25 Principals Redefining School Education
Regular readers of this publication are surely well aware that thereâï¿½ï¿½s much that is wrong with the nationâï¿½ï¿½s education system shaped by indifferent governments at the Centre and in the constituent states of the Indian Union. Despite the country being blessed or cursed âï¿½ï¿½ the jury is still out on this issue âï¿½ï¿½ with the worldâï¿½ï¿½s largest child population, for post-independence Indiaâï¿½ï¿½s uniquely insensitive genre of politicians, public education is a peripheral, low priority issue. Unfortunately even the countryâï¿½ï¿½s intelligentsia and influential middle class which has recourse to qualitatively superior private education, is unmindful of the nationâï¿½ï¿½s crumbling public education system. This bodes ill for hundreds of millions of Indians confronted with the prospect of competing with well-educated adults from the western world in the newly emergent global economy.
In this pre-summer issue, EducationWorld profiles an eclectic mix of 25 school principals across the country who are reshaping and redefining school education
Against the backdrop of a public school education system plagued by severe shortages of buildings, equipment, drinking water and toilet facilities, chronic teacher absenteeism and abysmal learning outcomes, the countryâï¿½ï¿½s small private school education system which absorbs an estimated 25 percent of Indiaâï¿½ï¿½s school-going child population, is a shining contrast. It is mainly responsible for educating and shaping the growing number of captains of industry and business professionals who following liberalisation and deregulation of the Indian economy in the early 1990s have emerged as a force to reckon with in the rapidly crystallising global marketplace for products, services and ideas.
Nevertheless it is arguable that by global standards, even much-prized private sector school education has some catching up to do. In particular, the best primary and secondary schools are often criticised for promoting rote learning, excessive focus on academics, insularity, insensitivity to public welfare beyond institutional gates and lack of problem-solving cultures, among other acts of commission and omission. However as the continuous increase in the enrollment of foreign students in Indiaâï¿½ï¿½s best private schools testifies, there is a growing number of primary-cum-secondary schools which are blessed with well-informed leaders implementing best global education practices in their institutions. In this pre-summer issue, EducationWorld profiles an eclectic mix of 25 school principals across the country who are reshaping and redefining school education.
Please note that our cover story doesnâï¿½ï¿½t state or imply that the 25 leader-principals profiled herein are the best or only school principals implementing contemporary best practices and redefining primary and secondary education. This list collated on the basis of informal expert opinion is exclusive but not exhaustive. We are sure there are many other school leaders and principals doing as good âï¿½ï¿½ perhaps even better âï¿½ï¿½ work for the betterment of their institutions. Details of their achievements will be published in due course.
Meanwhile we hope that the education philosophy and best practices adopted by the principals profiled in this first-of-its-type cover story, will inspire school leaders countrywide to improve and upgrade standards in institutions under their watch.
Over the past quarter century since he quit a plum job in the blue-chip Hindustan Lever in favour of a teacherâï¿½ï¿½s job in The Doon School, Dehra Dun, Dev Lahiri, an alumnus of St. Stephenâï¿½ï¿½s, Delhi and Oxford University, has headed several front-rank schools countrywide with distinction, leaving his special stamp and impress upon them.
Lahiriâï¿½ï¿½s major contribution to Indian education is the introduction of best corporate administration practices into school management. After returning from Oxford where he read social sciences between 1975-78, Lahiri worked as an editor-manager with Oxford University Press for five years, Hindustan Lever for six months, prior to switching streams to join Doon School as a junior teacher. In 1991, he was invited to head the highly rated Lawrence School, Lovedale (estb.1858), near Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
Following a long nine-year stint at Lawrence, Lovedale where he stamped out the practice of ragging and/ or bullying for which the school had acquired a notorious reputation, and sharply upgraded academic standards, Lahiri fell foul of the BJP-led NDA government and resigned to set up the Selaqui School in Dehra Dun. Two years later he was called to Kolkata to put the city of joyâï¿½ï¿½s Heritage School on the rails before returning to Dehra Dun as principal of Welham Boys School (estb. 1937). Currently this K-XII CISCE school set in a 24 acre campus has an enrollment of 499 students instructed by 59 teachers.
"During the past three years Welham Boys has experienced a pedagogical revolution in as much as the onus of the learning process has been transferred to students. Much of the learning today occurs through research and reference conducted by students, the fruits of which are frequently shared with the entire school through audio-visual presentations. Simultaneously there is great emphasis on the acquisition of life skills âï¿½ï¿½ the ability to lead, follow, become team players and think out of the box. In our extra-curricular education programme, important initiatives we have taken are HIV/drug abuse street theatre programmes scripted by students, adoption of a village âï¿½ï¿½ Jaidwar âï¿½ï¿½ where our students have established a community health centre. Moreover we are the first school to start a life skills education faculty," says Lahiri.
