The House System and Student Governance
At NiBS, all children from grades I to XII pledge allegiance to and join one of the four school houses, Ashoka, Banyan, Neem and Peepal. Tracing their founding inspiration to the sacred trees of our land, the houses provide a literal canopy of shelter for the students, encouraging them to develop both, a greater sense of personal belonging and identity and an intimate inter-connectedness with the larger school community.
The House system also provides a framework for introducing children to the functioning of a democracy and allows them to practice the principles of self-governance. Representatives from each of the four Houses along with the Head Boy, Head Girl, Sports Captains and School Editor form the Student Council. Members earn their place on the Council after sharing their ‘manifestos’ and agendas with their peers and being elected by secret ballot in a process that closely resembles that of an electoral democracy. The finally elected Council works closely together with the School Leadership team, holding regular samvaads or discussions about school life, learning and culture.
Children from grades VI to XII, in a spirit of participative democracy, meet on a weekly basis as members of different Houses and contribute to life at school in the following ways:
a. Upholding the school Values of Ownership, Integrity, Collaboration and Excellence and ensuring a VOICE of sanskaar
b. Taking responsibility for the planning and execution of varied school activities and ensuring effective sanchalan.
c. Contributing to various service initiatives by organizing fund raisers in a spirit of sanchay.
d. Practicing samvaad or meaningful dialogue with the school leadership to share student suggestions, concerns and thoughts.
The Shiksha Theme
Every year, our school team selects an annual Shiksha or learning theme as a multi-focal lens for exploring ‘all of life’s diversity’. Children across classes and age-groups research and explore the same through varied frameworks and approaches – disciplinary and inter-disciplinary, experiential and theoretical, curricular and co-curricular.
The criteria for choosing a theme is usually that it should be broad-based in nature, offer all age groups the opportunity for enquiry, relate closely to the lives of the students and be capable of meaningfully intersecting with our core disciplinary areas. Some of the themes chosen over the past few years include – Games People Play, Communication, It’s About Time, Around the World in 200 days, Out of this World and Heroes and Sheroes – The ‘Who’le Story. In addition to age-appropriate research projects, which are shared at the end of the year in an all-school project exhibition, theme based exploration is encouraged by means of assembly presentations, special workshops, interactions with guest atithis, trips and visits and inter-house challenges.
Such a focused, deep, and multi-faceted enquiry of an all-pervading theme for the period of an entire year, undoubtedly pays dividends in the form of new and unparalleled opportunities for enhancing student learning. First, it helps students build breadth into their learning process. They not only learn to study a topic in detail, they are also able to make inter-disciplinary connections and thereby develop a holistic, nuanced understanding of the content in focus. Second, by being well-suited to methods of Deeper learning, the Annual Theme helps children acquire the skills of independent and open-ended enquiry. That is, they acquire practice in learning ‘how to learn’. Thirdly, since the entire school focuses on a single theme, a natural context is created for encouraging multi-age group interactions and learning.
The SEWA (Social and Environmental Welfare and Action) Theme
A commitment to SEWA or Social and Environmental Welfare and Action is an integral and all pervasive spirit that permeates every grain of our culture and learning at NiBS. Every year, a new SEWA commitment is launched and introduced to the students on Children’s Day. Students across the school pledge themselves to the new commitment and intensively work on projects and activities related to it for the duration of an entire year. Some of the SEWA themes we’ve worked upon in the past include a partnership with Digantar – an alternative school for rural children, A Breath of Fresh Air responding to Delhi’s air pollution crisis and K’no’w your Plastic – a theme that looks at sustainable alternatives to plastic.
Once again, as in the case of the Annual Shiksha theme, since a project is taken up for an extended period of time, it enables deep enquiry and exploration, allows students to experience a genuine sense of achievement from having seen a project through to completion, and equally, allows them to learn from their failures too. Most importantly, students learn that little change or impact is possible unless the initial zeal and the excitement of good intentions is translated into a commitment of long term dedication and perseverance.
The Disha Programme
Disha is an outbound learning programme that encourages children to travel, wander and seek in all directions till they find an inner direction and purpose of their own.
As part of the programme, all children starting from grade III are taken for an annual out-station trip to a site in the vicinity of the capital. Accompanied by teachers and friends, and travelling for the first time without their parents, the trip offers many an opportunity for them to learn the vital life-skills of learning how to pack, being responsible for one’s own belongings, looking out for each other and time-management. Outdoor adventure activities and team-building games organised on such trips further give them the opportunity to acquire leadership skills and practice collaboration. Community service activities, on the other hand, allow an expression of humility and gratitude. As children build roads and sports courts, paint walls and make classroom props for the communities that host them, they also make new friends, build banks of treasured memories and discover purpose and passion.