A puffing steam engine thunders through a tunnel in the hills, like a beautiful monster straight out of Ranji’s dreams. Fascinated by the spectacle, the young boy waits for the midday train daily. And soon the tunnel becomes a portal to adventures—of lush jungles, unexpected friendships with the tunnel watchman, leopards lurking near the tracks, and more. This is part of a new short story, The Tunnel, by Ruskin Bond, illustrated by Priya Dali and published by Puffin. It takes you back to a simpler time, when people would derive happiness from the smallest of things. In an interview, Ruskin Bond talks about his associations with the train, and upcoming books. Edited excerpts:
Ranji makes an appearance yet again in this book after stories such as Big Business. Could you talk about the person behind the character?
Ranji is a childhood friend and I put him into stories now and then. Back in the early 1950s, I had finished school and was in Dehradun. I had lots of friends and he was one of them. His real name was Ranbir but I changed it in the stories to Ranji.
The train has been a character in itself in your books, be it in the horror stories, or in chronicles of your journeys from Dehradun and Shamli. Why this enduring fascination with rail journeys?
This particular story could have happened at any time, be it 50 years ago or today. We still have tunnels in hills and forests, caretakers who look after them and leopards wandering around. But back in the 1950s-60s, everyone travelled by train. Air services were not fully developed and hence train travel was the norm. I always found stories somehow on trains and railway platforms. Sometimes I would buy a platform ticket just so that I could sit on a bench at a station and wait for something to happen. And usually something did happen, sometimes to me and sometimes to others.
The characters from these train journeys are particularly interesting. Today, with the frenetic pace of life, not everyone pays attention to the train conductor, watchman, and the ticket collector. How did those observations help you as a writer?
We had a little more time in those days. Life is so much faster now. To make a living, people have to rush around. Things moved at a leisurely place back in time. To go to England, I had to get on a ship for three weeks. With time at hand, you noticed things more. And if you were a writer, even more so. I would go to the maidan or parade ground, wander about and conjure up a story. Today, it is hard to get to know people intimately, to simply stop and talk. Say, in earlier days if I was coming by bus from Delhi to Dehradun, I would inevitably pick up a conversation with a fellow traveller. He would want to know all about you and you would want to know all about him. That’s more or less gone now. But in small towns, hills, there is still time for gossip and getting to know one another.
If you could recall some of the memorable conversations or associations from such journeys...
I would go to boarding school in the hills and leave Dehradun by mid-day. The journey involved changing trains several times, at Saharanpur and then Kalka. Today, this distance can be covered in six to seven hours by road. Changing trains would be hectic, I would sometimes miss the connections. Or, the train would be hours late, and one would end up sitting on the platform, eating chaat or chhole. Railway stations were great places for eating all sorts of things and having a tummy upset the following day. Water was not filtered or treated. One had tap water, which you got used to.
One night, I missed a connecting train at Ambala. I was 11 or 12 and was travelling alone. A kind lady befriended me. While we were waiting, another school boy came along with his mother, and they mistook this kind lady for my mother. She didn’t deny it. We carried on this pretence as I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. When I got on the train with this boy, this kind lady had tears in her eyes. And I also said, ‘Goodbye mother’. I never saw her again, of course, but it was a rather touching experience. Maybe she could have been looking for a lost son, or might have been a little disturbed.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I have kept a journal. These days, daily, I put down some thought or a memory or observation, connected with today’s events or the past. Sometimes the two come together. I have started calling it my golden notebook. I may publish it next year, when it is more substantial. From being a story writer and essayist, I am now becoming a diarist.
Ever since the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid was published in 2007, Greg Heffley and his family have been an integral part of popular culture. Author Jeff Kinney’s illustration of Greg as a round-faced, lanky kid, with a hint of a scowl on his face, has made him one of the most recognised characters in children’s literature. Over the last 14 years, thousands of young readers across the globe have followed the adventures of the clumsy, forgetful middle school student, as he gets into scrapes of all kinds.
Last year, in Deep End, book 15 in the series, the Heffley family embarked on a cross-country camping trip for ‘misadventure’ of a lifetime. Now, the latest book, Big Shot, which was released on 26 October 2021, shows Greg doing something unpredictable—trying out for the basketball team. Do Greg and sports mix? That’s the question that Kinney is trying to answer in book 16. Over a video call, the author talks about the inspiration for his current book, the upcoming Disney animated movie, and how the Heffley family is responding to the pandemic. Edited excerpts:
Who would have thought that Greg would land up in a sports field. Where do his adventures lead him this time?
