Every alternative Government is experimenting with the future of nation

Every alternative Government is  experimenting with the future of nation

Words Neeraj Mohan Puri, Principal, Modern Sandeepni School, Pathankot

Does the name ‘Modern Sandeepni’ signifies anything? What is unique about the school and its classroom culture?

‘Sandeepni’ was the teacher of Lord Krishna and Sudama. Modern Sandeepni School was established in April 1997. It is divided into 4 houses after the names of eminent and legendary gurus’ viz Vishwamitter, Varihaspati, Vashishtha and Drona. The whole aura is educational.

Our vision is to provide opportunity to every child sitting in the class. Child centric education is promoted, where teacher acts as a moderator and facilitator.

It is mentioned in your teaching methodology that rote memorization is not incentivized and you are not interested to produce pen pushers. How tough is it to implement and materialise while following to standard Indian curriculum?

In this razor edged competitive scenario, children across the globe study about artificial intelligence, data science, robotics and coding. It is irony of our education system that we are still chasing grades and percentage. Education system that incentivizes crammers or number crunchers will only produce clerks. We are trying to look beyond it. Definitely, challenges are felt initially because as per our Indian curriculum we are constrained to accomplish our syllabi well in time. But nothing is impossible for a person with firm determination. We have devised few techniques like theatre activities and role play which makes learning fun and the curriculum is easily completed. Besides, hands-on activities and ‘Do it Yourself’ methodology accelerates the pace of learning.

You are committed to building a happy school. At the same time, you want to produce researchers, innovators and global leaders and that need a lot of hard work. What is the life and work balance in the boarding environment of Sandeepni?

Rampant modernisation and intense competition has made life stressful. Consequently, educational institutions are switching over to latest buzzword of happy school and happy curriculum. There is no gain saying that, every school is investing their best efforts to mushroom scientists, philosophers and of course, leaders. In this mad race to overdo each other we are raising an army of competitors instead of noble caring souls.

Generally, every boarding school has a rigorous routine stretched from dawn to dusk. To break the monotony and to make it enjoyable we had a wonderful culture which is a blend of academics, cultural, sports and leisure activities. We have immaculately balanced life and work. Residential students are taken for excursions, birthday parties, special open dinners, dance nights etc. Numerous gala events keep them engaged and rejuvenated.

 Indian students do not get many opportunities for skill development whereas skill development is the only way to compete with the modern world. Do you provide any special hands-on training to the students for skill development?

We strongly claim to be instrumental in breaking the ice. We are numero uno to set trends in our region. I vehemently agree that the only way to make India a super power is by promoting vocational education. I feel privileged to place on record our out of the box activities to develop life skills and to make pupils future ready. To name a few:

a) We have a student journalism club. In this club students from grade V-XII are trained to conduct interviews of the dignitaries in our popular show FACE2FACE. They are trained for panel discussion.

b) We have indigenously managed Robotics Club for grade I-XII.

c) Students of grade III-XII are taken on regular basis to various industries, factories, hotels, hospitals, banks, insurance office, post office, court, stock trading exchange etc. to have first hand experience.

In this turbulent era, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach should replace conventional chalk and talk pedagogy. True purpose of education is to empower the kids by giving them the power to make a dent in this universe. 21st century students ought to be the store house of knowledge. Education should not aim to fill the empty vessels but to ignite the 1200 gm mass that rests on our spine.

Audio-visual flipped classroom techniques are in high demand today to sustain the curiosity of the students. Do you find it truly better than the traditional way of teaching and follow it in Sandeepni?

To yield ripe fruits from teaching-learning process, pedagogy plays linchpin  role. For  effective classroom transactions it is vital that pupils are engaged. To ennoble the minds of young enthusiastic learners, instructional leaders need to switch over from conventional to modern techniques. At Sandeepni, we adapt every latest teaching methodology available. There is no denying the fact that our experience of flipped classroom is amazing. Every child gets an opportunity to participate, reading of the chapter is done at home individually and discussion-lecture by students follow in classroom. Children enjoy this process as they are completely involved. Concept clarity has elevated and even phenomenal improvement has been witnessed in the performance of less advanced students.

What are the traits of an effective Principal according to you?

As is the role of spinal cord in a body, so is the role of Principal in an educational institution. Principal is a brand ambassador of any school. Personality and traits of the Head of the Institution cannot be summed up in few words. However, to me, Principal should be visionary and dynamic leader with futuristic ideas. He must have inexhaustible reservoir of knowledge, irrepressible zeal having effervescent smile and above all should be a good listener. (S)He should be multitalented having inquisitiveness and relentlessly innovating. Lastly, steadfastness for the purpose should be on bedrocks of his character who proudly wear discipline on his sleeves.

Schools are no more considered as the safest place. Parents’ blind faith is lost because of fake news and rumours. Have you taken any initiative to solve this problem? 

