Govt grants help Sathya Sai school

Govt grants help Sathya Sai school
Peter Caton | 6th April 2010

SEVEN new classrooms, a learning centre, music room and renovations have been completed at the Sathya Sai Primary School in Murwillumbah with the help of Federal Government economic stimulus funds.

Nearly $1.5 million in building and renovation work was officially opened at the school on Friday by Federal MP for Richmond and Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot.

The project used $850,000 from the Federal Government’s Primary Schools for the 21st Century grants and a $600,000 from the Association of Independent Schools.

A spokeswoman said the school, which currently has about 100 students, is “now equipped to expand to seven single streams”.

Ms Elliot met with students and staff at the school to view the new and upgraded facilities describing the new facilities as exciting for the children and parents.

A week earlier she opened extensions at St Joseph’s Primary School in South Murwillumbah.

“It has been fantastic to see local principals, parents and tradespeople working together to deliver these important projects,” she said.

“Now that they are completed, teachers and students in our local schools will be teaching and learning in the 21st century facilities.”

Ms Elliot said the “Building the Education Revolution” program had delivered more than $110 million to the electorate of Richmond.

Tween Daily News Reference

Testy Over Standards

Testy Over Standards
Most private schools refuse to take part in provincial EQAO program
By JENNY YUEN, SUN MEDIA
Last Updated: 2nd March 2009, 4:41am

Toronto-area private schools aren’t putting stock into the standardized testing that parents can count on in the public system.

In an exclusive elementary school report card issue yesterday, the Sunday Sun reported private schools came second among GTA school boards, following the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud.

However, it’s difficult to get a full picture of how private schools rank in the evaluation by the Fraser Institute. Only seven of 250 private schools in the GTA voluntarily have their students take standardized provincial testing from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). While the testing is mandatory for public schools — it’s not in the private system.

The Fraser Institute, an independent think-tank, releases the annual report card, basing its findings on the province’s standardized EQAO tests, which are given to kids in Grades 3 and 6.

TOO MUCH COMPETITION

So why don’t private schools think EQAO is the way to go?

“We find our testing (Canadian Test Centre’s CAT-4 evaluation) tells us more about where we need to improve as teachers,” said Sybil Taylor, principal of Century Montessori Private School. “We did two years of EQAO in early 2000 and there was a feeling that there was too much competition with ranking.”

The North Toronto Christian School, a private school in the Finch-Bayview Aves. area, doesn’t perform EQAO testing because it costs $55 per pupil for private schools.

“Cost is an issue and we would generally question the value of this,” said Gordon Cooke, the school’s administrator. “We’re not convinced that EQAO is vigorous enough to test performance.”

The school, which has 600 students from JK to Grade 8, uses CAT-3 and Canadian Tests of Basic Skills as ways of evaluation. Cooke said the school also rejects EQAO because it takes up class time.

Cooke added that parents don’t need to see private school rankings on the Fraser report to know it’s a quality school.

WORD OF MOUTH

“Parents are convinced of a (private school’s) strong academic state through word of mouth and coming to the school and talking to staff,” he said.

Peter Cowley, of the Fraser Institute, said Ontario is the only province where many private schools opt out of standardized testing.

“The vast majority of private schools in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec all participate in province-wide testing, and that is because a portion of their tuition fees are covered by the provincial ministry of education,” he said.

Dr. Revathi Chennabathni, the principal at Sathya Sai School, said her private school participates in the EQAO exam because “it provides an unbiased assessment of our school for parents to decide if this is the right school for their child.”

More parents are choosing private schools because of smaller class sizes, said Agatha Stawicki, who organizes annual private school fairs for parents in Toronto and Oakville.

“More and more smaller schools are opening to fill a gap that’s for the community,” she said. “About 30% of kids that attend private schools come from families with incomes less than $50,000, which means parents are making significant sacrifices to make that choice to enrol their child in a private or independent school.”

Parent Kesh Maharaj said he sent his two kids to Sathya Sai School because it offers a human component.

“For the schools that don’t participate in the Ontario standard testing I can only hope that the kids are gaining the correct lessons from the teachers,” said Maharaj, 32, who is also co-chairman on the Sathya Sai School parent council.

“There is also a level of responsibility and ownership which parents must take in the success and proper functioning of any educational system. Personal responsibility and personal commitment to continued education at home are equally important for the successful education of our children.”

Toronto Sun Reference

Meditation Part Of Curriculum For Top Marks

Meditation Part Of Curriculum For Top Marks
By JENNY YUEN
Last Updated: 1st March 2009, 2:40am

This might be the most peaceful way to start the school day.

The 20 students in Ahalya Ganesh’s Grade 6 class are sitting around in a circle with a tealight candle placed in the centre. Their teacher presses ‘play’ on the CD and the daily ritual of 10 minutes of meditation begins.

“Focus your eyes on the light in front of you,” Ganesh, a teacher at Sathya Sai School, said soothingly to the class. “Think: May I always feel good, may I always speak the truth.”

After the music stops, the students are asked to reflect on what they were thinking of.

“I imagined what the world was like without pollution,” said Dhiviya Muthucumarasamy, 11. “I thought about what ways I could help the world. So I sent the light to everyone.”

The idea of peace is just one of the principal values at Sathya Sai School. The Scarborough private school of 160 students — from JK to Grade 6 — works on five core values of truth, right conduct, peace, love and non-violence, stemming from the philosophy of the school’s founder and south Indian guru, Sathya Sai Baba.

These values are embedded in regular classes, so you will find love in math and non-violence translated through science. A 40-minute “human values” class is scheduled each day where teachers and students discuss the core principles of the school. Two months are devoted to each of the five values.

Students also get 45 minutes of yoga classes in the gym each day.

This inner-peace is most likely responsible for the 100% scores on all Education Quality and Accountability Office tests in 2008 and the perfect 10 position for the second consecutive year in the Fraser Institute studies, said the school’s principal, Dr. Revathi Chennabathni.

“It’s the dedication of the students and teachers,” she said. “When we start the day with meditation, it helps them to calm down. I think the yoga and discussion in each of the classes on human values and reflection on that is adding to a better intellectual potential.”

This is the only Sathya Sai-influenced school in North America among 45 schools worldwide. It opened its doors in 2000 and has bounced from two other locations in Scarborough before landing at Ellesmere and Principal Rds.

The tuition was originally free for the first 6.5 years, but Chennabathni said it has since risen to $2,300 a year to cover renting the space. They are looking for a building of their own in the near future.

The majority of children who attend the school are of Tamil, Hindu and Sri Lankan heritage, but Chennabathni emphasizes that the school is open to all religions and all socio-economic backgrounds. They follow the Ontario curriculum with the addition of an extra holiday on Nov. 23 — the founder’s birthday. The only thing that isn’t allowed is eating meat on premises.

“The vegetarian lunch program helps them give good thoughts,” Chennabathni said.

The lessons learned in the classroom will help students translate it at home and in the community, Chennabathni said. Each month, the kids distribute sandwiches to the El Mocambo club at College St. and Spadina Ave. for the homeless.

On May 31, the pupils will go on their annual Walk for Values at Dundas Square. Instead of raising money, the goal is to pledge their commitment to one of the five values and promise to practice it for a year.

“Parents are very sure that their child would learn good values here,” Chennabathni said. “Not everyone’s a follower of our founder, but (parents send their kids here) because of the good values their child can learn and that they can build character.”

Toronto Sun Reference