I have been wanting to do a sports book for a really long time, but have always been afraid to go down that route. If I put a soccer ball on the cover of a book, it might turn off all the kids who don’t play that game. I couldn’t figure a way out until I realised that if I put a lot of sports equipment on the cover, kids would accept it as a sports book. In Big Shot, Greg is thinking a lot about sports. He has been watching the Olympics, just like a lot of kids did this year. He is thinking about what it would be like to be an athlete. But then he feels it is not for him. His mother, on the other hand, coaxes him to join a sports team. She tells him the reason he doesn’t like sports is because he has never been part of a real team. So, Greg reluctantly tries out for basketball. He hopes he wouldn’t make it and that would get him off the hook. And that’s what happens. But then there is a twist in the tale, with the best player unable to attend the game. What follows is a disastrous sports season. The book was a lot of fun to write. Both my sons played basketball, so I took a lot of learnings from those experiences.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been adapted into a motion picture before. And now Disney is coming up with an animated movie. How different or challenging is it to adapt the series into animated versus films with real-life actors in them?
In using human beings as actors, the audience has to make a really big leap. The drawings of the character look a certain way, and they don’t look like that on screen, so there is a little bit of a disconnect. In the animated version, it feels like the book has literally come to life. Characters, even though three-dimensional, are close to my drawing style. They feel more authentic to the book. And I hope we have carried a lot of the DNA of the books in the Disney movie.
Greg’s mom doesn’t like screen time and his father doesn’t like anyone messing with his miniature models. During the pandemic, how do you see the Heffley family coping with these many things together?
During the pandemic, parents stopped trying to regulate screen time. I saw it happening everywhere. There are only so many board games you can play. And I feel this will remain a permanent fixture for this generation. Even for us—the way we are talking right now on Zoom, we probably wouldn’t have been doing this a year-and-a-half ago. But now it’s natural, it’s a tool that we use.
I sort of addressed the pandemic in the last book. On the first page of Deep End, Greg says he loves his family but he doesn’t want to spend 24 hours a day with them. He says what they need is a vacation from each other. I was trying to acknowledge the pandemic without being too on the nose about it. It was interesting as a writer. This was one event that everyone in the world was experiencing together to varying degrees. I had to acknowledge that.
Greg’s best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has emerged as one of the most loveable characters in the series, and you have written separate books around him as well. What's it like to keep these parallel narratives going for characters whose lives are so enmeshed together?
Rowley is a creator. That is something we see in our kids a lot today. One day they are consumers, and the next day they are being creators. When I write from Rowley’s perspective—when is telling spooky stories or stories of adventure— he has that childlike wonder. He is not worried about structure or logic. He is creating like a kid would create. It is easy to keep storylines separate as in the Rowley books 2 and 3, he is just looking at his own world and vision.
You started writing Diary of a Wimpy kid more than a decade ago. How has the Heffley family evolved in your mind while keeping the storyline consistent to its original idea?
I don’t often revisit my old writing. It is only when I am looking for material for new Disney movies that I go backwards. I think someone someday will do an analysis of how the characters, storytelling have changed, or even how I have changed as a person. It is hard to detect that when you are writing. I did start writing the books long before I met my wife or became a parent. Now I am at a different stage of life—I am parenting college kids. So, I think having a second look at childhood helped me get more material, and now I can relate to the parents in the books much better.
In the ongoing uncertain times, school students often find it hard to keep up with the constantly evolving socio-political as well as educational circumstances. However, teachers and parents must work hand in hand to help them deal with such challenges, guide them towards the right direction, encourage them to achieve their goals and ambitions and motivate them to become good citizens. In this interview, Sovanika Pal, Principal, Vidya Bharati School, Rohini, talks about the need to develop suitable teaching and learning processes to help students overcome the difficulties and encourage them to keep going forward.
‘In these politically volatile times, should students be insulated from political upheavals? How do you inform/educate them about the changing scenario?
With the increasing media exposure, insulating the students from political upheavals is neither possible nor wise.We, as a school, believe that it is essential for each and every child to be aware of the policies of the government as well as the political tenets in an age-appropriate manner. Current affairs are integrated with various subjects and discussion on current issues is part of our virtual class assemblies enabling our students to know impact and wider consequences on the life of a common man.