Looking to the future, Lahiri isnâï¿½ï¿½t planning to expand the capacity of Welham Boys. "Our immediate priority is to grow in stature and quality and to also ensure genuine learning takes place. To this end we are planning a quantum leap in teacher training," says Lahiri .
Frank Freese boxed and played football at the Rangers Club Calcutta (aka Kolkata) to pay for his teacher training fees in the 1960s. The discipline and rigour acquired in those days seems to have stood him in good stead. In his capacity as principal of the renowned Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s School, Pune and secretary and chief executive of The Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s Education Society, Freese has not only developed the Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s School (Camp âï¿½ï¿½ estb. 1864) into Puneâï¿½ï¿½s most respected primary-cum-secondary, but also accepted the challenge to construct two new schools under the Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s banner within a span of three years.
The Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s Co-Ed School (Kalyaninagar) which admitted its first batch in 2003 is a full-fledged day-cum-boarding school, while Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s (Undriâï¿½ï¿½estb. 2006) is a day school which will accept boarders next year. Additionally, Freese commissioned the Junior College of The Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s School, Camp last year.
Currently the aggregate enrollment of the three schools is 6,778 students while the campus size of the Camp, Kalyaninagar and Undri is 15, 7 and 9.5 acres respectively. "In all the schools of the society our objective is to provide holistic education to children from all strata of society and to make provision for inclusive education. We welcome children with physical and learning disabilities in our classrooms," says Freese.
Unsurprisingly, all the Bishop schools which are affiliated with the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) are strong on extra-curricular education, with sports, drama, quizzing and music actively encouraged.
An alumnus of St. Xavierâï¿½ï¿½s College, Calcutta, Freese acquired his teaching experience in top-rank schools including the Wynberg Allen School, Mussoorie; Mt. Hermon School, Darjeeling and La Martinere Boys, Calcutta. In 1991 he was appointed headmaster of Dr. Grahamâï¿½ï¿½s Homes, Kalimpong and principal of The Assembly of God Church School, Purulia (1993-1999) before being invited to take charge as principal of Bishopâï¿½ï¿½s School, Pune in 1999. Of the manifold awards he has collected for his exemplary service to school education, the most notable are the National Teachers Award 2005 and the Derozio Award 2006 of CISCE .
Srivatsanâï¿½ï¿½s long haul
The CBSE affiliated pre-kg-class XII P.S. Senior Secondary School, Chennai (estb. 1976), promoted by the P.S. Educational Society (estb.1905), has an enviable reputation for scholarship and academic excellence in this southern port city which prides itself on its academic culture. Housed in a modest 3.2 acre campus the school has an enrollment of 3,200 students instructed by 140 teachers, and specialises in transforming average students into academic achievers. P.S. Senior students have consistently bagged awards in the annual international maths, biology and chemistry olympiads held in different countries, and regularly top the CBSE board examinations.
Within academic circles in Chennai, a major share of the credit for the high rating enjoyed by P.S. Senior Secondary is given to Vijayalakshmi Srivatsan who signed up with the school as a graduate teacher at the time of its inception in 1976, rose to become vice-principal in 1981 and was appointed principal in 1999. With support and encouragement from the school management, she read for a B.Ed degree followed by a Masterâï¿½ï¿½s in chemistry from the University of Madras and M.Ed from Annamalai University, while continuing to teach in the school. "During the initial years we had to overcome a lot of constraints, but we were a dedicated team of teachers committed to the development of P.S. Senior Secondary. The academic freedom we enjoyed and the expert guidance of our former correspondent A.R. Jaganathan and secretary M.Ramji, led to substantial pedagogy innovations," recalls Srivatsan.
Today three decades on, P.S. Secondary is noted for its acceptance of technology and promotion of self-learning by students. "Our main strength is our system of continuous internal evaluation, and every year there are eight short formative tests to assess studentsâï¿½ï¿½ comprehension and grasp of subjects. We also identify and nurture gifted children by conducting special enrichment classes by eminent specialists," says Srivatsan who was awarded the national âï¿½ï¿½Best Teacherâï¿½ï¿½ award by President Abdul Kalam in 2003, and the âï¿½ï¿½Best Chemistry Teacherâï¿½ï¿½ award instituted by the Chemical Research Society of India (CRSA) in Bangalore in 2002.
Srivatsanâï¿½ï¿½s mantra for the future is continuous pedagogy improvement and infrastructure upgradation. "A teacher is a continuous learner and as long as we learn as we teach, academic and scholastic standards in P.S. Secondary will keep improving," she says .
