The first Confidence to Learn workshop this year in India was held at the KC Group of Institutions in Nawanshahr, Punjab, India. Sponsored by The Achievers’ Programme, this workshop was for teachers and administrators and focused on self-directed learning.

Located in a relatively private semirural setting away from the big cities of India, the KC Group of Institutions includes a number of primary and secondary schools as well as several college-level institutions on three campuses. Teachers and administrators from the public schools, as they are called in India, participated in the workshop. The administrators of the KC Group of Institutions were welcoming and supportive of the workshop, and the teachers, headmistress, and principals of the three schools were all engaged and focused on providing the best education possible for their students. They are the kind of caring educators who make a difference in the lives of their students.

Dr. Munish Mohan Sharma, the principal of the school in Nawanshahr, took the lead in organizing the workshop, and he was a supportive participant as well. His vision is of students “planning and implementing their own learning,” and he has championed ways to make that possible, including organizing and scheduling this workshop on self-directed learning.

KC Group workshop2Dr. Sharma encouraged the participants in the workshop not to be shy about sharing problems they faced in the classroom. He participated in workshop role playing willingly, made insightful comments in discussions, and shared some of the challenges he has personally faced as workshop participants explored solutions together in the workshop. He encouraged the teachers to try new ideas and not to feel constrained or suffocated by the curriculum or syllabus, which teachers in India and elsewhere often feel. He mentioned one teacher in the school who had proposed the idea of making a movie with her students, but who felt she didn’t have time because of the demands of the syllabus and the required curriculum. He praised this teacher’s efforts in the workshop, encouraged her to go ahead with the plan, and offered his support in helping make room in the syllabus. He offered the same encouragement to the other teachers as well.

This kind of administrative support and participation helped make the workshop successful. Engaged administrators who give their teachers latitude and support in trying new things make the difference between good schools and mediocre ones. Teachers who give similar support and autonomy to their students make an enormous difference for good in their students’ lives. This kind of administrative and faculty support and willingness to try new things makes a big difference in lives of students and in the successful adoption of self-directed learning and all the benefits that come with it.

Collaborative autonomy is powerful. It is the opposite of the coercive practices often associated with compulsory education. Those who innovate and are not afraid to take risks—and those who are willing collaboratively to allow others to do the same—will be the clear leaders in building the successful families, communities, and economies of the 21st century.

KC Group workshop4