How do you motivate children to be ‘Green Citizens’?
As it is said that charity begins at home, the first step that we have taken to turn our children into ‘Green Citizens’ is through the introduction of waste-free meals which emphasize on reusable food and drink containers and many such other sustainable measures. The students are educated about their carbon footprint and ways to neutralise it by adopting the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle.
Our PM Narendra Modi, in his annual Pariksha Pe Chracha speech, repeatedly motivated the students by saying that they shouldn’t just strive for high marks. Do you say the same to your students?
We at Vidya Bharati School (VBS) firmly believe in preparing our students for life by focusing on them acquiring the 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, team work besides being environmentally conscious and aware. This, in turn, will lay a strong foundation that will help them in accomplishing their personal and professional goals in this rapidly transforming digital society.
Pedagogy is changing by leaps and bounds every year. How do you keep pace with it?
To keep up with the changing times, teaching and learning process must evolve and transition as per the changing needs, and the teachers in Vidya Bharati are constantly upgraded through in-service trainings and symposium and the pedagogical framework works on the 5 essential E’s: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate which are executed through experiential project-based approaches.
How do you inspire/motivate students to take up sports as it is a vital part of school education these days?
Despite the current unpredictable oscillation of the pandemic, we have a Fun Fitness PE activity module which includes yoga, aerobics, rhythmic movements, jumping the line, hula hooping, scavenger hunts, which keep the students motivated due to the plethora of activities.
Where do you see your students/school 10 years from now?
The dictum of the school is “Gateway To The World” and with our consistent endeavours towards conformity, I foresee my students emerging as global citizens.
Your profession has many challenges. What, in your opinion, is the toughest?
There is an adverse attitude regarding teaching as a career option in our society. It’s at times considered a part-time job and not a vocation, which is disrespectful and demotivating. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to be a teacher and to remain one.
Would you inspire your own children to take up this profession?
As mentioned before, I aspire teaching to be admired as a profession. Henceforth I take pride in illustrating the magnanimity of my vocation to my 11- year-old daughter who venerates it proficiently while enacting as a teacher in her role plays at home and occasionally mentions that she will be a mathematics teacher when ahe grows up. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Are you still in touch with your teachers?
Yes, very much. Their mention itself fills me with reverence. I have always wanted to convey to my teacher, Ms Vimla Pandey, that it was she only who made me realise that I had a flair for teaching. I sincerely wish that she reads these words of mine which express my gratitude towards her for guiding me.
Three inspiring words for your students.
Aim, Act, Achieve
Coding or programming language seems to be a game changer in the arena of technology. It helps to solve problems in the most creative way. In the 21st century, coding is not only important for those who want to pursue a career in computer programming but it is also a key component for young learners. So, it has been made a part of the school curriculum too. With the aim of making computer programming more attainable to millennial students, Hindustan Times launched an initiative last year: HT Code-a-thon. This year, the second edition of this coding Olympiad kicked off from August 31. For this initiative, Hindustan Times has collaborated with IBM. Manoj Balachandran, Head, CSR, IBM India and South Asia talks to HT School about the importance of initiatives like code-a-thon and also, sheds light on the importance of STEM learning for students.
In a country like India, where there is a large gender disparity in the field of education, how can we ensure STEM learning for all?
India is one of the countries that produce the highest number of scientists and engineers. The growth of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has picked up significantly over the last few years. STEM spearheads research, innovation and problem solving. However, there continues to be a large gender disparity in this field. So, there is also a need to bring a gendered lens to innovation and research and fill the gender-based data gaps.
How IBM is focussing on coding for the empowerment of the girl students?
IBM has always been at the forefront and is investing in the empowerment of the students to make them future ready and increase the talent pool. Girl students will have 21st century technical skills inclusive of digital fluency, coding skills and a sense of agency to pursue a career in STEM.
What can be done to dispel the perception that coding is tough to learn?
While India has a lot of coders, coding for kids is new and nascent here. Institutional coding has not yet developed for kids. Its inclusion in the curriculum is limited to few private schools or as outside classroom learning. We should give them an opportunity to learn to code remotely also, pick up basic programming skills, logic and systematic reasoning, problem-solving tactics, and enhanced communication tactics. We need to boost their confidence and interest in innovation while giving them the freedom to build projects of their choice.
What was the motive behind collaborating with HT Code-a-thon?
