Ms. Aditi Mukherjee – We were one of the very few schools who initiated fee-discounts to children to relieve the pressure on parents during the pandemic

We were one of the very few schools who initiated fee-discounts to children to relieve the pressure on parents during the pandemic

— Ms. Aditi Mukherjee, Principal, Gems Akademia International School, Kolkata

How long have you been associated with Gems Akademia International School? What is your vision? 

I have been associated with the school since 2015. My vision corresponds with that of the school i.e. to make our students well-rounded and self-dependent individuals, by inculcating in them a passion for life-long learning, compassion and respect for others, and a set of requisite skills and qualities, so that they can make a positive contribution towards society.

All the employees of our school align their vision with the school’s overall vision. 

The ongoing pandemic has shifted the traditional classrooms to rectangular screens. All of us are digitally connected now, wherein the classroom protocols can easily be averted. What is the better medium according to you, the digital one or the traditional one we have had for so many years? 

A right balance of both digital learning and classroom teaching is essential for the overall development of a child. In the current scenario of the pandemic, digital education has become indispensable. At the same time, classroom teaching has always been and continues to be an important factor in promoting collaborative learning. Gems Akademia International School has always had a right balance of both these facilities even before the pandemic. We call it hybrid learning. 

Our educators are under huge stress since the beginning of the pandemic; from coping with internet connections and erratic power supply to more structural issues like curriculum designing and teaching techniques. How are your teachers overcoming such challenges? Did you arrange for some special training for them? 

A good number of trainings were held immediately towards the end of March and the beginning of April since we realised that the school might remain closed for a long time. We have had several in-house trainings for our teachers. Some trainings were also external. The administration cell and the IT department underwent training. Inspite of several challenges, we were successful in starting the online classes from 8th of April, exactly the date we were scheduled to reopen the school based on our academic calendar. Infact, we were one of the very few schools in Kolkata who could start online classes right on time. 

In this new kind of one-way teaching, how are they (the teachers) managing and monitoring student’s active involvement? 

The primary function of a teacher here is to ensure that his/her class is engaging enough to hold a child’s attention. Our school’s USP is that we have an envious teacher-student ratio, as a result of which our teachers know the students individually and interact with them on a personal basis. Though it’s true that physical classroom has the priviledge of physical proximity; a one-on-one interaction with students helps teachers gauge their involvement in class and also address the problems they may be facing. The teachers have also adapted the in-class activities to the virtual classroom to make lessons interesting; and the students are assigned extension tasks and projects which help ascertain their engagement level. However, it must be understood that every child in every class is unique and every teacher has his/her own way of reaching out to him/her.

As you already know, National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has been approved and is expected to be implemented shortly. Your comments? 

We are very optimistic about the National Educational Policy 2020 but we can only map it and talk more about it once it has been fully implemented.

What are your thoughts on students achieving near perfect scores in board exams? How will NEP solve this aberration in our examination system?

The near perfect scores have set the benchmark very high but it may not actually evaluate the child’s true merit so it has become difficult to gauge the child’s real competency. In view of the fact that the college admissions also depend on the scores of Board Examinations, the assessment pattern is in question and may need a closer look.

The ‘unlock’ has happened in the entire country. It is only a matter of time when schools would also open in the near future officially. But it would be a real challenge for the schools to generate trust and faith amongst the parents to send their wards to the school. How do you plan to handle this? 

Being an International School, we have maintained international standards of hygiene and safety. We have already started the sanitisation process of the entire school including classes, laboratories, transport, corridor, etc. We have put up banners, posters and wash basins have been put up at every strategic location of the school to spread awareness among children. The first step towards reopening the school would be taking consent from parents. We have already started asking for consent to parents of Grade XII and Grade X. Once we get the final number of students joining school for practical classes, we will follow the government guidelines and the guidelines given by the Council. Every student must fill out a health form where all relevant data related to COVID-19 will be collected. Based on this, we will finalise the number of students who will come to the school in the first phase.