Woodstock goals setter
Although the great majority of contemporary Indiaâï¿½ï¿½s public (i.e private exclusive) schools draw upon British public school traditions, way up in the picturesque hill station of Mussoorie, built on steep hillsides 7,000 ft above mean seal level in the newly constituted state of Uttarakhand (pop. 8.4 million), is the Woodstock School (estb. 1854).
Originally established by British educators, for much of its history it was overseen by American Presbyterian missions and still has many American staff. Over 150 years since this class I-XII co-education school which follows the IGCSE curriculum of the Cambridge International Examinations in grades (classes) IX-X, and the American College Board AP (Advanced Placement) in classes XI-XII, has built itself an excellent reputation for delivering high quality academic education combined with strong service values and extra-curricular programmes. Currently 470 students including 231 girl children from 25 countries reside and study in the bracing climate of the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s 300 acre campus which dominates Mussoorie (pop.33,000).
"The distinguishing characteristic of Woodstock is our strong emphasis on experiential learning and development of independent thinking and collaborative skills of our students, while preparing them for admission into the best universities in India and the West," says Kaye Aoki, an English and international education alumna of the University of Minnesota who taught at the International School of the Sacred Heart and the Christian Academy in Japan, Tokyo, for over two decades (1979-2001) before joining the faculty of Woodstock in 2002.
As head of academics (and recently appointed interim principal), Aoki has infused new rigour into the curriculum starting from the elementary level, with particular emphasis on experiential learning and community service. "This institution has strong Christian values rooted in service to communities around the world. My emphasis is to reinforce this culture and prepare our students not only for conventional careers but for service in voluntary organisations as well," says Aoki who has also been heavily involved in plans to buttress the infrastructure of the school and involve Woodstock students in a sustainable environment programme .
A k-XII school which is receiving excellent notices from across the country for providing globally benchmarked five-star education at two-star prices, is the Bangalore International School (BIS, estb. 1969), the first âï¿½ï¿½internationalâï¿½ï¿½ school promoted in the garden city. This is because during the past quinquennium after Anu Monga, a psychology postgrad of Delhi University and former dean of academics at the Kodaikanal International Residential School, was appointed principal in 2002, BIS has experienced a comprehensive makeover.
Not only has this pioneer international co-ed school which has an enrollment of 300 students instructed by 60 motivated and well-qualified teachers, moved to a larger new campus on the garden cityâï¿½ï¿½s Hennur Road, it provides perhaps the most varied menu of syllabuses of any school countrywide. Currently the school is affiliated with the Cambridge International Examinations (UK), International Baccalaureate (Geneva), Advanced Placements (USA) and the Council for Indian School Certificate (India) examination boards. "I believe every child marches to a different drumbeat. Therefore at BIS we aspire to provide customised education to all our students," says Monga who is also transforming this 38-year-old school which boasts students from 22 countries, into a day-cum-residential institution.
Yet perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of this parent-run school (the governing board comprises parents of currently enrolled students) is its liberal ideology and outward-looking culture. Recently, CIE-designed physical education and food technolgy vocational courses have been introduced, as has a teaching-through-drama programme. Moreover despite the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s small campus, sports education is given considerable importance and BIS students have excelled in inter-school swimming, equestrian sports and basketball competitions.
Mongaâï¿½ï¿½s future plans for the school are centred upon acquiring an additional eight acres of contiguous land which will expand student enrollment to 500, including 100 boarders. Moreover teacher exchange programmes with schools in the US, UK and Australia are being stepped up. "Itâï¿½ï¿½s important to widen teacher experiences. Thereâï¿½ï¿½s much that our teachers can learn by investigating best practices in countries with well developed education systems," says Monga .
Vandana Lulla is the promoter-director and principal of the highly respected Podar World School, Mumbai, which within two years of its promotion (2004) has set new benchmarks in school education. "I had a clear picture of the kind of school I wanted to start," she says. "It had to be a truly international institution."
With Masters degrees in English, history and education from Bombay University, Lulla embarked on a teaching career in the early 1990s. Subsequently she travelled extensively to New Zealand and the UK among other countries, visiting the best schools before blueprinting the Podar World School for Anandilal Ganesh Podar Society, a public charitable trust which has been in education since 1927. Meanwhile over the years, Lulla, who was formerly principal of the Mumbai-based Springfield School, has undergone various international training programmes, including the International Baccalaureate PYP (primary years program), the IBDP program (New Zealand) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) training in Washington, USA.
