In this ever-changing world, students often find it hard to keep up with the constantly evolving socio-political as well as educational scenarios. Keeping this in mind, educators, parents and the governments are collaborating to help them deal with such challenges, guide them towards the right direction, encourage them to prioritise skill development over acquiring high marks and become responsible Green citizens. In this interview with HT School, Alka Sahani, Principal, Maharaja Agarsain Public School, Ashok Vihar talks about the need to focus on developing skills and competencies among students, to keep up with the competitive times.
‘In these politically volatile times, should students be insulated from political upheavals? How do you inform/educate them about the changing scenario?
I believe that if we want our students to be catalyst of change instead of passive and submissive citizens, we have to ensure that they are aware of the local, national as well as global political scenario. Thus empowered, they will develop into conscientious citizens. The students of today are the citizens of tomorrow. As academicians, we have to educate them beyond the four walls of classroom. We need to make the students aware of contemporary issues. They need to be taught to believe in dialogue and deliberative democracy so that they understand that different ideologies can come together and resolve seemingly irreconcilable issues.
How do you motivate children to be ‘Green Citizens’?
We regularly take up sustainability projects at school and the students play an active, hands-on role in those projects. We have an Eco Club exclusively devoted to conservation and the school calendar is replete with celebration of environmental days. At MAPS, we have created a culture of sustainability. The school is solar-powered, harvests water and is paper-free to a large extent. We regularly organise cleanliness drives and mega plantation drives like Van Mahotsav. MAPS has been declared as a no-plastic zone. Campaigns such as zero-waste week, e-waste collection are also regularly organised. We also reuse and recycle old products.
Our PM Narendra Modi, in his annual Pariksha Pe Charcha speech, repeatedly motivated the students by saying they shouldn’t just strive for high marks. Do you say the same to your students?
Definitely! The idea of education has undergone a sea-change. It’s no longer about marks and degrees. The NEP 2020 stresses on competency-based education. We, too, focus on skill development and encourage the students to enhance their skills and competencies. Upskilling is our main objective for our learners. We strive to prepare students for the world, for life itself where marks are mere numbers. We have to give the students an enriched and meaningful learning experience that will allow them to work independently and hone a quintessential spirit of enquiry.
Pedagogy is changing by leaps and bounds every year. How do you keep pace with it?
Education needs to keep pace with the changing times and what better example than the adoption of hybrid teaching modes by the schools worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic. With the changing pedagogical and technological advancements, the school education systems have to be upskilled across all realms to support teaching and learning. The need of the hour is for teachers to embrace the pedagogical changes. The teachers are trained through webinars, hands-on sessions, discussions, capacity building programmes etc. to keep up with the changing trends.
How do you inspire the students to take up sports as it is a vital part of school education these days?
‘Khelega Bharat Toh Khilega Bharat’, so aptly articulated by our PM! Academics and sports complement each other. It is quintessential that sports activities be carried out along with the academic curriculum for the holistic development of the students. We have initiated a one-hour sports activity programme wherein the students play the sports of their choice. MAPS boasts of a sports academy with specialised coaches where students are trained in various sports. It facilitates their participation in different competitions at inter-school, zonal, district and national levels organised by Directorate of Education, CBSE and other organizations.
Where do you see your students/school 10 years from now?
My vision for my school is of a happy space which students and the staff are happy to inhabit. Our teachers are already committed to update themselves with the latest pedagogies and I am sure they will continue to do so ten years hence. We are focused on making our children future-ready, individuals equipped with skills for jobs of the future. With emphasis on competency-based education, I visualize my students to be job-creators who believe in using technology for the benefit of humanity at large.
Your profession has many challenges. What, in your opinion, is the toughest?
The role that I essay as a school principal is a fascinating confluence of duties pertaining to both leadership and management. The chief among the challenges we confront is to sustain the rhythm of the relentless pace of social and cultural advancements. It is essential that students as well as teachers raise their expectations and move beyond the sky to scrutinize the universe. As their mentor, my responsibility is to prevent any dearth in the number of opportunities that the staff and students may partake in, and to keep them motivated to tread paths beyond the confines of their roles.
Would you inspire your own children to take up this profession?
I always strived to inspire my students to take up the profession of their calling, and by pursuing a career in education, they would benefit society as a whole. This is a career where one van make a transformative difference to young students’ lives and empower them with the values they would need to influence the world to become a better place. I would like my children to decide for themselves what they want to be.
Are you still in touch with your teachers?
It is not an exaggeration to say that great teachers impact the student’s life. As a student, I attest to the benefits of a strong relationship between an educator and pupil. My teachers not only just led to my academic enrichment but also to my well-being both inside and outside the classroom. I am in touch with most of my mentors to whom I am forever indebted and owe my success to them to a great extent. It is always a delight to talk to them and seek their guidance. They are an inspiration to me even today!
Three inspiring words for your students?
Yes, you can!