If we want India’s talent base to compete in the global economy it becomes very important to up-skill them, keeping up with the changing dynamics of economy and workplace. Skilling and lifelong learning are very important. IBM Collaborated with Hindustan Times to expand the STEM for Girls Program to empower the student community.
Do you think an initiative like HT Code-a-thon plays an important role in driving digital literacy among millennial students?
Our goal is big so we have to come up with innovative ideas to inculcate the STEM Mindset in the Students, so Code - a -thon plays a very important role is driving digital literacy among students
What initiatives has IBM taken to drive digital literacy?
STEM for Girls is one of IBM's largest programmes primarily aimed at improving education and career pathways for girls who are studying in government schools. The programme includes imparting training in coding, 21st century skills and career development, with an aim to enable girls, empower them and increase their interest in STEM education and careers. In the current situation, when schools are closed, and there is a slowdown in admissions due to pandemic, we are working very closely with the teachers, enhancing their teaching capacity. We have trained around 7000 + teachers in order to build internal capacity of the teams to handle distance-learning requirements. Not only this, we are also preparing child-friendly and activity-based content, which is conducive and propels critical thinking and problem-solving attributes. We are connected with students over WhatsApp groups, motivating them by engaging them with role models, and providing them continuous mentorship.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia says that after fixing infrastructure and quality issues in schools, a new school board, and startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem are among the next reform agendas for the city-state government. In an interview, Sisodia, also the education minister of Delhi, spoke about why his government is setting up a separate school board, as it seeks to shift from theoretical schooling. Edited excerpts:
Any change you want in the country or economy, you have to do it via education. This is our government’s foundation vision. First thing, the confidence of people in government education: we fixed the infra challenge and facilities which was a worrying issue for almost 99% of schools in 2015. We have dignified facility and infra now. Second, teachers’ confidence, and now they aspire to achieve success for students by investing more time, energy and effort. Third milestone was board results. Now we have good results, success at higher ranks, and almost 100% success rate in exams. Facility, teachers and results.
So, what next?
Now, we have started working on mind-set curriculum. In pre-school to eight standard, we have started to address the emotional mindset through efforts like happiness curriculum and from 9th to 12th, we are trying to inculcate entrepreneurship mindset. Then, we have our own school board, which is a reform agenda.
A new school board for Delhi away from CBSE? Why?
CBSE has done a great job in facilitating quality education at schools. Now, we want to take this much ahead: When we are talking about pass and fail, CBSE did a good job in ensuring quality. But we wish to test the mindset of students, CBSE does not have that. We want to test the learning outcome of students, CBSE does not have this facility. I wish to gauge and amend the understanding of students, their learning applicability. So, we have partnered IB board as our partner. Curriculum design, teachers’ training, exam pattern and testing will be done by IB. This is not a board for Class X and XII students. We are looking at continuous assessment. This is why we have set up a new board.
We are starting with 30 schools this year. The new board has taken up the governing of 30 schools. Every year, we shall add schools to this. We are not forcing schools, they are free to stay with CBSE or come with the new board. In two to three years, our school board’s quality outcome will be public. With IB as our partner, it will be a high in its quality outcome.
You said you wish to nurture an entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem and offer small seed funds to students to work on business ideas. Please elaborate.
The aim is to make Class XI and XII students work on business ideas of their own and end hesitation about executing business ideas. It’s like a learning investment plan for our students. We have already done a pilot in one school. We are expanding them to all 350,000 students in class 11 and 12 together and offering each student ₹2,000. A single student can come with an idea or a group of 15 can come and take a bigger amount ( ₹30,000) for their collective business idea. It’s a structural reform right from the school level. So, we are creating an ecosystem of 300,000 plus business ideas or start-ups. Even if 30% succeed, it will be a huge number.
In India, we have a jobs challenge. But our education system is creating job-seekers, not job providers. This needs a structural shift. Joblessness won’t go by political promises but through structural efforts. We also had a mentoring plan for students by entrepreneurs and local businesses and covid-19 did impacted it a bit, but this year, it will pick up pace.
What next for those students who start a micro venture?
First you learned the failure and success at school level through this seed fund and hand-holding. The best business plans of each school then will compete at district level and then at the state (Delhi NCR) level via a budding entrepreneur competition. Based on that, we shall take the top 100 ideas to an entrepreneurial carnival – this can be 100 students or 100 groups of students. These budding entrepreneurs will sell their ideas and future plans to Delhi-based investors. So, we are creating an ecosystem of school students led start-ups.
