UWC Mahindra College monthly newsletter

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Head of College's message

UWCSEA in Singapore was the venue for this month’s UWC Council, Board and Heads’ meetings: a remarkable campus of over 4000 students set in the heart of an exciting and dynamic city.  The prospect of relentless meetings over many days is hardly a recipe for inspiration, but these were a fascinating exception!   

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Its busy, its very busy at Mahindra College

UWC Mahindra College is a busy place! Not only do the students have a challenging academic program to follow, but also a demanding co-curricular program aligned with (and greatly exceeding) the CAS requirements of the IB. Our approach to co-curricular education means that students are engaged in active learning in community with others -- on campus, in our local region, on the national stage (through Project Weeks), and beyond.

Professonal Development in Hong Kong

I attended my first Category 3 PYP, MYP and DP Continuum Workshops in Hong Kong at the Chinese International School from 22 October - 24 October.

Student article

The following is an article which appeared in the UWC World bi annual publication printed in October 2010.

Cinema in the City

Professor Ranjini Mazumdar teaches Cinema Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, a highly reputed university in Delhi. She was a documentary filmmaker before she became an academic.

Inspirational moments in Pune

When the Pune-based charity, Tej Gyan Foundation were able, against all odds, to get the Dalai Lama to change his very tight schedule (His Holiness is booked up 2 years in advance), the citizens of Pune were given a great blessing.


Congratulations to the newly formed Debating Club which, although only in its second year, managed to reach the semi finals of the prestigious Debating Forum of India. A good effort for their first competition.

Guest speakers on campus

On 14 October 2010, Dr Pushpa Robin from the Department of Biochemistry, Vadodra gave a talk to interested faculty and students on jathropa - a bio diesel plant.

Sodexo - who are they actually?

Sodexo provide Mahindra College with housekeeping and food services and their staff are a friendly and vital addition to the college community. Apart from patiently cleaning up after the student evening binges and the dogs who come to share in the fun, they also clean faculty housing once a week and provide around 650 meals a day for us hungry UWCers. But who exactly are Sodexo?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Head of College's message

The new academic year started in typical MUWCI fashion – a frenzy of activity as over 200 students descend on the campus from every corner of the globe!  For new students, the first few days can be a bewildering roller-coaster ride of excitement and information overload - in this dynamic mix of emotion, high expectation and energy the magic of this life defining experience is often found!

This is a year of new things – a new timetable, new exeats, a longer winter break, a new UWC Code of Conduct, new Triveni frameworks, a new Learning Support centre and exciting new plans for future developments (including a new wada).

Taking new paths is never easy when the voices of the past advise us to tread familiar routes.  Scott Peck in The Road Less Travelled describes the importance of developing a courageous open mindedness to change,

To develop a broader vision we must be willing to forsake our narrower vision.  In the short run it is more comfortable not to do this – to stay where we are, to keep using the same map, to avoid suffering the death of cherished notions.  The road of growth, however, lies in the opposite direction.  We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear.

Change carries the risk of getting it wrong.  But, as Scott Peck suggests, change also carries the promise of growth.  Amongst the challenges of change, for new students and returning students alike, are some of the greatest opportunities for growth this place has to offer.  As we consider taking our own “roads less travelled” this year we may, perhaps, find the courage to take one or roads never travelled before!

Dr Jonathan Long
Head of College

Fostering global consciousness at UWC Mahindra College: Cambridge’s Global Perspectives and the IB’s World Studies

UWC Mahindra has, since its inception, been a pioneer in the development of interdisciplinary academic courses that focus on global issues and concerns. It is currently piloting the Cambridge pre-U’s Global Perspectives course. Six graduates completed the course in June 2010; eleven second-years are scheduled to finish it in June 2011; and about 25 first-years students have begun doing the course this September. The course looks at various issues – such as globalization, China / India as superpowers, science and politics of climate change, peak oil theories, and medical ethics. Several sources are used to acquaint students with the relevant content but the focus is on getting students to critically evaluate the role of the media in its coverage of these issues, from different political and cultural perspectives.

The World Studies Extended Essay was developed at Mahindra College in 2002 and students have been doing it since 2004. In recent years approximately half its students chose to do their EE in World Studies. Students choose a global issue (say, infant malnutrition, or the distortion of history by governments in power) and study it in depth in one or two local case-studies. The IB converted it into a pilot in 2007, and the Harvard Zero Project (headed by Prof Howard Gardner) was brought in to provide the theoretical framework for both inter-disciplinary learning and the acquisition of global consciousness.