Aditi Mukherjee began her teaching career in 2000 as a senior school teacher of English language and literature across all boards in various renowned organisations of the city. She then went on to become a Senior School Coordinator in 2009 where her functions were coordinating the ICSE and the ISC divisions of the school, teacher training, departmental coordination, introduction of e-learning and Board Examinations. She was in charge of the academic delivery and quality control. She became the founder Principal of Usha Martin School in the year 2010. She set up a new-school policy formulation and governance, strategic objectives and its implementation. She was responsible for curriculum delivery, administration, recruitment, mentoring, conducting workshops and symposiums, brand promotion and handling stake holders. She moved to Bangalore in 2012 and became the founder Principal in Vibgyor School, Bangalore.
In 2015, she moved to Kolkata and is currently the Principal of Gems Akademia International School. As GAIS is an international boarding-cum-day school and being the Head of the school, Aditi endorses pastoral care as she is convinced that this all-inclusive initiative is indispensable for the growth and well being of each student.
She is originally from Kolkata but spent most of her career life in Bangalore.  She has over 20 years of valuable experience in the field of education. While she has been a passionate and caring teacher; as an administrator, she has been firmly result-oriented with a steady vision. Her rich exposure to the Cambridge, and The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations curricula has empowered her with a diverse and innovative approach as an academic leader. She has been attending various seminars, award functions, symposiums conducted by education houses of the country for both CISCE and CAIE. She is a strong believer of accepting contradictions and polarities that do not lead to complexities where the individual is heard and respected. Within a very short period of her leadership at Gems Akademia International School, she has very efficiently and effectively spearheaded the school during the ICSE and the ISC affiliation process.
Aditi is passionate about teaching, athletics, travelling, dramatics and anchoring. She loves playing baseball and was a district level hockey player. Her articles on education and modern pedagogy have been published in various magazines and newspapers like Career 360, The Telegraph, The Times of India, Mentor, Cloud 9, etc.
Aditi has not confined her students to the traditional methods of classroom learning. Under her guidance, Gems Akademia International School has chartered the international territory for the first time. The MUN Committee of GAIS represented their school as political diplomats in Cornell University Model United Nations Conference, USA. To address the growing concern of environmental degradation, the Green Brigade of the School also visited Singapore to learn the various techniques through which we can create a greener and healthy environment.
She frequently travels for not only attending workshops but also for receiving awards in multiple categories for the school she leads. She received the British Council award on behalf of Gems Akademia International School for Outstanding Development of the  International  Dimension  in  the  Curriculum,  TTIS  Ambuja  Reality  Award  for Excellence in Maintenance & Eco-Friendly Initiatives, Education World Award for the best boarding school in Kolkata and 5th  in West Bengal, Education Today Award for being  ranked  best  7th   boarding  school  in  India, 1st  in  West  Bengal  and  1st  in Kolkata in the category of Top Ten India’s Boarding Schools.

School fee has been a major discussion point amongst parents during the pandemic, when the income sources are diminishing and people are losing their livelihood. What is your take on this? 

We were one of the very few schools who initiated discounts to children to relieve the pressure from parents during the pandemic. We have granted major concessions in every department. Since we are a boarding school, we have couriered complimentary reading materials and stationery to children. We also have an online library where students and teachers can access books. We are dealing with every parent on a case-by-case basis. Now that there is a clear High Court order, we shall abide by the law. We can proudly say that no child has left Gems Akademia because of the pressure of fees.

Would you like to share any message with our readers?  

I would conclude by saying that a simple lesson that the pandemic has taught us is that nothing is impossible. In spite of all the hurdles and challenges, we can immediately innovate and adapt ourselves to the current scenario for the comprehensive progression of our children’s growth. Even in the face of adversity, we have been able to live up to the expectations of our parents and children, and the children have also been able to live up to the expectations of the school. We are in this together and we shall successfully sail through this together.