The Podar World School which provides pre-school-class XII education to 1,000 students, has evolved a unique curriculum which is an admixture of the curriculums of the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) board, so that students are equipped to write the IGCSE class X examination and IBOâï¿½ï¿½s class XII higher secondary exam. "The IB does not have an examination equivalent to the ICSE at the class X level. This is one factor which has made Indian parents uncomfortable with the IB program. So we devised a system under which children write internationally recognised examinations at the end of class X and class XII," says Lulla.
The school which started with an initial enrollment of 300 students in 2004, currently has 1,000 students on it rolls. Last year it was awarded the British Council Out-standing Development of International Dimension in Curriculum certification. The four batches of students who have written the IGCSE exam have fared remarkably well. "In the Podar World School we are committed to the 3 Iâï¿½ï¿½s âï¿½ï¿½ international curriculum, international certification and Indian ethos through the 3 Râï¿½ï¿½s âï¿½ï¿½ research, rationalise and reflect," concludes Lulla .
MCS brand builder
Given to proactively involving her students in spreading awareness about environmental issues both as a biology teacher and principal, Dr. Geeta Prasher is the celebrated principal of Modern Convent School, Dwarka (Delhi), promoted in 1999 with 2,500 students on its rolls. Among the numerous awards she has been conferred in her 22 years as a teacher are the Environment Millennium Award of the Indian Institute of Ecology & Environment and the Human Rights Millennium Award for projects and initiatives as teacher-in-charge of Rotaryâï¿½ï¿½s Interact Club. However, her big moment was Teachers Day (September 5) 2006 when she received the Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Memorial National Teachersâï¿½ï¿½ Award of the year.
A postgraduate in biology who was awarded a doctorate in the subject by Meerut University, Prasher was appointed principal of MCS in 2005. "Last year, all our students who wrote the CBSE class X exam passed in the first division while our class XII students averaged 82 percent," she says.
Prasherâï¿½ï¿½s emphasis at MCS is on developing studentsâï¿½ï¿½ personalities through a judicious mix of academics, sports, culture, involvement in social and environmental activities and value-based education. "I believe I have persuaded students and teachers to start walking the extra mile to place MCS, Dwarka in the front rank of schools in Delhi and also build the brand image of the school. We are on track to achieve both these objectives," she says .
Amity's celebrated principal
With 33 years of teaching experience in some of the best schools in India including Convent of Jesus & Mary, Delhi; Vivek School, St. Anneâï¿½ï¿½s & St. Kabirs in Chandigarh; St. Josephâï¿½ï¿½s Siliguri; St. Xaviers, Gandhinagar (Gujarat); The Army Public School and Modern School, Delhi, Mohina Dar has brought a wealth of experience and knowhow into her job as founder principal of the showpiece Amity International School (estb. 1994) in Noida (Uttar Pradesh) on the outskirts of Delhi. This CBSE affiliated day-cum-residential school spread over 15 acres bristling with state-of-the-art equipment provides K-XII education delivered by 450 teachers to 5,600 students.
A science graduate of Delhi University who switched streams to read for a Masters in English, Dar has won numerous encomiums for her services to the development of school education. "My philosophy is to stress the importance of student centric learning and innovate to keep students energised," she says.
Dar has been awarded the coveted Best Teacher Award by the International Lions and Rotary clubs. In 2004 she was bestowed with the Bharat Nirman Talented Ladies Award for her significant contributions in the field of education.
Quite evidently the best education practices she has introduced in Amity International are widely appreciated .
Patna Central makeover
In January 2004 when S.P. Singh, a history, law and education alumnus of the then Bihar University was recalled from the duty of overseeing the establishment of the Sudarshan Central School in Anishabad (Patna) to head Biharâï¿½ï¿½s prestigious Patna Central School (estb. 1982), the biggest challenge before him was to raise the bar in the CBSE results. With students coming from a mix of first, second and third generation English learner households, and varying tuition paying capacity and expectations, the task seemed impossible. "To be a successful principal one has to have sincerity of purpose, tact and clear priorities which he should be able to communicate to the school management and the workforce," says Singh.
Quite obviously this formula has proved successful because three years down the line, an average of over 60 students each year score more than 90 percent in CBSEâï¿½ï¿½s classes X and XII board exams, with a growing number entering top-ranked engineering and medical colleges. Moreover in a society where government jobs are highly prized, the school has a stable force of 150 teachers who remained with the school in preference to government employment.
This day-cum-residential school has over 300 boarders living in a well-planned and enviable hostel. The school management has recently acquired another acre of land at a cost of Rs.1 crore to expand its existing 5-acre campus and construct a swimming pool and additional sports facilities.