At a meeting of pilot schools, and Harvard scholars held in Cardiff (Sept 18-20) teacher support materials and assessment schemas for the WS EE were developed and finalized. Based on the Mahindra experience, the World Studies EE will now be open to all students in all IB schools across the world. Mahindra College’s Deputy Head Dr Cyrus Vakil, who represented the college at Cardiff, and was one of the three faculty who developed the World Studies EE in 2002, feels this is only the first step. “Now that the EE is going main stream, our next project is to convince the IB to design, or to entrust us to design and pilot a Global Studies two-year course. I can’t think of a more fertile ground to develop it on than with Mahindra students.”   

Cyrus Vakil
Deputy Head  

New staff

Added to the 117 new students to Mahindra College we also welcome the following staff members:

Bridget Thomson who comes to us with partner Stephen & son Auryn. Bridget will be teaching English A2 and History and Stephen teaching A1 Self-Taught. Bridget was living in the UK prior to her arrival in India, helping to set up up South Downs Small School in Amberley, West Sussex.

Liam Goodacre is a former student of UWC Atlantic College, UK. Liam will be teaching Philosophy.

Pramod & Sheela Menon arrive, along with Penny Fidler, from South India. All have been working in the Kodaikanal International School. Pramod will teach English A, Sheela will work part time in the World Religions section and Penny will concentrate on external relations, systems and communications.

Newly married Vineet Mullappilly, just finished with his PhD in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai, has joined the Humanities department to teach Economics. He comes with his wife Jyoti.

Pablo Ricardo will teach Spanish. Pablo is a Spanish native and was working in UWC Atlantic College prior to his move to India.

Swati Das, coming to Mahindra College from the International School of Bangalore, with her 2nd year daughter, Supriya, will teach math.

Student teachers, Dominique and Sarah have joined from Pearson College for one year in the Akshara department.

Note from the Editor

In an attempt to better inform our parent community of events and happenings on campus, this newsletter is intended to provide a monthly selection of articles and information written by faculty and students on events that have occurred during the month. Although the main intention is to keep you up to date on the large variety of exciting events, articles on subjects of interest may also be included as well as clips / links to external articles that provoke, inform, amuse or entertain.

If you have something to say, or a clip you would like to share, then please submit your article or links to me and I will try to ensure inclusion. The link to the newsletter will be emailed out at the end of each month to staff, students, parents, national committees, board members and eventually alumni once we can get a reliable mailing list put together.

I look forward to having a close collaboration with you all and to providing an easy means for all of the UWC community to see what is going on in this isolated campus somewhere near Pune in Maharashtra.

Penny Fidler

Education World Survey 2010

The Mahindra United World College's performance according to the Education World Survey of 2010 has risen sharply to fourth position since last year. In the words of the Editor, Dilip Thakore,

"The EW-C fore India’s Most Respected Schools Survey 2010, for which 2,062 respondents comprising a mix of fees-paying parents, principals and educationists countrywide were quizzed by C fore field-researchers over a period of three months, offers comprehensive information to parents searching for suitable schools for their children, and institutional managements striving to improve their performance and image. Admittedly, perceptual opinion polls are not an entirely accurate barometer of institutional performance because a school, whose public relations is better than education delivery, may well receive unwarrantedly higher ratings and ranking. But a high public profile is a two-edged sword. When things go wrong, the reputation of high-profile institutions plunges precipitously, as seen in the rankings of several schools in the EW-C fore 2010 survey."

To find out more click here.

Orientation 2010

The academic year 2010 kicked off on Thursday, 18 August when the first year students began their introduction to school life in the Mahindra College. Assisted as always by a volunteer group of second year students who, having arrived the previous week, were ready to provide a supportive and informative addition to the general orientation process.

Settling in a group of 117 new students of 43 nationalities and numerous religious and ethnic backgrounds in no easy task. Added to the 96 second year students, who themselves represent 41 nationalities, makes the group a widely diverse student body, probably one of the largest coming together anywhere on Indian soil. Added to this group are the 31 staff which itself includes Spanish, American, Australian, German and British representatives, a general climate of diversity in thought, culture and opinion is assured.

So how is this all best achieved? Faculty and students have a general common perspective. So the orientation program for new students, whilst essentially led by faculty who inform and assist on subject choices, residential life, IT requirements, admin procedures etc, volunteer second year students are around to ensure that everyone knows where they should be at any given time, that activities are abundant to facilitate and strengthen the bonding process and that, wherever possible, no-one is left behind or discluded from this essential group experience.