With the popularity of Right to Education, masses have understood the significance of education in life. This has widened the gulf of demand and supply of education. To bridge this gap many opportunistic investors have ventured into this industry. This has commercialized the education. To seize the opportunity new campus are mushrooming in without adequate infrastructure and with dearth of experience. This has tarnished the image of schools to great extent making kids more vulnerable.

With my personal and continuous intervention along with mine management and diligent team in all the state of affairs, we are able to maintain ourself sacrosanct. No doubt, off and on unpleasant episodes happening across send shiver down the spine of parents. Catastrophes can’t be eliminated but of course with extra vigilance can be contained. As far as safety and security of the students within the campus is concerned we have some extraordinary remedial measures like movement orders, in pass and out pass, maids are stationed near rest rooms, all vacant classes are locked, special squad team to daily raid the students, during assembly teachers are deputed on every floor to stay back, regular counting of students after frequent intervals besides CCTV surveillance.

Do you think there is a need to evaluate a child’s interests while career counselling? A psychometric test helps in finding out the interest areas of a child. Do you depend on any kind of test while counselling your students?

With the advent of the technology there are various tools available to assess the traits, interests and learning styles of child. Research and statistical studies have evidences that if we divert our energy in the direction of our interests we would be happy and progressive. Psychometric tests are boon for both counsellors and children to evaluate the strengths and shortcomings of the candidate. Yes, we do conduct but very judiciously.

Mr Neeraj Mohan puri is the Principal of Modern Sandeepni School, Pathankot. He is an educationist by choice. An alumnus of Guru Nanak Dev University, Mr Puri has Bachelor’s degrees in Commerce and Education, Post graduate degrees in Commerce, Economics and Management, MPhil in Management and currently he is pursuing Doctorate in Management. 
He is highly passionate about rekindling education. Starting his career as a TGT Maths in 2001, he has lifted himself to this level  by his extraordinary motivation and leadership skill. Under his supervision, Modern Sandeepni leapfrogged on one among the best schools in Punjab. He has arranged students tour to NASA, pro-actively planned in launching school’s monthly newspaper and magazine, introduced kids’ convocation ceremony, hosted mini olympics, organised workshops for the development of faculty members and most importantly, introduced paperless computer examination for I to VIII.  
With teaching and administrative experience of over 17 years, he has been honoured with Progressive Nation Builder award, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam award, Best Principal award and many more. He is the District Education Advisor of Wednesday Times. He has been bestowed with a certificate of brilliance from honourable HRD minister Smt Smriti Irani.    

It is hard to keep a child away from mobile or other gadgets in this age. What is your take on the issue? In a residential school, how occasionally do you teach them the tricks of using digital medium carefully? 

It would be out of place to say that we can isolate a child from gadgets. Youth and mobile are inseparable. In digital world children are natives of technology. This is a topic which has generated more heat than light. I believe that it is next to impossible to keep child away from mobiles and gadgets, yes its addiction could be constrained.

As far as our residential school is concerned, we have not permitted any hosteller to keep mobile with them. They are having access to internet twice a week that too under strict supervision. Furthermore, it is advisable that schools should not be over-dependent on technology. It is definitely inescapable but, if planned up properly could do wonders.

What kind of challenges you are facing from CBSE and CBSE prescribed curriculum? What kind of changes would you recommend in CBSE curriculum and teaching methodology to cope up with new skill sets that are required in students to have a successful career?

Last few years, we have witnessed lot of volatility. Every alternative Government is just experimenting with the future of nation. Robust changes in the examination pattern like CCE, ASL, Value Education, PSA and then again back to board assessment. These dramatic changes have bewildered everyone. CBSE is one of the biggest Boards in the world. As discussed earlier we are still rewarding the pen pushers. I see least scope of creativity and innovation in our prevailing education system. Teachers are rushing to cover the syllabi. Children are sitting in classroom due to compulsion without curiosity. Smart classes are outdated now. Study is exam oriented not knowledge based. To my belief, only way to cure this bleeding rotten system is to rationalize the syllabus, introduction of projects, mandating internships and compulsion to have at least one vocational subject.

Do you want to share any message with the teaching fraternity at large.

At the outset, I bow to all the teachers. Gone were the golden days when teaching was considered as the most easy task and was last straw of earning bread and butter. In present scenario, teaching is not everybody’s cup of tea. It is highly demanding profession which requires certain extraordinary skill sets.

With my folded hands, I request the nation builders if you are teacher by chance, kindly quit, as you have no right to ruin the future of any child. Teachers must be passionate about their profession. Future of the country is locked in the concrete walls of classroom. Philosophy taught in today’s classroom would be the philosophy of upcoming Government. We all have to lead by an example. A teacher should be indefatigable. It’s all about giving, giving and giving….

Jai Hind!!