One of the biggest challenges several principals are facing is managing within the shrinking finances and depleting resources – Dr Anita Puri

One of the biggest challenges several principals are facing is managing within the shrinking finances and depleting resources

— Dr. Anita Puri, Principal, Cambridge Foundation School, Rajouri Garden Extn., New Delhi

How long have you been associated with Cambridge Foundation School? How have you witnessed the rise of this school under your leadership?

For over 3 decades. Incredible all-round growth and development. Consolidated pre-existing strengths and added several new dimensions both in academics and extra-curricular activities leading to unprecedented achievements.

Both, the Cambridge Foundation School as well as you have won several awards and accolades. Cambridge Foundation School has become synonymous with providing a holistic child-centric education. What is your vision for the school in the near future?

I am a progressive and pragmatic dreamer. I have always ensured that the school is constantly innovating and remaining amongst the leading schools of tomorrow. I want my students to prepare for life. The concept of an ideal school has changed drastically over the years. From chalkboards to smart boards, from slates to note pads, from open air classrooms to the curtained air-conditioned ones— there has been a huge evolution in the concept of schools. Along with the infrastructural changes, the concept of teacher-child relationship, the medium to impart knowledge, the use of language, etc all have changed. I envision a school that is fully equipped to promote all-round development in children- be it physical, social, intellectual, emotional, etc. Along with digital classrooms and updated technology, the schools should have open play ground, safe and independent learning spaces for the students. The school atmosphere should be healthy, friendly and encouraging. Students should emerge as confident thinkers who are able to express themselves freely. The policies of the school should be based on the precept of equality and be flexible enough to adjust as per the needs of students.

What are the key challenges that you go through as a leader and head of the institution and how do you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges faced by me and several other principals is managing within the shrinking finances and depleting resources. Automation is another big challenge. The daily operations and processes by implementing an online platform are making things better. We can also automate processes such as course evaluation. In fact, automation helps in getting across to more students and that too in a positive way. Safety, security, student discipline, mental health and motivation are other important challenges we need to confront.

What is your assessment of the past year? How has been the response of Indian K-12 sector during the pandemic?

Frankly speaking, the last year was revolutionary in several ways. The challenges were huge but it is satisfying that everyone at the school or for that matter in the country rose to the occasion to combat the pandemic threat. By prioritizing education we ensured transition from disruption to recovery. The students across the spectrum; from junior, middle and senior wings responded stupendously well. The teachers’ response definitely mitigated the impact of school closures.

NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 was announced last year and aims to revolutionize the Indian education system. What are your views on the policy? How is your institution preparing to cope up with this significant shift?

As far as education is essential for developing complete human potential, it is indeed a welcome step. Providing universal access to quality education is the key to India’s continued ascent, and leadership on the global stage in terms of economic growth, social justice, equality, scientific advancement and national integration. Universal high-quality education is the best way forward for developing and maximizing our country’s rich talents and resources for the good of the individual, the society, the country and the world. India has the highest population of young people in the world and over the next decade due to our ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities to them we are determining a progressing future for our country. The goal to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030 is definitely a very significant step. This requires the entire education system to be re-configured to support and foster learning.

Cambridge Foundation School (CFS) has always been at the forefront of bringing forth dynamic and revolutionary changes in the teaching and learning practices and is open to adopt the best global practices. Needless to mention that where necessary, we make the desired shift and provide training to upgrade the knowledge and skills of teachers. Undoubtedly, we always remain in sync with the latest and most modern techniques in education.