We shall also give direct admission to 10 groups of these students (up to 100 students) direct admission in our universities like Delhi Technology University, and Netaji Subhas University of Technology in their undergraduate business degree programmes.
Beyond business ideas, how is your entrepreneurship focus in secondary and senior secondary students?
This is for all students for 9 to 12th across streams. 10 to 15 entrepreneurial stories from MDH to Flipkart to Facebook to ‘dabbawala’. The idea is not to tell their stories but to dissect and tell the mindset behind these ventures. Our entrepreneurial teaching comprises of ventures set up by different strata of the society – people coming from poor backgrounds, migrants and people who are successful and high-profile. So, over four years, these students have started to learn about 40 to 45 entrepreneurs. What we are trying to teach and make them understand is growth, risk, certainty, peace of mind associated with different sectors and types of work. So by the time one passes out of school, he or she has done research on let’s say 20 to 40 entrepreneurs.
Coding, the programming language used to write instructions for computers and devices to perform tasks, is the tech language of the future. In the 21st century, it is considered to be an essential skill for school children. That is why it has been made a part of their curriculum too. In order to make coding easier and more accessible to the millennial students, Hindustan Times launched an initiative last year. Known as Code-a-thon, it kicked off in October 2020. The second edition of this coding Olympiad began from August 31 this year. For this initiative, Hindustan Times has collaborated with SpeEdLabs, an AI-based practice and learning platform. Vivek Varshney, the founder of SpeEd Labs, talks to HT School and sheds light on the importance of coding skill for kids and the significance of initiatives like code-a-thon.
Education policies including NEP 2020 are focusing on including coding in the school curriculum. What, according to you, led to this trend?
With an advancement of technology, all job sectors are moving towards automation, making it imperative for students to learn coding. It also leads to improved logical thinking and creativity in children. Across the world, consumption behaviour of all services are going to be personalised and technology-enabled. So, we will need to design and build Apps. Therefore, a basic understanding of coding will be important for all domains.
In a country like India, where there is a widespread digital divide, how can we ensure that all students get to pick up a new-age skill like coding?
As a country, India has already crossed 60% internet penetration, while device penetration is also increasing with each passing day. Most of the schools have basic infrastructure for computer literacy. Most importantly, the awareness about technology and its impact is growing across the society. This is why parents and educators should aim a perfect balance of basic coding education alongside the traditional curriculum.
What is the best way to dispel the notion that coding is tough to master?
Today, learning to code has become very simple compared to earlier. Nowadays, 10-year-olds are creating coding programs and launching apps on App stores, thanks to block-based coding. It is the perfect platform to introduce a child to coding at a very young age.
Coding has different levels, but it starts from basic concept design, structural flow of activities and then logical thinking about relating various actions. It is no more difficult for a middle school student to master this skill.
What was the thought behind joining Hindustan Times for Code-a-thon 2021?
We believe that personalized and conceptual learning is the bridge between dreams and capabilities. HT Code-a-thon reaches young students across the country with a mission of encouraging students to learn coding and build initial interest at the right age. This is a powerful mission, and SpeedLabs is proud to be a partner in this endeavour. We believe these extra-curricular learnings in this competition will make a strong positive impact on the students.
Do you think an initiative like HT Code-a-thon is of utter significance in the world we live in?
Competitions are important for students to enhance their creativity and motivate them to learn further. In the next decade, India looks to drive global innovation in all sectors. As a country, we want to be the innovation engine for the next two decades. It is, therefore, vital that we build excitement about technology and innovation and start nurturing the students at the right age. Conceptual introduction to coding is the most important building block of this overall mission. We believe that each and every student should get a basic flavor of coding. Code-a-thon is a perfect blend of learning, workshops and participation in a national level competition.
What initiatives have been taken by SpeEd Labs to spread digital literacy?
Our co-founders are authors of computer science textbooks which help kids understand ways to be digitally vigilant, create apps and websites. Through free workshops across schools, we have taught lakhs of students to code games and apps. We are aiming to teach coding to 1 million+ students in next 12 months.
“For the sky split open, and a celestial voice said, ‘Evil Kansa! Devaki’s eighth son will strike you dead!’ A worried Kansa put the couple in jail; he killed Devaki’s firstborn, ignoring her wail.” These are lines from The Mahabharata in Rhyme, written by a 13-year-old poet, Sia Gupta, and published by Om Books International. In an interview with Lounge, she talks about taking on a complex text such as the Mahabharata, and her favourite episodes from the epic.
