Bringing Progressive, Inquiry based Education to students

David Udry, Head – Mount Litera School International

Been an educator all through his life, David Udry’s first job was as a summer camp counselor at the age of 13, teaching about nature to younger students.  Passionate about constructing knowledge with young people he enjoys nothing more than asking questions to the students and seeing how they work out an answer.  This really keeps his brain young, he says.

His other passion is Anthropology, he loves learning about different cultures. David fell in love with India when he first visited as a student in 1987.  As an anthropologist there is no greater place to live, he says and adds that everyday some new facet of Indian life and culture revels itself, keeping him excited always.

Combining both his passions, David went on to secure a Master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in International Education Development. He holds a Bachelors of Arts from Drew University, Madison.

As the Head of Mount Litera School International , he relies heavily on his anthropology background.  “A positive, loving and safe school culture is imperative for student success.  Having a holistic view of culture really helps me to implement this” adds David.

Prior to Mount Litera School International, David has been associated with Long island University, SelaQui World School, D.Y.Patil International School, Indus International School, Gems Genesis International School and Himalayan International School as well.

David shares his experiences in working in Indian Education sector and his outlook to the changing landscape of education with Team ABT.

Who is your greatest inspiration & Why?
I’ve had so many great teachers, it’s hard to single one out.  And my family has been very supportive, particularly my Mom and Dad.  But, I guess the greatest influence on my life and career has been Hermann Hesse the German author.   At least two of his works, Beneath the Wheel and Magister Ludi directly concern education.

In the first he writes about the toll a high pressure education with competitive exams takes on students.  In the end a talented and creative young man ends up committing suicide rather than failing in the exams.  It’s a tragic story that shows we must have compassion and treat students as individuals if we want them to succeed.

Magister Ludi tells of a utopian society for academics.  In it we see the Magister Ludi, go from being a great leader of the entire community to working with students in primary years.  This mirrors my own journey.  I started working with colleges and universities, but have found my greatest pleasure in working with younger students in school.

Tell us more about your journey as an Educationist
I’ve been lucky to work in two completely different education systems.  In the US, I focused on guiding college students towards specific careers.  It was very satisfying to help young adults pick a life path and start down it.  But I came to realize that when engaging with a student at the age of 18 or above, educators have less of an impact.

Working in India, I have enjoyed fantastic relationships with the students.  The average Indian’s attitude towards teachers is respectful and positive.  I’ve greatly enjoyed bringing a more progressive inquiry based education to students who had previously been immersed in a rote learning pedagogy.  To have been a small part of the great changes that are currently occurring in Indian education is humbling.

What are your views on the changing landscape of education delivery today, given the high tech world we live in?
Education is undergoing a massive change.  The traditional ‘factory’ method of teaching cannot prepare students for the new jobs that they will be taking.  No longer should schools focus on the three “r’s”: reading, ‘riting and ‘ritmatic, but instead have to develop the four “c’s”: communication skills, critical thinking skills, creative thinking skills and collaboration skills.

Curriculums which promote inquiry based learning are growing fast, because they develop the four c’s.  In the age of big data those who will be successful are those who can recognize trends and ideas in all that data out there, and how to use it to their advantage.  I strive to make sure my students are not only tech savvy, but are also able to distinguish true information from fake.

How is social media impacting education delivery today?
Social media’s impact on education in India is relatively less than other countries right now.  I’m very concerned about it’s potential for bullying.  But it can also be a great boon.  At MLSI we use google classroom as a way to store and share information between students and teachers.  We also have a youtube channel and are planning on live streaming our events for relatives who can’t attend them at the school.  It is crucial for schools to prepare students with a solid and evolving digital citizenship curriculum so they understand the ramifications of their actions online.

If you were to do one thing differently, what would that be?
I would have moved into teaching at the school level earlier in my career.  While I enjoyed working in colleges and universities, and made some differences there, I’ve found a special place for myself in working with K-12 students.

Could you recall any one proud moment/milestone?
I am most proud of one of my former students.  She joined the IB school I was working with in grade 11, from the national Indian curriculum.  She adapted to the change wonderfully.  She was one of the best students I have had in my Theory of Knowledge classes.  I helped her to choose and apply for a university in the US, she was accepted at her first choice and received a full scholarship.

What would you like to achieve in coming years?
My focus is on melding the richness of the IB curriculum with the expectations of Indian parents.  I want to help build Mount Litera School International into one of the prominent schools in India.