I recently returned from a 2 week trip to India. My 12 year old daughter, husband and I flew into New Delhi, and then spent 10 days in the state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayas, in the northern part India.
We were there to spend time at Akal Academy, Baru Sahib, a recently authorized International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB/PYP) World School. The administration at Akal Academy is dedicated to excellence in education, and eager to work with experienced practitioners of the PYP. They are also interested in collaborating with schools in other countries.
I was interested in traveling to India for several reasons. The first is that I love to travel and explore new countries. I like to think I model the IB attribute of “risk-taking” in that I welcome the opportunity to immerse myself in cultures that are far different than my own. India was certainly that! I also wanted to support a PYP school in another part of the world. I believe that with the privileges we enjoy here in the U.S., as well as the knowledge we have gained here at Seneca Academy, I have a responsibility to share with others. In addition, I am a very strong believer in the value and efficacy of the PYP and want to support others in its implementation. The third reason I wanted to travel to India was that I want my children to deeply understand their place in the world. Growing up in a middle class American community is a unique and actually unusual experience. Our children have access to opportunities and resources that most children around the world do not have. I want my own children to understand their privilege and have knowledge of and an open mind towards the rest of the world. Traveling to India with my daughter, and having her witness some of the world’s greatest extremes in wealth, materials and opportunity, was important to me.
What I learned while at Akal Academy was that despite our cultural differences, our schools are remarkably similar. Baru Sahib is primarily a Sikh community, so all of the students there wear turbans. The teachers are beautifully dressed in typical Indian outfits- the shalwar kameez. But it is mainly in dress that there are differences between us. Although in a very remote part of northern India, Baru Sahib is a bustling, modern and very progressive educational center; including a University, hospital, orphanage, and retirement center. Their mission is to promote scientific thinking and spirituality in the surrounding (underserved) region, with particular focus on educating girls. In the elementary classrooms there I found students eagerly and enthusiastically participating in challenging work. Teachers were highly knowledgeable about the theory and practice of implementing the PYP. Even the units of inquiry that were being taught there were similar to many of ours here at Seneca Academy. I was actually surprised at how much the classroom environment at Akal Academy mirrored our own.
In traveling to India and Akal Academy, I experienced (with my daughter) a culture very new to me. I also witnessed an educational program that was very familiar. I made friends and connections that I will maintain and enhance as I work to establish a permanent relationship between Seneca Academy and Akal Academy. I am convinced it will continue to benefit us both.