“What are the possible routes one could take from Canada to India?” Ask a bunch of class V students this and you are bound to get a set of interesting answers.

“Let's go through the Pacific!” said one boy, jumping in his place. “No, through the Atlantic Ocean, Southern Ocean, and then the Indian Ocean,” said another. “Oh, you prefer a water route, is it?” asked their Social Studies teacher Savitha Padmanabhan. Students of V ‘H', Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (K. K. Nagar), were familiarising themselves with the continents and exploring the world map through a group activity that their teacher had designed. “Very exciting — how the teacher first asked questions, then gave the students an activity and summed it up with a review,” said Dorthea Anne Camp-White, a teacher from Florida.

Observing that her counterpart used pedagogic practices very similar to those in her school, she said: “Children are the same everywhere, aren't they.”

She is part of a 15-member delegation of teachers from the United States currently in India as part of a Fulbright programme on ‘Indian School Education System: Trends and Challenges' organised by the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF). Teachers grouped themselves according to the subject of their interest and observed different classes such as English, moral science and arts. “This is such a big school. It is hard to imagine how they manage 5,000-odd students,” said Elizabeth Marie Chapman, another visiting teacher.

The delegation members maintained that most of the teaching and learning practices were comparable to those used by them in the States. “Just that we might not have as many students in class,” said a teacher who attended the English class.

Observing that the students were “very self-disciplined,” a teacher said it was a striking feature. The programme, which includes a tour of the city and visit to schools, is aimed at giving the U.S. teachers a feel of Chennai and the educational ethos of select private schools.

Earlier on Tuesday, students and teachers of the school familiarised the guests to their morning assembly, with Balambal, who has been with the school from its day one, explaining the underlying ideology of the prayer and birthday song rendered in Sanskrit. Chandra Srinivasan, advisor to the school for academic and administrative matters, spoke on the ethos of the school, which laid stress on activity-based learning.

Indira Vaidyanathan, Principal of the school, said: “It is a great opportunity to share best practices. Besides giving our children a global perspective, we are keen on learning new methods and also sharing what has worked for us.” Many teachers of the school are also Fulbright fellows.

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