"Ever since I rejoined PCS as principal, my focus has been on improving academic standards. To this end my science teachers conduct practicals after every class. Moreover during the past three years we have introduced computer, fine arts and music studies from nursery to higher secondary. For senior secondary students, an entire floor has been allotted with an extraordinary section for students who scored 90 percent plus in the class X boards," says Singh .
Founded in the year 1970 by the Indian Education Trust with the blessing of the Paramacharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, the Sri Sankara school which is chaired by K.S. Narayanan, chairman of Chemplast Sanmar Ltd, Chennai, has acquired a formidable reputation for academic excellence. "Our objective is to empower students with academic merit and confidence while imparting a sense of moral and social responsibility. Helping low achievers to better their performance is my forte," says Ananathanarayanan, under whose able leadership the school has distinguished itself with cent percent pass results in the CBSE board examinations, and state toppers and top-ranking students who have been welcomed into prestigious higher education institutions in India and abroad.
Besides excelling in academics, Sri Sankara students have won numerous co-curricular and extra-curricular plaudits. In October 2006, the school received the British Council International School Award which recognises good global practices in school education.
"We have introduced abacus maths at the KG level and Vedic maths in class V to enhance maths learning and are one of the few schools to introduce entrepreneurship development programmes. We have also received certificates for successful implementation of Total Quality Management systems in school administration and plan to apply for ISO 9001:2000 certification this year," says Ananathanarayanan, whose current focus is on consolidating the gains of the past in academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities .
A postgraduate with a doctorate in English from Himachal University, Jose served for 19 years as teacher, house master and head of curriculum at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He joined The Sagar School as dean of studies in 2002 and in September 2006, was promoted to principal. A seasoned educationist and a veteran of Indiaâï¿½ï¿½s premier boarding schools, Jose has pioneered several new pedagogies in this eco-friendly international school.
Teaching-learning at The Sagar School is student-centric with special focus on project work, research assignments and presentations. "The curriculum is structured so that students learn by doing. Each student has to do project work, undertake assignments and make presentations in the classroom. This way they not only learn to self-study, but also discover knowledge beyond their textbooks," says Jose, who ensures that the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s 34 faculty participate in skills development programmes. He is also a great believer in the use of information technology in education. The school is well-equipped with computers, internet connectivity, K-Yan (a computer-cum-screen projector) and multi-media facilities.
Within five years of its promotion, The Sagar School has made a mark in a state which hosts several high profile boarding schools including Mayo College, Ajmer. Its teething troubles over, this new international school is starting to acquire momentum. On the drawing board are plans to double student intake, involve students in environment conservation initiatives such as re-forestation of neighbouring hillsides, creating a water body near the hills to attract birds and eventually develop a bird sanctuary on school premises. "We also want our students to actively participate in community service programmes in the neighbouring villages. Holistic education requires us to develop students with social consciences," says Jose .
Together with her husband Dr. V. K. Bhatnagar, Mamta Bhatnagar promoted the Manav Sthali School in 1965 and ever since continued to administer it, transforming this institution spread over a four acre campus in Rajinder Nagar, Delhi with an enrollment of 2,500 students, into one of the national capitalâï¿½ï¿½s most respected CBSE-affiliated schools.
An English postgrad of Aligarh University, during her more than 40 years of edupreneurship, Bhatnagar has established a reputation as an enterprising educationist having co-authored a series of creative textbooks in English and maths, and serving as an expert advisor to NCERT, NPSC (National Progressive Schools Conference) and CBSE. Also an active peacenik she has led several childrensâï¿½ï¿½ delegations for cross-cultural exchanges under the Childrenâï¿½ï¿½s International Summer Villages programme and has won awards including the World Human Rights award of the Indian Institute of Human Rights in 2003 and International Association of Educators for World Peace (a UN affiliate), Rastriya Shiksha Shiromani Award (2004) of the All India Achievers conference and the Delhi state award for environment (2004), among others.
Bhatnagar believes that the cause of learning is enhanced by readily adopting information technology innovations in school education. "We have set up a VSAT driven pilot project on e-learning and have integrated IT education into the curriculum to prepare children for acquiring global competencies from an early age. Manav Sthali has taken an early lead in establishing 21st century classrooms," she says.
Bhatnagarâï¿½ï¿½s commitment to progressive induction of technology in education is also evidenced by the introduction of a Foundation Education in Technology programme for classes I-VIII. "Our objective is to develop capable, socially aware students who understand their duty towards society, nation and humankind. Eradication of illiteracy within the neighbourhood of the school through voluntary service by students is also a prime objective of the school," says Bhatnagar .
