Ahlcon International School, Delhi

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2022: IIM-A case study

Manash Gohain, July 8, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: Close to 15 years of experimentation of empowering teachers with leadership qualities at a Delhi school became a case study at India’s top B-school, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. The case study on Ahlcon International School and its director Ashok Kumar Pandey was done by professor Ambrish Dongre of IIM-A’s Ravi J Matthai Centre for Education Innovation. 
The case study was developed against the backdrop of the realisation of Pandey, Ahlcon principal since 2003, that many schools had stopped “growing” and students missed the joy of learning of the challenge in finding high-quality teachers given that teacher quality fashions the quality of educational experiences. Pandey also felt that school principals acted more like administrators and not “pedagogical leaders”. 
Pandey began with several formal and informal practices to make Ahlcon a unique place as an educator. The IIM-A study highlights the rapid progress the school made in enrolment, students’ performance in the board exams and external awards received by teachers. 
During this over-a-decade-long experimentation, 65% of the teachers reported considerable improvement in teaching practices, personal and professional development, 68% reported improved communication with parents, 73% began appreciating the culture of learning and 38% reported considerable development in leadership qualities. Documenting these, the case study cites practices such as ‘teacher development’ brought in via focus on teacher dignity starting right at the time of recruitment, concessional fees for wards of teachers, good food for teachers when they had to come to the school for additional work or stay back, conveyance for teachers when they attended programmes outside the schools and sponsoring teachers to attend workshops and conferences, among many others.

Nurturing investment in teachers became Pandey’s USP. Ahlcon’s in-house teacher development programme, In-Service Education and Training, was designed by teachers after considering their own needs and constraints. The school also collaborated with Arijit Ghosh, who headed school programmes at the British Council, to develop the teachers’ action research skills. Thirteen Ahlcon teachers came up with questions that were relevant and important to them and conducted research with Ghosh’s help over six months.

Pandey noted that digital technology was becoming important in education and realised that while the learners were digital natives, the teachers were digital migrants who hadn’t yet mastered technology tools or fully grasped how to leverage such tools. Ahlcon partnered with Microsoft on training modules for tools aimed at teachers free of cost. Initially, 20 teachers signed up for these courses. But then the numbers increased quickly. By March 2019, almost all Ahlcon teachers had earned Microsoft credentials and the school became a Microsoft Showcase School.

“The objective of case study was not to pass a right or wrong judgment. We found potential in this case, particularly for leadership development studies,” said Dongre. “IIM-A faculty members have been having interactions with school leaders for some time now when they come to our institute for a five-day long programme. Pandey was one of the participants and he has been trying something interesting for continuous development of teachers and we felt that his unique effort should be documented. ”

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