I want to see my children being opinionated and with a clarity about what they want

I want to see my children being opinionated and with a clarity about what they want

Says Mrs Amrita Burman, Deputy Director,
Sunbeam Group of Educational Institutions, Varanasi

How does it feel to be associated with a prestigious group like Sunbeam? How long are you attached with this group?

I feel a sense of honour and pride to be a part of Sunbeam. If you grow with an organisation, you feel a sense of accomplishment and I do live with the same feeling. I have been with the group for over 25 years now.

How have you influenced the growth of Sunbeam since your joining?

I have tried my best to build a good team. At first, I tried to understand what was needed by the organisation and what would benefit the children. The curriculum was worked on and then the staff was taken through a lot of trainings and their standards were worked on. The admission policies were streamlined and once certain standards were achieved a lot of travel was done to observe great school systems and also to learn best practices. More training was done on all fronts and we started becoming members of some good associations and groups so that the children could travel and mingle with a lot of children and learn a lot. Our students worked on a lot of fronts to have a holistic development.  

 What is the future you want for your school?

The future for the school is developing a more global view and Internationalism. I want to see my children being opinionated and with a clarity about what they want and where they want to go. The children should be balanced on their emotional quotient and be empathetic. They should be grounded and have great values. They should find a place in the best colleges and institutes and move on to do good jobs or be entrepreneurs and become job creators. I want to see the children giving back to society in some way that they can. I would love to see my children serving the nation in either the defence forces or in the civil services or as great and clean politicians.   

Do you support inclusion? Or, alternatively should there be a separate unit for that?  How does Sunbeam follow the policy?

I completely support inclusion as children with slight challenges have an equal right to all facilities and to a respectful life. At Sunbeam, we do not have much of inclusivity though. We make our children very empathetic to the needs of all children with differences and those especially with special needs. At Sunbeam, we do run a Sunbeam Autism Centre where we have children who are very high on the spectrum and it is difficult to include them in the class but our children do go to the centre and offer their services and spend a lot of time with these children. 

What are the key challenges that you go through as a leader and how do you overcome it? 

I think I perform well when faced with challenges so I really do not know what is the definition of a challenge per se. Yet when faced with a tough situation I think I strategize well and overcome it with the help of my team. The biggest issue today is probably the discipline of the children as the more we are talking about the teachers not pulling up children or parents coming up heavy on the teachers if with all good intentions the teachers are disciplining the students, the teachers have become complacent about the behaviour of students and students are taking advantage of the situation and becoming disrespectful to the teachers. I fear we are breeding a generation who are disrespectful and disobedient to a large extent.  

Tell us about any three initiatives by government that you have embraced for your school and some that you could not, for valid reason.

We have a great Atal Tinkering Lab in the school and we have also adopted heritage sites, parks and villages. We are undertaking a lot of work on the Swachhta Abhiyaan front. Our students took initiative of asking and motivating all to come out and vote during elections. The best that we can do as a private unaided institution we do, to take the initiatives of the government forward. 

What special activities does your school offer that hones children’s skills holistically?

We have in the school leisure time activities in which there are about 44 clubs and all the students from class 1 onwards have to be a part of at least one and they are trained by experts in different fields to help them excel in whatever they are doing. Besides we have regular physical education period with very well-trained instructors. We also lay emphasis on co-curricular activities and our children are great quizzers and speakers in different forms of art. Our children are great in performing arts and a lot of the visual and performing art subjects are a part of our subjects offered list in the senior secondary school with many topping the charts. We also lay great and equal emphasis on academics and therefore our children are developed holistically. 

How do you groom your staff to become leaders of tomorrow?

We have a very well trained and motivated staff who are given responsibilities to lead in a lot of areas with the help of the students. They are involved in the decision-making process and are given the freedom and the confidence to take risks and they have rarely let us down.

What are the qualities you look for when you recruit a teacher?

I see their attitudes besides the subject knowledge. I feel a lot can be acquired but if a person has a negative attitude it is difficult to give their best. Besides, since they will be working in a school they have to be in love with children and must want to do anything to connect well with them.

Do you face any challenge in case of teacher retention? 

Not much, as we not only pay well; we also give them a great and rich learning environment to work in. If a teacher does not get respect and a meaningful environment to work in then retention becomes a problem.

What are the factors that contribute to the high rate of teacher attrition these days?

Low salaries and lack of respect is probably the most important, besides if teachers feel that the school values and trusts them and invests in their learning with which finally even the children benefit, the attrition rate will be low.

Do you believe that school governance and management are extensions of one another?

If I understand the question correctly a school is managed not governed as there has to be involvement of all stakeholders and besides we deal with human lives and emotions which have to be managed not governed.  

Mrs Amrita Burman is a passionate educator who believes that it is only through education that India’s destiny can change. Mrs Burman has been associated with Sunbeam for well over 25 years now. She has been a pivot around whom the Sunbeam precept has been built and closely monitors the unpacking of the Precept across 24 Sunbeam Schools. She has travelled widely both in India and abroad and is in complete sync with happenings in the field of education all around. She is also a part of the AFS Think Tank besides being Head of Round Square of Sunbeam School. She was part of the FICCI delegation which visited London in February 2019 to attend Learnit and attended the Microsoft World Educators’ Conference E2 in Paris this April.

CBSE has instructed all the schools to conduct a psychometric test for the board class students this year onwards. Do you think this kind of pen-paper test (that is not standardised, adaptive and computer-based) is going to be successful in finding out the interest areas of a child?

There are a lot of initiatives of CBSE in the past that have fallen flat and therefore the moment there is a new initiative everyone looks at it with suspicion. Having said that a psychometric test if not really done properly and by experts I don’t think will give a correct reading and if we expect a little too much from the teachers they are becoming burdened and losing connect with their subject and children as I think there can be nothing more important than giving time and space to a teacher and child in the school to connect with each other. Any test taken by any outside agency in the past has also seemed like a money-making racket.

Would you like to share any message with our readers? 

I would like all to fall in love with children, understand them well and be guided by your conscience in whatever you do. In case in doubt about your actions or policies just ask yourself … IS THIS GOING TO BENEFIT THE CHILD? If the answer is YES then you are on the right track and despite all odds just do it.