If Shishu Griha (estb. 1978) has managed to maintain its reputation as one of Bangaloreâï¿½ï¿½s most pedagogically inventive schools despite stiff competition from the garden cityâï¿½ï¿½s new genre five-star international schools, much of the credit is readily conceded to its perspicacious principal Sujata Mohandas. An alumna of Bangalore University with a diploma in education management from Delhi University, Mohandasâï¿½ï¿½ insistence on continuous innovation and teacher development has won this 29-year-old K-X CISCE affiliated school the approbation and appreciation of a growing number of informed academics. .
Mohandas signed up with Shishu Griha in 1987 after teaching stints with the Jesus and Mary Convent, Agra and the Hyderabad Public School. In 2003 she was appointed principal of Shishu Griha.
Promoted by the Bangalore-based Yenkay Education Society, Shishu Griha currently has 1,060 students tutored by a faculty of 83, on its muster roll. Though the school is set on a small one acre campus, it doesnâï¿½ï¿½t compromise on infrastructure facilities. It offers well-equipped computer labs, an auditorium and library. For extra-curricular sports education, the school uses a half acre playground provided by the Bangalore Development Authority. "Although we offer all facilities necessary for holistic education, I believe the true worth of a school should be judged by the quality of its teachers. Iâï¿½ï¿½m confident that our teachers who receive seven full days of in-service education every year and have been trained in the use of IT in classrooms by Intel and Wipro, are among the most effective countrywide," says Mohandas, who has a reputation of requiring minimal persuasion to enroll Shishu Griha teachers in professional development programmes.
Among the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s recent achievements is that Sishu Griha is one of six schools in India selected for an exchange programme under the British Council sponsored UK-India Education and Research Initiative. Under this project Shishu Griha will be part of a "cluster" of schools which will exchange curriculum innovations with six nominated schools in Yorkshire (UK). "This collaboration will give our students a global curriculum and broaden their perspective," says Mohandas. Recently (February) Shishu Griha was also awarded a trophy (by Rotary Club and GE) for the school with the most number of innovative and practical science and technology models.
A hands-on school principal, Mohandas has started several student clubs in Shishu Griha. They include the heritage, science and technology, eco and cookery clubs. Moreover the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s students have also adopted a school for the blind and help out underprivileged slum children under the Project Citizen Awareness programme.
Mohandasâï¿½ï¿½ plans for the future include introducing a Plus-Two section and promoting another branch of Shishu Griha in the garden city
Born into a family of committed teachers, S.S. Nathan, an English postgrad of the University of Madras and education graduate of Madurai Kamaraj University, began his school teaching career in 1984 in Andhra Pradesh. In 1986 he moved to Chennai to take charge as vice-principal of Bala Brindavan, Adyar (estb. 1955), renamed Bala Vidya Mandir (BVM) after it was taken over by the Vidya Mandir School in Mylapore in 1988. Nathan was appointed principal of the CBSE affiliated BVM in 1988 and has contributed immensely to the growth of the school, which now enjoys an excellent reputation for its balanced approach to education.
Sited on a compact two-acre campus, BVM boasts 1,250 students and 70 teachers, and is widely reputed for its non-formal method of education. There are no examinations until class V; students are awarded grades rather than ranks; there is no detention except in special circumstances; competition is discouraged and the school does not give proficiency awards. "Our institutional objective is to create a stress-free, child-centric environment. Teachers help students achieve their goals and ensure that they are happy and enjoy school," says Nathan who has received excellence awards from several organisations including the Padma Sarangapani Academy in 2006; Mylapore Academy (2005); Rotary Club, Madras (2004); government of Tamil Nadu in 2002 and Rotary Club, Chennapatna in 2000.
Not surprisingly, Nathanâï¿½ï¿½s diverse experience has facilitated pedagogy innovations in BVM. "We believe in teaching concepts through 3D animation and all our teachers use laptops in classrooms. We also have a technical team in the school which assists teachers in preparing lessons," says Nathan who takes great pride in his students who average 80 percent-plus in the CBSE board exams every year, and qualify for admission into highly rated colleges across the country.
For the future, Nathanâï¿½ï¿½s plans centre around improvement of teaching standards and learning outcomes of students, inducting trainee teachers, and participating in student-teacher exchange programmes with schools in other countries. Recently he signed an MoU with Kalpathi Properties, Chennai to promote a school in Perambur township where classes are expected to commence in 2008.
Other partnerships are also in the offing. "We are a responsible school, well known for honesty and transparency in everything we do. Our sights are set on becoming a benchmark institution for other schools in and outside the country," he says .
