Student reflections on training placement in Kolkata: Intercultural learning experiences and kindness of staff members


Author Siiri Salminen, Ella Markkola, Selina Keränen

TopicsBlog posts & articles, Information for students

In this short report, students from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, will share experiences from the Heritage School, from July-August 2023. There were altogether four students at the practice placement, and this report is composed by three, Siiri, Ella and Selina, who spent their time with the smaller children, in Ankur and Ankuran. We will look back on all the experiences we had throughout our interesting time at the Heritage school.

Experience in Ankur

Siiri spent 5 weeks with classes in Ankur, first in 1E, then 1A and in the end, most of the weeks with 1C – observing, assisting and teaching. The class 1C with Kerri Ma’am was chosen, since Siiri had interest in SEN-students, regarding her minor studies of special education. The 5 weeks were a great learning experience and a great opportunity for intercultural competence. The time with 1C taught a lot about the Indian and Heritigian education system and gave a lot of insight into teaching in a second language. The students of the class were very skilled and responsible for their learning, and a lot of mirroring took place within insights of Finnish education and Indian education, regarding the differences and similarities. A lot of interesting conversations took place with faculty, as well as mutual learning. The working environment was very supportive.

Siiri had an opportunity to teach several classes to the students, and teaching via student-centered and playful methods was very thrilling. From the practice placement’s goal of 24 classes held, the amount lacked due to the Jungle Book concert practice taking hours from academic teaching. But in the end, following and observing the whole concert project and practices was also a very fulfilling learning experience, since nothing like this has Siiri experienced before – over 600 students under 9 years old doing a whole big Jungle Book Concert. While watching the end result, tears of joy were seen of all the hard work coming to one amazing show. It was also a nice experience to teach a Finnish Heritage class about Kalevala with cooperation with Ila Ma’am for the 5th grade.

All in all, it was a great learning experience at Ankur, and Siiri is thrilled, that also some of her teaching practices were taken as part to other class 1’s as well. At the final day, Siiri would’ve wished to have been able to spend even a longer period of time with the students – the universal childhood was so lovely to experience also here. Siiri wants to give special regards and thanks to Nandita Ma’am for all the help throughout the practice placement and with everyday encounters.

Siiri (in the middle) holding a Moomin book as a gift for the class 1’s surrounded with teachers from class 1. On her left side her mentor of class 1C Kerri Ma’am, and on her right side Ankur’s deputy coordinator Nandita Ma’am.

Experience in Ankuran

Ella and Selina spent two weeks observing the activities of the pre-primary classes in Ankuran and three weeks working on a development project which was their university’s internship assignment. The practice placement focused on gaining expertise in researching, evaluating the systems of ECE and developmental tasks in the field of ECE. The development project was implemented with five discussion sessions with the teachers of Ankuran. Before the sessions the teachers were able to vote on the topics they were most interested in. The chosen topics were:

  • Introduction to Finnish early childhood education and care,
  • Play-based learning in kindergarten and pre-school and
  • Children’s active participation in planning of classroom activities.

In these sessions we presented some practical examples from Finnish ECE of the chosen topics, shared our thoughts, reflected, and discussed and through that to also found keys to improve our expertise in those areas.

Nirmal Ma’am and Mini Ma’am helped in planning the development project so that it would be most beneficial for the everyone and suit well to the schedule in Ankuran. The entire work community in Ankuran was very welcoming, positive, work-oriented, inspiring and it was a pleasure to work with everyone. We received positive feedback from the discussion sessions and feel that our shared moments developed both our own and Akuran’s working community’s expertise. Working together with Nirmal Ma’am, Mini Ma’am and the teachers was very motivating, and we feel that this kind of cooperation develops international expertise in the field of early childhood education in both ways.

Ella and Selina (in the middle) with their mentors and teachers of Ankuran.

Overall experience and closing words

Our stay at the Heritage School was filled with welcoming kindness. We had a lot of help from the staff – from principals to coordinators to teachers to didis. Encountering the children and seeing their joy was one of the most special things and seeing the children thriving in their education.

Some matters that could be taken into consideration in the future are, for example, meeting the coordinators before the practice placement. We feel that getting to know the cooperating parties, such as unit leaders or teachers, would make the internship more efficient. At those meetings it would be good to agree on the goals of the internship so that all the parties knowthe aim of the internship and their roles during the internship.

Regarding our overall experience we are very thankful for the kindness of all of the Heritage, for all the cooperation, delicious breakfasts and lunches, and the opportunity to take the schoolbus with children and the teachers. All in all, our stay in Kolkata and at the Heritage School was a meaningful intercultural learning experience. In this globally developing world we live in, sharing our thoughts and knowledge and learning from each other is even more important than before.

We all hope to get new chances of learning like this. Hopefully time will bring us back to visit the Heritage again!

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