The gentle rainfall and cool climate of the monsoon month of August helps lower the stress levels and the support offered ensures that initially good choices are made in terms of subject selection. The one month trial period allows for any changes to be made in subject choice and scheduling although this does provide an initially difficult situation for faculty as students shop around for their "best" subject choices.

Interspersed with blood tests, engraving of names on personal laptops, Ipods, phones etc, a number of activities to acclimatize the many students coming in from overseas include a 2 hour hike around the local neighboring lands, a Swedish theme dinner, a cultural trip to Pune, several birthday celebrations, advisor / advisee meetings and a few chill out spots set up with music and games to help provide suitable moments to decompress during this intense 4-day program.

All in all another college academic year kicks into gear with the enthusiasm and excitement common to this unique little campus lost in the hills of Maharashtra.

Dr Rick Harwood

Mahindra College recently welcomed Dr Rick Harwood to campus for a couple of weeks. Rick has very recently retired as a Deputy Head and Director of Studies. He is Chair of the Council of International Schools Science Committee and one of the editors of Science in School.

He has written highly regarded text books on Chemistry for A-Levels and IGCSE and is now working with the IB to develop resources for Chemistry and Biology. He is currently working on a project with Durham University which looks at developing "international mindedness" in students.

He is also very involved as an accreditation team leader for the Council of International Schools - and I very much hope he will be able to offer us some guidance around seeking our own accreditation with CIS some time in the future.

I am also hoping that Rick can help us to think through the possibility of developing an approach to base-line testing of students so that we can begin to make better informed judgements about students at the interview stage and also calculate some kind of value-added index in the course of their 2-years with us. This is an area he has worked on extensively in recent years.

Dr Jonathan Long


Congratulations to the following students who were recently selected to take part in the Model United Nations (CHEMUN) in Chennai which is set up by the students of the American International School of Chennai:

2nd years: Yanna,Mathew,Karan H,Alokik,Neal and1st years: Divir, Remmelt, Gautam, Avineesh,Caner,Rickie and Yuefan

CHEMUN is a Chennai based, academic simulation of the original UN that “aims to educate participants about civics, current events, effective communication, globalisation and multilateral diplomacy. In a standard Model UN, students take on roles of diplomats and participate in a simulated session of an intergovernmental organisation (IGO).”
Participants research a country, take on roles as diplomats, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems. This is especially relevant in today’s world where students can discuss, debate and make their own policy decisions on various topics. And it goes without saying that the MUN is one of the hotspots for networking and building relationships.
The idea of MUN-ing is still in a nascent stage in the southern part of the country, specifically Chennai, with most of the quality ones being held in the north. However, this is a regular in most of the national law colleges and some engineering colleges that have experienced MUN-ers as students. In fact there are whole groups, communities across the electronic media solely dedicated to this cause. It provides the valuable opportunity to understand globalisation in its true sense…

Learning through adventure

United World Colleges provide unique experiences through thought, interaction, education and experience to young people from all over the world. It was one of Kurt Hahn’s visions to give emphasis on experiential learning for young people through outdoor adventures. Outdoor experiences not only provide active learning but they help us reflect and internalize whatever we learn. Mahindra College is trying to create opportunities to explore the unknown in a safe environment through outdoor adventure activities. Our programmes will focus on 

  • Reflection on doing
  • Decision making and problem solving skills
  • Engaging individuals on a more personal level by addressing the needs of each individual
  • Developing leadership qualities
  • Learning through fun
  • Creating a safe, secure and caring environment
This will take place through rafting, trekking, organized hikes, camping throughout the year, during the Project  Weeks, long weekends and exeats. Mahindra College will use the expertise of both external and internal groups to help organize these activities which will take place mainly in the Sahyadris region but also in the Himalayas. Apart from its focus on adventure students will be encouraged to get to know the people, culture and environment of the areas. 

The International Youth Award will provide an opportunity to have these experiences validated through an internationally recognized qualification. We would also like to develop ways to create internal assessment for our students which will help them gain credits for college admissions.

Harendra Shukla
Adventure Programme Coordinator

Mount Wilkinson hike

This was the second hike after orientation week. Mount Wilkinson has always been a popular weekend hike among the MUWCI community.

We left on Saturday morning with a lot of eatables and hot chai. The weather was perfect and the view on the way is amazing. We were walking on a green carpet (which you find only during the rainy season). On the top it was misty and cloudy. After having breakfast the group checked out the amazing view and all were happy to have made that extra special effort to get out of bed! Not easy on Saturday morning!

