more relaxed timeline. The survey results also came in by November and generated renewed observations regarding the differences in perspectives of the different stakeholders of the school. Above all, the most welcome result of all these discussions was the mutual understanding that grew out of all the meetings. Staff from different sections of the school and different departments, having pored through the Standards and Indicators document together, realised, how within the same school, the indicators could have different implications and how in spite of the hair splitting nuances, a lot of them applied universally across all sections of the school. The best part of the self study according to me has been this aspect of the process, wherein as a large extended family, working towards the same goal, we realised the importance of being united in our aspirations, both personally and professionally, and yet, appreciated how our individual experiences, characters and attitudes, added so much colour and richness to the fabric of Pathways!

Looking forward

Our dates for the Authorisation visit have been finalised for early next year and thus, solidified our sense of purpose with the self study. As we emerge wiser and smarter out of the ongoing self study process, bringing about necessary changes within the school, I am sure that as a team of committed professionals we will be able to make Pathways even better and achieve even higher standards in delivering quality education! So here is wishing all of us an extremely successful and smooth transition into being recognised by the Council of International Schools!

Abhimanyu Das Gupta,
Member, CAN team (Steering Committee)
6th March, 2010

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