Dr Anita Puri is a learner, educator and innovator, with Teaching Learning and Leadership being her innate qualities. Fostering team building and effectively taking care of project management and leadership challenges, she has incorporated technology and latest pedagogies at all levels at Cambridge Foundation School.
She has successfully crafted and designed vision and mission with a clear policy on their implementation. To develop everyone’s full potential she emphasizes on inspired learning and acceptance of change in the education system. With her ever evolving dynamic personality, she has effectively created a learning environment and has direct involvement in the design, delivery and the content of academic development at Cambridge Foundation School.
Under the focused guidance of Dr. Puri, the School has established the ATAL Tinkering Lab and is implementing Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in the main curriculum. The School has also been appointed as a Lead Collaborator School under the CBSE Hubs of Learning programme.
Dr. Puri, also initiated the Annual Mega Career Conclave Symposium. The Conclave brings together professionals and experts from a plethora of fields including the Armed Forces, thus providing in-depth knowledge on the pre-requisites and future career prospects.
The recent Pandemic has brought out another of her traits; of being a technological pacesetter. Even before the lockdown in March 2020, she initiated the concept of Virtual Teaching. Anticipating loss of classes especially for the outgoing Class X and XII batches, she explored and implemented the concept of Online Classes proving that education has no limitations. In the more recent she also successfully implemented pedagogy of organizing the Brem Dutt Memorial Inter School Competition and the Sheila Verma Inter School Competition in 2020 and 2021 on the Virtual platform. The Competitions witnessed pan-India participation from Chennai, Mumbai, Jaipur, Lucknow, Dehradun, Shimla, to name a few.
Dr. Puri’s efforts in the field of education have been recognized and resulted in her being conferred with the National CBSE Teachers/Mentors Award 2014, The Delhi State Teachers Award 2015, Award of Excellence by CIE, University of Delhi, Award for Academic Excellence by the Ansal’s University, Global Human Rights Protection Award at the 10th World Human Rights Congress 2008, National Teaching  Excellence Award by the Confederation of Indian Universities 2014, Global Achiever’s Award 2016, and Avantika Shikshak Samman 2016.

The ongoing pandemic has shifted the traditional classrooms to rectangular screens. Most of us are digitally connected now. How does online teaching fare compared to classroom teaching? Do you believe the blended learning is the only way ahead?

The comparison between online teaching and classroom teaching is rather odious and unwarranted. Both have their merits and demerits. There has already been a metamorphosis of the classroom teaching methods. It shall continue to change further irrespective of the pandemic. Technology and expanded knowledge of the learning process have already enhanced the online teaching-learning methodology. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it a necessity. The safety of students and staff became paramount. While there is no doubt that classroom teaching leads to collaborative learning, enhances critical thinking and social skills; online teaching is certainly more flexible, personalized and accessible. They provide easy communication and need immediate decisive actions. Of course, we have to find a perfect blend to amalgamate the two.

Our teachers are under huge stress since the beginning of the pandemic; from coping with structural issues like modifying curriculum and teaching techniques to online teaching per se. How are your teachers overcoming such challenges? Did you arrange for some special training for them?

I don’t think so. Teachers, irrespective of what background they hail from, are traditionally equipped with the innate strength to combat any challenge and have tremendous resilience to always rise to the occasion to facilitate learning and developing the ability in students to adapt to any given situation. At CFS, our teachers were already well equipped and trained to adopt the rigors of online teaching. In some cases, our IT department at school also made things easier and simple.

Class 12th and 10th results have just been declared as per the new assessment policy introduced by the CBSE. What are your views on the latest assessment guidelines for class 12th?

The latest guidelines for Class 12th are student friendly and designed to make an overall correct assessment of their critical thinking ability as also the gradual unfolding of their academic advancement and improvement. The progress round the year is monitored and not based on one single examination at the end of the academic session. It surely is a wonderful policy aimed at the future and completely student centric. For the final assessment a careful, extensive, wide-ranging monitoring has been done as this was not based on any one single examination at the end of the academic session.

What are your interests and hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?

I have a passion (inherited and imbibed) from my illustrious predecessors to see unbridled growth and development of a whole new generation. You may call it interest or hobby. I am constantly innovating in my mind and that’s the best relaxation for me during my free time. Of course, I considerably enjoy reading and travelling.