If we expect skills in our children, we should also have those skills first

If we expect skills in our children, we should also have those skills first

justifies Ms Manju Rana, Director-Principal, Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Vasundhara

Seth Anandram Jaipuria is a prestigious group. What kind of leadership quality is required to run such an organisation smoothly?

Yes, we are a large group of educational institutes. Seth Anandram Jaipuria Education Society, with its commitment to Empower, Enthuse, Excel has established an overwhelming reputation for itself while traversing over several decades as a progressive and innovative school since it was established with the prime purpose of providing education which is holistic in nature combined with strong values and traditions .

In 1939, Seth Anandram Jaipuria, an eminent Kolkata-based businessman, with interests in cotton mills, forayed into education and founded Seth Anandram Jaipuria Education Society with the objective of promoting and spreading quality education. The foundation of the first institution was laid in the year 1945, a degree college named Seth Anandram Jaipuria College under the benefaction of Seth Anandram Jaipuria Trust in Kolkata. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, inaugurated it. At a time when education was considered the privilege of only the elite, Dr. Rajaram Jaipuria carried forward the legacy and envisioned a school that would provide exceptional educational opportunities to all students irrespective of caste, creed and social status.

Today, the Jaipuria group  under the dynamic leadership of Chairman Sh. Shishir Jaipuria is a growing network, which has a wide spectrum of educational brands. Headquartered in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad with K12 Schools in Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Lucknow, Jaipuria Institute of Management and Jaipuria School of Business, there are now partner schools all across UP, with plans for a pan India enterprise. The constantly growing network of institutions also includes a wide gamut of Pre-Primary schools under the brand name of Little One-Jaipuria Pre-School.

Thus, I can rightly say that benchmarks set by the visionaries of the Institution have led the organisation to the stature that it today stands at, as the foremost educational brand.

The school website shows that many modern teaching strategies are followed here. Are those just mentioned or followed religiously?

Let me tell you how religiously we follow the strategies. Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Ghaziabad has established an overwhelming reputation for itself as a progressive and pioneering school in just over a decade. Ever since the inception in 2004, it has become a benchmark for latest innovations in technology and education. The school stands out in terms of the quality it offers, not merely in terms of infrastructure but, most importantly, through the quality of teaching and learning conducive for the harmonious all round development.

This school has sixty activity clubs and all are very engaging. We want the children to be equipped with all basic skills so that they can face the world. Then, I have selected co-leaders for every teaching level. There is one subject expert and an English expert for each class. There are class teachers. Everybody has been given a very clear-cut role. Unless you empower and delegate responsibilities, it is tough to be a successful administrator.

We update our teachers regularly with quality training. Nowadays, it is very important to imbibe the right skills in a child rather than knowledge. The shift in education has already taken place. Knowledge is now just a click away. But, skill can help us to use that knowledge in the right channel. The kids, who are with us now, will face the job market 20 years ahead. We do not even have an idea of what would be the job opportunity at that point in time. Skills would probably help and empower them. Whether it is a critical situation or conflict, managing time to resources…it is all about skills. This skill is required for teachers and students.

We give a lot of stress on communication. Since we are based in UP, it is a huge challenge. We are trying very hard to revive and reinforce reading skill among children. We have started a program named DEAR that is ‘Drop Everything and Read’. There is a minuscule library in every classroom.  We have allotted reading period for the teachers as well. It is not that the students read and teachers remain busy checking notebooks. The reading session is usually followed by discussions and it helps a child’s thinking and analysing skill to develop. I have seen kids transforming the ending of fairytales with interesting real-life situations.

We have another program named ‘Lessons in the Dark’. We show movies to the children of class I to V, four times a year. Every story that we choose has a moral. In the discussion, a lot of thoughts and perceptions are exchanged.

Is it feasible to continue with so many activities in every class under the pressure of syllabus completion?

It is tough but here comes the need of an expert teacher. Even CBSE instructs us to prescribe supplementary readers. Unfortunately, many schools have diverted things in their own way. Reading skill can be developed in many ways and not necessarily through a supplementary reader. We provide school edition newspaper to each child from class III to XII.

It is true that Indian curriculum is robust and our syllabus is content heavy. Keeping that in mind, we have redesigned the curriculum progression in our school.  The topics we find repetitive are either shifted or modified. Sometimes, the same topics are covered under science and social science. We try to avoid this sort of overlapping.  In the senior classes, since we are using NCERT, we hardly have scope for these changes. 

Don’t you think that the instruction to prescribing NCERT books is a restriction from the board? The school should be given leniency in choosing books according to the curriculum.

You are right but as I have already mentioned, here comes the importance of a good teacher. They can easily shift the content to a concept and help the child go deeper into it. As a Biology teacher, I face a statement frequently that ‘Mam, I don’t like Biology because I don’t want to become a doctor.’ I try to make them understand that it’s not about becoming a doctor, it is about knowing oneself, one’s environment. I always try to relate any topic to real life situation. A teacher, who can think beyond the textbook, can teach the way I am speaking. Teachers also do not think beyond the prescribed thing. Children get very excited when they are taught anything related to their life. Without deviating from the main text, a teacher can definitely take any topic to the next level provided she should know how to retain the interest. We employ teachers who can excite children to think beyond the text books.

Do you face challenges in recruiting staffs being based in UP?