Duttâï¿½ï¿½s rescue mission
In 2005 Harkishan Lal Dutt (75) was coaxed out of retirement to take charge as principal of Lucknowâï¿½ï¿½s Colvin Taluqdarsâï¿½ï¿½ College (estb. 1884). It is a position he had filled (1969-76) with distinction earlier, when Colvin College students had regularly picked up five of the ten merit positions in Uttar Pradesh state board exams. Duttâï¿½ï¿½s return in 2005 was a rescue mission for this CISCE affiliated boysâï¿½ï¿½ school with an enrollment of 535 students.
An alumnus of Punjab and Rajasthan universities with a postgrad diploma in education from Queenâï¿½ï¿½s College, Oxford, Dutt acquired his highly rated teaching and administrative experience in Littlemore Grammar School, Oxfordshire; Birla Public School, Pilani; Jagirdarâï¿½ï¿½s College, Hyderabad; Daly College, Indore and Mayo College, Ajmer. "My choice of schools to teach," says Dutt, "is influenced by my belief that schools should be set in vast open spaces which allow children the room to grow metaphorically and literally."
Surprisingly Dutt, who has served mostly in boysâï¿½ï¿½ schools, cites the promotion of Mayo Girlsâï¿½ï¿½ College (estb.1988) as his greatest achievement for which he raised Rs.5 crore from the public. A strict disciplinarian, Duttâï¿½ï¿½s priorities in his second innings at Colvin Taluqdarsâï¿½ï¿½ are to develop IT facilities, stabilise academics and promote co-curricular activities.
While Dutt reads avidly and is open to pedagogic innovations, he is contemptuous of multimedia and new-technologies-in-education faddism, which in his opinion is inimical to the development of studentsâï¿½ï¿½ thought processes. Instead he has introduced nature and wildlife movies, science fiction, old classics and theatre in classrooms. "The topmost priority is to encourage curiosity. Not to teach, but to guide to think," he explains.
Colvin Taluqdarsâï¿½ï¿½ immaculately maintained school grounds and premises spread over 100 acres, and a near professional production of The Lion King for the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s annual function last year, are being interpreted as small signs of a new era in a school that has been plagued by rowdyism and indiscipline, which filter in from the Lucknow University campus across the road.
And given Duttâï¿½ï¿½s belief in the old virtues of hard work and patience, there is growing confidence within the schoolsâï¿½ï¿½ parents and academia that this ancient institution will be rescued, and stay rescued .
Inspirational institution developer
Starting as a Maharashtra State Board affiliated SSC school, RIS introduced the Cambridge International Examinationsâï¿½ï¿½ IGCSE last year, as an optional curriculum in response to popular demand. "In RIS we strive to provide internationally acceptable education to our students while retaining Indian values and cultural mores. So, for example, while French is taught from Grade II, Hindi and Marathi are also taught up to grade VII," says Tanya Valecha principal of the CIE affiliated school (âï¿½ï¿½the Cambridge sectionâï¿½ï¿½ of RIS) which currently offers pre-school to class IX education.
An alumnus of Mumbaiâï¿½ï¿½s Narsee Monjee College, Valecha completed her training in CIEâï¿½ï¿½s international primary years programme and subsequently acquired a teaching diploma of CIE. She signed up as an assistant teacher in the nursery school in 1999, was appointed supervisor in 2004, and principal of the Cambridge section in 2006.
Valecha has reinvented conventional pedagogy to motivate and inspire students. "Each classroom functions as a specialised learning environment for a subject. Students are required to move from class to class, a departure from the traditional practice of teachers moving from one class to another. An open door policy is the primary source of feedback," says Valecha.
With the encouragement of the management, Valecha has gone the whole hog in introducing technology-enabled learning in classrooms. "We encourage students to present data in various forms," she says. "For instance a grade IX student recently filmed an appendicitis operation as part of his study course."
Continuous in-service teacher training figures high on her list of priorities. "We are also launching a teacher training college, Rustomjee Institute for Teacher Education, where I am involved in the role of a mentor. Teachers need to have a passion for learning to infuse a learning passion in their students," she says. With the RIS management giving her a free hand to shape the contours of the Cambridge section, Valecha has plenty of scope to keep the learning curve growing .
Jaiman is also director of the Institute of Gifted Children housed within the education complex of the school and run by the All India Personality Enhancement & Cultural Centre for Scholars promoted by Col Satsangi. Prior to this, she taught psychology at her alma mater Sophia College, Ajmer and the Rotary Public School, Gurgaon. In recognition of her contribution to school education, Jaiman was awarded the Dr. Sarvapalli Radha Krishnan Memorial National Teachers Award and the Parent-Teacher Association of India Award in 2005 as also the World Human Rights Promotion Award by the Indian Institute of Human Rights.
