Sandy Hooda Journey Part 1
In most major Indian cities and perhaps in major cities of the world, the most difficult challenge for a parent is to find the right school for their child. Sandy Hooda was one such father of a 3 year old boy. As usual the research around the ‘right’ school pointed towards two or three schools in the city. The only way to ensure a seat was to have a ‘connection’ with the owner, or to be very lucky to win a seat in the government mandated school lottery. The odds of winning the admissions lottery were less favorable than seeing a blue moon.
Every known influential and connected person was contacted, every favor pulled and the admission was secured in what was considered to be one of the most coveted schools in the city. The little boy started to go to this new school. After a few weeks the little boy was not excited about his school and had a sad face every morning. Sandy Hooda and his wife were worried and Sandy decided to go and see for himself what the problem might be. As he walked around in the school he discovered that very little had changed. Rows upon rows of traditional classrooms and lecture oriented ‘frontal teaching’ dominated the school landscape. The class teacher couldn’t give a satisfactory explanation for why the little boy didn’t like his school. Sandy asked the teacher to permit him to sit in to observe the classroom however this was promptly declined saying it was against the rules. Sandy wondered whether the rules were more important than the child’s happiness. After much deliberation Sandy and his wife decided to withdraw their boy from the school and to admit him in a different school. Unfortunately it was a very expensive school for meant primarily for expatriates. However this experience was different for the boy, even though the school design was still somewhat traditional, teachers and the teaching methods were flexible and the environment was more open. Overnight the child’s school life was transformed and he started loving his school.
Sandy Hooda thought very hard about this issue and could connect his son’s school experience with his own. And he started asking some basic questions. Why are schools not evolving? (Especially since all major industries and companies have completely transformed how they look, and work). Why are schools still teaching in the same old ways that are not interesting for a child? If classrooms are largely boring then how can consistent Learning happen? Why are schools more rule based than happiness based? Why are most teachers still operating in the same mould as their predecessors? Why do schools look the same as schools did many decades ago? Why can’t mainstream schools transform themselves and yet remain affordable?
To answer his questions, Sandy Hooda set out on a journey to travel the world.
Sandy Hooda Journey Part 2
Sandy Hooda’s quest to find a great school first took him to the UK. In the first leg he visited the most famous traditional schools, including the likes of Eton which is perhaps the most famous of them all. Somehow none of these schools inspired Sandy. They were all in the same mould as most traditional schools – the students were being taught things in the same way and their teacher was often found to be standing in front of the class and lecturing.
Somewhat disappointed, Sandy started seeking out people in UK who were known as champions of school reform. One such renowned individual was David Price, OBE. Sandy set up to meet with David at a cafe at the Kings Cross Station in London. During the meeting Sandy candidly shared how disappointed he was with the lack of school reform, the situation in UK appeared to be similar to that in India. David, with a twinkle in his eye told Sandy that things are changing, and that there are schools that are completely transforming how we teach and learn. Sandy asked David for specific names of these outlier schools. Thus began Sandy Hooda’s journey to High Tech High in San Diego and Matthew Moss is Manchester.
These schools were such a breath of fresh air where children were learning by doing. They worked in small groups taking significant ownership of their work. The children were producing amazing things and solving real world problems. Most of them loved learning and loved going to school. And since they loved learning’s, their test scores were far better. It was a comprehensive win-win!
At Matthew Moss the children loved learning to such an extent that they started a movement called D6 (or day 6) wherein they voluntarily come to school on every Saturday (when it wasn’t compulsory to attend school and there weren’t any teachers around). They came because they loved learning and hence felt responsible for their learning.
Sandy Hooda asked the heads of these schools if these were the only exceptions or there were others like them. He learnt there were many such schools and all of them were collectively sparking a global education transformation movement. Education was beginning to change for good!
Sandy Hooda Journey Part 3
Sandy Hooda travelled across many countries and to many path breaking schools. Each school had its unique character, some focused on projects while others focused on problem solving. Some others were based on experiential or inquiry. The common threads running through all of them were passionate educators, excited Learners, love of learning, real world output, creativity and team work. Almost all Learners came across as entrepreneurial and confident. They were developing trails that would give them a huge edge in the real world beyond school.
Inspired by these amazing schools and their proven best practices, Sandy Hooda convinced Steve Edwards, an outstanding educator who was considered to be a global expert in PBL (problem based learning) to partner with him to start a school in India. Together the two Co- Founders Sandy and Steve convinced some of the other people behind the great schools to come on board and help with the development of this unique school. One of the world’s leading education architects, the Florida based Prakash Nair was brought on board to design the school, based entirely on the new and cutting edge research behind learning spaces.
Thus, Vega School was born. A school that aimed to embody the best practices from some of the greatest educators and schools from around the world. A school without classrooms where traditional classrooms were replaced with multiple learning zones. A school that aspired to make learning both relevant and fun. Where Learners would do real world projects and solve real world problems. Where learners would develop the major skills they would require for the world in 2030 (the time they would leave school and go into the real world). Where educators would be different from teachers and where the love of learning would be reborn!