I am lucky enough that I have not faced any such problem probably because of the reputation of the group. Someone might be outstanding at his/her subject, even they might have skills but if their attributes are negative…then it is of no use. It is the positive attitude & enthusiasm that matters & ultimately affects a child. I want my pre-primary teachers to be very compassionate, just the way they teach their own children. One shouldn’t have a different approach for their own children and the school children. It has to be the same. One has to be very empathetic. Ultimately, we are dealing with human resources. We have no scope to make wrong or judgemental decisions. We have to be particular in choosing our words as it might damage the confidence of a child completely. Especially, in the junior classes, teachers are the role models. They even challenge their parents for their teachers. We can’t afford to go wrong.

Do you face challenges in raising children as well?

We face various challenges. Many times, we get first generation English learners. Most of the parents as well as the children are bilingual and they often find it difficult to converse in fluent and grammatically accurate English . Their language is so mixed up that it becomes difficult for a child to follow one particular language. The children also need to enrich their vocabulary, which is not very rich. So in school, if the children are unsupervised for a long time, they immediately shift to the local dialect.

Being an administrator, do you take out time to take classes?

Yes, I love to take classes. I try to go for substitution whenever I get time. It helps me to connect with the children and to get a clear picture of the school. It is my informal way of checking that everything is going on normally.

What is your opinion regarding the Government’s circular about revising fees? Do not you think that private schools are very soft targets?

We should understand that the quality of education improved in India only when private schools started to come up. We have literally taken education to the next level. Simultaneously, we need to realise that a larger percentage of children in India still goes to the government school. It is therefore very important for our education system to ensure that instead of penalising the private schools (people who are working really good), the focus should also go in improving the quality of education in government schools. Really, we are very soft targets and instructions keep on coming for us one after another.

Secondly, nothing comes free in the market. We try to provide the children with the best. In my school, we have got innovation lab, language lab (to correct diction, pronunciation and intonation), computer labs (7 in all), well-stocked libraries and many other facilities. We have integrated music and sport in our curriculum…and all these extra activities involves cost. Some parents are happy because they understand what enormous effort we put in to give them the best.

The school respects the ordinance passed by the UP government and also understands the government’s intension to provide better education at lower cost, however we feel that we may not be able to provide all the activities which we aspire to provide to the students.

Do you support governments circular regarding the weight of school bags? Is it feasible?

The policies of the government are formulated with great deliberation and I am no one to question them, but, it is right that the burden of bags should be decreased and children should be given a chance to bloom freely. Primarily, parents should buy age appropriate school bags for their kids, and not the fancy and oversized ones. The bags of senior students are lighter whereas the primary kids are coming to school with heavy bags. They do not keep books in the bag according to the timetable. Sometimes we trace out storybooks, toys, loaded geometry box etc. from their bags. We have started to keep heavy books and activity files in school. We are planning for more lockers so that some of the books could be kept. We plan our timetable in a way that at least two-three activity periods are there in a day. It lessens the burden of the bag.

How tough it is to counsel the parents and how frequently do you do that?

We start interacting with them from the beginning of the session. When a child is admitted, parents are called for the orientation program. We interact with the parents / guardians on every next milestone of the child. We let them know the strengths and weaknesses of their child and help with the knowledge to overcome the situation. These are general cases and if any child is identified with a special behavioural issue, our special educator / counsellor communicates with the parents. It is very difficult to convince them that their child has any behavioral problem. They somehow take it negatively. Whenever we point out cases of a slow learner, autistic or dyslexia, we also acquaint them with CBSE guidelines which do gives relaxation to such children.

When you identify a child as ‘special’, do you treat him/her especially as well?

Mine is a regular mainstream school and not an inclusive one. Secondly, if we allow a special section or take special care, the child becomes extremely conscious. So, we let them be normal with other children. They also follow the normal curriculum with slight modification as per their needs. The special educator and counsellor monitor such  children on regular basis. We communicate with the parents and advise on various techniques that can be adopted in enhancing the child’s overall development. There is a complete hand holding, from identification of the problem to rectification. Unfortunately, in India, the scarcity of special schools is there.

Do you agree that vocational skills are going to be the 21st century parameter?

Oh yes! Even mainstream education is all about skills. It helps us to be equipped with everything. Probably there would be a time when we have to help ourselves. So, we promote skill development through effective measures of adopting STEM based learning and adding activity clubs in school and try to give children plenty of choices—book keeping, home science, cooking, electronics, robotics, carpentry, photography, public speaking, quiz and many more. ATL also assists students in developing new age skills. There is never a dull moment for them in school. We also consider their interest areas.

Similarly, we train our teachers a lot to keep them updated with latest pedagogy. They receive forty hours of training every year along with a diversified range of other learning attributes.

Do you want to share any message with our readers?

Since we deal with 21st century learners, we also need to be a 21st century teacher. If we expect so many skills in our children, we should also have those skills amongst us. Only then, we would become rock star teachers. Children will look up to us if we practice what we preach. In addition, respect needs to be earned, we can’t demand that. If needed, we have to do a lot of unlearning and re-learning. There is so much of dynamism now in education, we need to update ourselves continuously. The role of a teacher is predominant and it would always be. Gaining knowledge might have been easy but processing of that is to be done by a teacher only. It is not important what to teach; now the pedagogy is more important, that is how to teach. We also need to understand that technology now plays an important role in enhancing school education.