Harendra Shukla
Adventure Program Coordinator

Project week

In November almost the entire population of the college will leave the campus to take part in various projects in different parts of India. The projects on offer this year are as follows:

Alice’s Project, Varanasi

Alice’s Project is an NGO that is involved in educating under-priviledged children but in a more holistic way. Located in Sarnath, a center for Buddhism near Varanasi, it is one of India’s oldest cities sitting on the banks of the Ganges river and one of the holiest places for Hindus.

The website states: “Body and intellect are combined with yoga and meditation, taught as part of the core curriculum to every child every day. In this same way, spirit and emotions are not separate as they are part of our every day talking and thinking.” Alice’s project also includes teacher training and, to a lesser extent, is involved in community development.

Students who make Alice’s Project their choice for project week will have an opportunity to interact with both teachers and students to understand the reality of life in Sarnath and the challenges the people there face. The participants will also prepare lessons, sharing cultural information from their region / country and develop a small project with the organizers. Students should be open to learning from the students, participating in yoga and meditation sessions and will also be expected to share some of their own creative talents during their interactions.  

Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), Bangalore

The Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA) is a child-centered, rights-based, community development organization founded in 1981 and located in Bangalore. APSA works at two levels - at the grassroots level where the focus is on empowerment of the poor and at the macro level of the state and the country through advocacy and policy planning. This two-pronged approach is reflected in the planning and implementation of all of APSA's projects.

Last year's project week in APSA was planned collaboratively by MUWCI volunteers and APSA staff. After a day's orientation on APSA's projects, our volunteers spent the rest of the week with the Child Labour project, who at the time had a campaign in progress. This allowed our volunteers to take part actively in conducting surveys. They accompanied the Child Labour project team to government institutions, visited slums, attended women's group meetings - all of which helped them arrive at a holistic picture of child labour in the context of urban poverty. They also learned to deal realistically with issues of rehabilitation, processes of law, child rights versus family rights etc.

CHiRAG, Uttaranchal

Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHiRAG) is a non-profit grassroots development organisation working with rural communities in the Central Himalayan region of India. Their main office is located in the village of Sitla in the state of Uttaranchal. CHiRAG is also involved with issues of social empowerment and community mobilization, income generation and training and communication which it considers critical to its integrated development strategy. Areas of intervention include preparatory schools or balwaris, primary school support programmes, with a thrust on environmental education, village libraries, science laboratories, centres for adolescent girl empowerment, preventive and curative health programmes and a local self-governance programme.

During the project week students will be taken to the health centres, introduced to the adolescent girls programme and work in the horticulture farm. They will also visit the weaving and oil extraction unit and have an opportunity to attend a village meeting. Please check the following websites for further information:


Eklavya, Madhya Pradesh

This project week choice, based in the small town of Hoshangabad on the scenic Narmada River, questions will be raised concerning the purpose and reality of school education in India. In particular we will ask: What role can education play in social / political transformation? What difference does scientific literacy make? What is worth reading? In whose interest is education? Evidence and answers will be sought through activities with children and teachers. We will be guests of Eklavya, an NGO that has been developing innovative teaching programmes, writing and publishing children’s textbooks, storybooks, magazines and books on science and education, as well as training teachers, teaching students, making educational toys, science kits and assisting schools in planning and development. The goal will be for students to learn something about the people of India, their educational needs and the politics of poverty. Besides visiting a local government school, MUWCI students will have the opportunity to help plan and conduct a Bal Mela in which rural children will gather to do science experiments and art activities. Students will also be expected to either write or illustrate some material that will be considered for publication in one of the Eklavya magazines.

FabIndia School, Rajasthan

The FabIndia school is located in a rural district of Rajasthan and was set up in 1992 to promote literacy and further education opportunities through English as a medium of study.  This is a new project week choice this year, and will likely involve students preparing a global appreciation unit for the students in the FabIndia school. This project will focus on identifying national and cultural differences / similarities between India and some of the countries represented by the MUWCI group. The students will prepare different presentations about their own nations and cultures, focusing on particular themes like food, dress, marriage etc. They will also develop different activities to focus on cultural differences, cultural conflicts and respect for different cultures. One of the aims will also be to improve the proficiency of the FabIndia school’s children’s knowledge of English and this can also be integrated into the program. The entire class time of one or two grades (from grades 6-12) will be available for around five hours a day of class time for the duration of the project.  Participants will home stay with some of the local students.