"In CSKM our prime objective is to help children overcome failure and fear of failure. No child in CSKM is detained and this has been the practice since the inception of the school. Moreover we believe that balancing life skills and intellectual skills are important for the emotional growth of children. Therefore our philosophy is to guide children to solve problems as per the principles of âï¿½ï¿½transfer of learningâï¿½ï¿½. This gives an early start to inculcating problem-solving attitudes, which prove useful in adult workplaces," she says.
Jaiman believes that a broad interpretation of learning which includes special emphasis on extra-curricular skills development is vital to the education process. Therefore CSKM has initiated a cultural-cum-education programme with Japan this year. Moreover she encourages the schoolâï¿½ï¿½s environment movement which is involved in regular tree plantation and cleanliness drives, SUPW (socially useful productive work) and recycling activities .
A life-long learner, Saraswathi Raghunathan is a triple post-graduate with a doctorate from Madras University, and has served Childrenâï¿½ï¿½s Garden School, Chennai for the past 31 years rising to the position of headmistress in 2005. Her main subject and passion is geography, and as a committee member and incumbent secretary of the Association of Geography Teachers of India (estb. 1976), she has been conducting in-service training for geography teachers in different schools in the city. Her dream is to make geography interesting to school children by teaching through projects and field trips..
A committed teacher and administrator, Raghunathan has not spared any effort to develop the government-aided Childrenâï¿½ï¿½s Garden School (promoted in 1937 by Ellen Sharma and Dr. V.N. Sharma) into one of the most progressive schools of this southern port city. One of five schools established by the Childrenâï¿½ï¿½s Garden School Society to provide primary and secondary education in Tamil and English mediums to under-privileged children, this class III-XII school in Mylapore, has an enrollment of 1,800 students instructed by 58 teachers.
"Every class does projects on different subjects and participates in science exhibitions. All our teachers are trained by the IT major Intel, and use technology as a supportive teaching aid. Education in Childrenâï¿½ï¿½s Garden extends far beyond academics and includes dance, music, art, theatre, archeology, ecology and nature walks," says Raghunathan who has also introduced automation to upgrade the administration and accounting processes of this highly respected 70-year-old school.
Not content to rest on her laurels, Raghunathan has drawn up an ambitious development plan for Childrenâï¿½ï¿½s Garden Higher. "We are negotiating with several philanthropists to furnish our Tamil medium classrooms and intend to make greater use of technology for teaching English. Discussions have been initiated with Warden Park School in Sussex, UK to set up virtual classrooms. Also on the drawing board, is a project to multiply the number of vocational training courses offered to students," says Raghunathan who was conferred the Dr. Radhakrishnan Best Teacher Award by the state government in 2006
A successful innings
An alumnus of IIT-Delhi (which awarded her a Ph D in psychology), Delhi University and Sophia College, Ajmer, Dr. Shukantala S. Jaiman joined the Col. Satsangiâï¿½ï¿½s Kiran Memorial School (Chattarpur, Delhi) in 1988 and was appointed principal in 1993. Since then she has been the moving force behind the rapid growth and development of this day-cum-residential school, spread over 40 acres in the serene Aravalli village in upstate Delhi, which is receiving excellent notices in the national capital region.
Balanced education votary
The Rustomjee International School (estb. 2000) located in Mumbaiâï¿½ï¿½s far-flung western suburb of Dahisar has speedily built a reputation for offering educational excellence to its student body, comprising children from a cross-section of society. Moreover the seven- year-old-school has won countrywide approbation for its high profile annual âï¿½ï¿½Unsung Heroes No Moreâï¿½ï¿½ teachers awards.
Manav Sthaliâï¿½ï¿½s mentor principal
"Every new school must justify its existence and uniqueness. And thatâï¿½ï¿½s what is unique about The Sagar School which encourages development of the creative and innovative intelligence of students. We are only too aware that in the 21st century, education has to be hands-on, practical and stimulating; rote learning canâï¿½ï¿½t produce students who can create new knowledge and new technologies," says Dr. K.J. Jose, principal of The Sagar School, Alwar (Rajasthan), a CBSE and IB (International Baccalaureate) affiliated school sited on a 150 acre campus in the picturesque Aravalli hills. Promoted in 2001, The Sagar School is a fully residential co-educational class IV-XII institution with a student enrollment of 150.
Sagar Schoolâï¿½ï¿½s smooth start
Subala Ananthanarayanan is principal of the Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School, Adyar, Chennai. A statistics postgrad of Madras University with a B.Ed from Annamalai University, Ananthanarayanan took charge as principal of this CBSE affiliated K-XII school which boasts 2,000 students and 86 teachers, in 2004.