From April 30 to May 4, 2015, DKCLI hosted a 5-day training, “Bringing 21st Century Methods into the Monastic Classroom,” led by Mrs. Jaya Das of Singapore and her assistant Mala. The training was attended by more than 40 rinpoches, lamas, tulkus, and khenpos, from all over India and Bhutan, including DKCLI, Sakya College, and Chökyi Gyatso Institute in Dewathang. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche also attended the entire workshop.
At first it seemed like just fun and games, but over the days it became clear to everyone that Mrs. Das meant business. She wanted each participant to clearly state how they would use her modern, interactive methods in their traditional monasteries. After some hesitation, they began to warm to the idea. For example, many khenpos agreed to try to introduce the concept of guided reviews in the afternoons instead of leaving the shedra students to study on their own. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s team created a strategy of “One hour of no Mrs. Das [meaning her strategies] and the rest of the day is all Mrs. Das.”
“The pedagogy is already there, and I like the way your merge it with modern training.” Said Mrs. Das. “Just one hour of engaged, interactive group work will help them understand the content, to make it meaningful to them, instead of just memorizing the words.”
Mrs. Das is a highly experienced educator from Singapore, where she taught for 35 years. Now she travels the world conducting workshops in student-centered teaching and learning. She has consulted for schools and ministries in the United States, Russia, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Bahrain, Libya, Malaysia, Indonesia, Macau, the Philippines, and Bhutan. She led the group in activities that covered subjects such as 21st century skills and competencies; active learning strategies for greater student engagement; collaborative learning; and brain-based learning.
She and her sister Nirmala captivated the audience. Everyone sat together as equals as Mrs. Das instructed them to fully participate in the lively activities. “Now I understand that teaching requires an understanding of the brain,” said one participant. “I know I will be a better teacher because of Mrs. Das,” said Khenpo Choying Dorjee. On the last day, a group of the attendees did a “flash mob” style tribute to Mrs. Das by doing a call and response chant of all her best methods (“Ten minutes talk…two minutes stop! Make them move, let them stand, groups of four, discuss more!”). Much to Mrs. Das’s delight, the group ended with a loud supplication: “Tell me more! Tell me more! Mrs. Das whom we adore!”
Photo: Participants in the Mrs. Das’s workshop at DKCLI, Chauntra, India in May, 2015. Photo by Pawo Choying Dorji.