Irula Tribe and Crocodile Bank, Tamil Nadu

The Irula project, located in rural and coastal Tamil Nadu, has two aspects to it. In the first phase students will go to a village in the interior and work with the Irula Tribal Women's Welfare Society (ITWWS). The Irulas, one of the sixth oldest forest dwelling people of the world, are famous as snake catchers. The ITWWS is one of the initiatives to economically and socially rehabilitate the Irula tribe and among other activities they are now licensed to capture venomous snakes in order to assist in anti-venom production for vaccines. Students will learn about their lifestyle as well as participating in re-forestation work

The second aspect of the project involves working at the Madras Crocodile Bank. This will familiarize students on the background of the crocodile bank and teach them how  to look after the crocodile population by helping to feed them and clean the pits.

Kalpavriksh, Sirsi, Karnataka

This topic will involve active participation with an NGO in their efforts to get communities involved with biodiversity conservation. The effort facilitated by Kalpavriksh, near the town of Sirsi in northern Karnataka, is an innovative experiment in getting ordinary people involved in protecting biodiversity. This community programme is located in the forests of the Western Ghats in Karnataka where students will be staying in village homes, participating in seed collections and other activities, getting to know the local community and how they live (including the rich local cuisine!), interacting with environmentalists and ecologists and participating in several hikes into the heart of the forest. 

Sangama, Bangalore                          

Sangama is a sexual minorities human rights organization for individuals oppressed due to their sexual preference. Sexual minorities include, but are not limited to, hijras, kothis, jogappas, lesbians, bisexuals, homosexuals, female-to-male / male-to-female transsexuals. Sangama aims to help these people live with self acceptance, self respect and dignity. They especially emphasize the concerns of sexual minorities from poor and / or non-English speaking backgrounds and sex workers, who otherwise have little or no access to information and resources. Sangama aims to bring sexuality, sexual preference and gender identity into the realm of public discourse and link it to gender, human rights development and other social movements. Sangama campaigns for the changes in the existing laws, which discriminate against sexual minorities, including sex workers and people living with HIV / AIDS (PLHA). They work with family members, friends, co-workers and partners of sexual minorities.

While at Sangama, students will have interactive field visits, watch documentaries, hear personal experiences from the community, take part in sessions on lesbian issues, workshops on human rights and sexuality and an activity session / group discussion with a college in Bangalore where Sangama conducts their awareness program. They will also participate in any campaigns that may take place during our time with them.

Shanti Nir (Nest of peace), Calcutta

There are two parts of the Shanti Nir project. Shanti Nir, a Jesuit NGO run by Father Saju George, offers extra help to students of labourers in the evening. Many students are taught free of charge and some others pay for the classes depending on their means. The project aims to reinforce what students learn at school. The students interact with children from grades 6 through grades 10 and share games and other global cultures with them.

The second part, at the Mother Theresa Mission, deals with the ailing and dying. At one facility there are mentally challenged patients who are very ill and have been picked up from the streets of Kolkatta. The work involves taking care of their daily needs, such as washing their clothes, vessels after breakfast and sweeping and washing the open spaces, as well as shaving the men. It also requires students to help care for the women by spending time talking with them.

Centre for Environment Education

CEE's work in Gujarat was initiated prior to 1984 as has its headquarters at Ahmedabad. At the time it began its activities, CEE was perhaps the only organization actively engaged in environmental education in the country. The focus of CEE's work in the state has been promoting environment education leading to environmental action.

Some of the ongoing and important projects in the state are: Education for Children, EE in Higher Education, Education for Youth, Communicating through Media, EE through Interpretation, Sustainable Rural Development, Sustainable Urban Development, Training, Networking and Capacity Building.

Ganesh Visarjan

For every person living in Maharashtra, the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is almost always the most exciting part of the year. The 10-14 days of festivities in honour of the elephant-god Ganesh/Ganapati/Vinayaka/Ekadanta is the source of rejoicing in many households. Things were no different in MUWCI. The entire duration of the festival was marked by the placement of the Ganesh idol behind the cafeteria and the daily Aarti pujas (prayers) at 06:35 pm which were attended by many students, faculty and staff, regardless of their faith. However, the most memorable part of the festivities was the final day, the day of the immersion.

On 22 September the idol was to be immersed so the god could go back to his abode at the end of the festivities. A very huge section of the school congregated next to the idol in the afternoon to escort it to the nearby Mulshi river, by the village of Khubavali, to immerse it. The idol was placed on a trailer being pulled by a tractor along with huge speakers which continuously played music as we went down from the college to the village. The students, faculty and staff danced incessantly to this music and also threw symbolic pink gulaal (powder) at each other. Upon reaching the village, we joined the villagers in the final prayer, and then proceeded to the river. After the immersion of the idol, many of the students swam in the river, an experience in itself.

For all of the students, Ganesh Chaturthi was an opportunity to learn about Maharashtran traditions while enjoying and revelling in local customs.