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Redesigning K-12 schools in India as schools of tomorrow

Brainfeed interacted with two educators to understand the scope of Design thinking in India. Excerpts of their views: Revathi Srinivasan, Principal, Singhania School, Mumbai

Redesigning K-12 schools in India as schools of tomorrowRedefining curriculum

All learning has to be an integral part of the curriculum. Learning by thinking, learning by doing, learning by reflecting is a pedagogy that we have been following for a long time. Instead of teaching by the way of information or knowledge downloaded, teaching with the purpose of building the spirit of inquiry, reasoning, questioning and finding solutions. These can be part of the classroom transactions, as well as the process of evaluation and assessments.

Thinking differently

Design thinking involves cross-curricular linkages and it is also across grades. Innovation can happen only when students and teachers develop the skill to be able to think differently to problem solve or to create new knowledge. For this, understanding, thinking differently, communicating ideas and collaborating will help them to find newer solutions that lead to new learning through experimentation. Projects, group thinking, events, within schools and with other schools will help to create time and space to work as a group.


When journey map is made, it becomes a simple framework to help students and teachers to collectively identify a problem or an experience that will lead to visualizing experiences from the other end. The brainstorming session will help to get a clearer picture of the problem itself. So, everyday problems have found solutions through students. The solution thinking component method has helped students to develop life skills like empathy, creativity, sharing, collaborating, problem solving.

The stages for the project work are as follows:

  • Understand
  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test
  • Evaluate & Reflect
  • Disrupt for Good

Carpool project

In view of a large number of cars at school, the students of class II took up the problem of pollution – noise and air, conservation of fuel (petrol, diesel). The students campaigned extensively across all classes and impressed upon 7,000 students of the school and their parents to car-pooling.

The result: The number of cars reduced to 1/4th of their usual number after the rigorous campaign which included advertisements, street plays, smiley stickers, skits, songs composed by students on carpooling.

Safety project (digital whistle)

With increasing 2-wheelers and rash driving, the students of Std. IX felt the need to identify solutions to reduce accidents and also help traffic police to be more effective in getting hold of lawbreakers. The students made a whistle that could be worn like a wristwatch by the traffic police on the traffic island. If any vehicle moves swiftly, breaking the traffic rules, the cop has to just press the button on the watch that gives the same whistling sound which will halt the vehicle. We also ensured that vehicles coming in to school had PUC check and certificate and 2-wheelers were wearing helmets. No-one is allowed in the vicinity of the school without helmets. This project was highly appreciated by the State Government, Traffic Police department and was selected to be presented at the National Children’s Science Congress as an innovation for the safety of the police personnel who have to face hardships of noise and air pollution.

How would you encourage an introvert child in your classroom?

  • Build a positive culture of happy learning in a school where the teacher is not judgmental.
  • Avoid ranking systems
  • Encourage students to actively participate in discussions by giving them areas where they are good at and which when projected gets them applause.
  • An introvert can work with a couple of topics in-depth rather than a variety of them. He needs more time to develop his ideas and wishes to work independently or in very small groups. So the teacher must ensure that she makes groups of like-minded children before moving into a diverse group.
  • Answers and presentations made in rotations will help the introvert child to exhibit confidence.
  • Confidence building and good self-esteem are the key words for the success of every child.

Redesigning K-12 schools in India as schools of tomorrowRohit Swarup,

Founder & Chairman, Innovation & Research Foundation

Future of design thinking, tread cautiously


The ever-increasing complexity and speed of technology, media and socio-cultural-economic changes taking place in the world are going to increase even further. We children project related problem/ possibilities. The understanding, learning and making the children learn the tools-techniques, methods-processes, these can be achieved through teaching-learning aid i.e. Kits both online and offline that include: Play cards, Slide presentations, Mind Maps, Audiovisual tools, Posters, Manuals, case studies etc.

Learning Outcomes

Students will report immeasurable positive results such as:

  • Conceptual clarity and understanding of abstract subjects such as language & mathematics improves (Real- Abstract, Known to Unknown, geometry)
  • Exploratory skills growing becoming better at Science & Geography (Visualization)
  • Better at Language skills (Communication, Bodily Expression)
  • Understand self, others and environment better thus, better at comprehending and adapting to scenarios. E.g., career & profession clarity. Thus a reduction in anxiety and fear towards marks and career become efficient and effective. (Culture, Bodily Expressions, Search & Research, Analysis & Synthesis)
  • Team player i.e. collaborative development (Multiple Intelligence, group work in projects)
  • Become purposeful i.e. clarity of thoughts, ideas and resulting action thereby becoming proactive, self-learner and loving subjects, shall also result in being a sensitive & responsible citizen.
  • Creativity and Innovation makes resource – ability (skill) and not a dream thus develops Creative Confidence (Multisensory, Imagination, Original Thinking & Research)
  • Showcase ideas and creations to parents, teachers and school staff; along with pay it forward where a child becomes a mentor. Also showing the output through use of material, medium and technology – Entrepreneurial & Leadership abilities shall develop (tangible and intangible products & services respectively)

Let’s take up the challenge!

India being a socio-culturally-economically diverse nation, the challenges to incorporate design thinking in schools are no less. Children are being exposed to problems of constant change, information-technology explosion, increasing pace, future insecurity, rapid urbanization, nucleus families, work-life imbalance, unemployment, conflicts, stress-tension, addictions, eroding ethics-values, self over others and terrorism-war. How do we keep these in the preview? We are talking about a movement away from the 3R-reading, writing and arithmetic and from a culture of marks to a methodology (Design Thinking) that is opposite to it.

Broadly, the challenges include, government initiative to launch such a subject / program in schools, education boards recognition to such programs, flexibility in academic framework to bring in design thinking, curriculum development, challenges across education boards and types of schools (govt. & private), teacher training, assessment criteria, objective of launching such programs, incentive for school management to run such programs, bringing about a mindset amongst all stakeholders for a drastic and innovative approach such as design thinking. It’s like disrupting the education system, making teachers unlearn and adapting newer methodologies.

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