The Mahabharata is an extremely long and complex series. How did you assimilate the key ideas from the stories
My interest for the Mahabharata was ignited when my school did a play on it, called the Rashmirathi, which talked about Karna. After that, I wanted to know more about the Mahabharata. So, I watched the old Hindi show by B.R. Chopra and read countless versions of it, including the ones by Namita Gokhale and Devdutt Pattanaik. And while it is true that the Mahabharata is indeed extremely long and complicated, I managed to understand it because I tried to visualise and imagine the story. I tried to understand the backstories of each of the characters and their side stories. When I put it all together in my head, it just became clear and I could make sense of the story.
Why did you choose poetry as your mode of expression for this particular book?
I’ve always loved reading and writing poetry. It comes easier to me as I love the way the rhymes just fit together. Before the Mahabharata, I retold some of the classic fairy tales in rhyme, and that’s when I realised that children such as myself and my little sister love hearing things in rhyme. I also got to know that the original Mahabharata was written in verse in Sanskrit. So I thought of writing it in rhyme in English. I believe that if you can’t find the book you want to read, you should write it!
Which are your favourite episodes from the Mahabharata?
One of my favourite moments from the Mahabharata is the game of dice. It was very intense and I observed a lot of interesting reactions from the characters. I saw Duryodhana being vindictive, I saw Draupadi standing up for herself. I watched Yudhishtira gamble away his brothers and regret it. I watched Bheema and Arjuna get angry on Draupadi’s behalf and vow to take revenge. Another one of my favourite episodes was when Krishna went as a peace messenger to Hastinapur and revealed his true self. Sadly, I couldn’t write everything and capture each and every detail because that poem would have been endless. However, I chose what I thought was important to the overall story and the details that would matter eventually.
What is your writing process like?
There are times when I feel a blast of inspiration, and I sit down and write 100 couplets. I used to think that I should just write when I feel like it, but that is never enough. Of course, it’s best to write when you’re in the mood but one must try and write a little bit every single day. Whether it’s hundred words or thousands, it doesn’t matter. I also try and set weekly targets for myself.
What are you working on currently?
I’ve decided to take a break from poetry and start working more with prose. Right now, I’m attempting fantasy fiction for middle-schoolers. I had read a lot of fantasy fiction, so there is no dearth of inspiration. During the covid-19 pandemic, I’ve had a lot more time to experiment with different genres such as realistic fiction, thriller and mystery, to find what fits me best.
Residential schooling was very popular in our country in the 20th century. This idea originated from our age-old Gurukul system. However, with modernisation and the increasing aspiration of parents, the purpose of education shifted from wholesome personality development to obtaining good marks and good percentages. So, residential schooling is losing its shine as a system. But the contribution of these schools in the formation of our country’s human capital is undeniable. In this interview, Dr. Ashok Pandey, Director, Ahlcon Group of Schools, Delhi, talks about the current scenario of residential schooling in India and the growing popularity of day schools.
How have residential schools contributed to the Indian education system?
Residential schools have played a pivotal role in producing achievers as well as men and women of character. Their contribution in India’s human capital formation from all the walks of life is also undeniable.
Why are we seeing lesser number of residential schools in India?
Presently, what I sense is that it is increasingly difficult to run a residential school in India because you need teachers with a different kind of attitude and orientation. In fact, a different kind of teacher training is necessary for these schools. It is not easy to devote 24/7 to a group of children in a school. You actually need to make a lot of personal and family sacrifices. Therefore, as someone who has worked for residential schools, day schools and day boarding schools, I would feel a little sad that that we are not getting many men and women who can come and work for residential schools with the same zeal as it used to happen a few decades ago. However, it is not to say these schools will be wiped away from the canvas of schooling in this country.
What is the reason behind the growing popularity of day schools?
All across the world, the trend is towards day schools as they are also improving their profile. They are working day and night to bring in softer skills, sports and all the elements of residential schooling minus the stay.
A kid’s education starts from home. Parents are their first teachers and they play a key role in shaping up their character. Balanced education at home and school positively impacts a student’s learning outcome. With good support from home, students achieve better grades at school and grow up with a higher self-esteem, reveals a growing body of research. With the COVID-19 pandemic largely cutting off a student’s physical interaction with peers and teachers, parents have become their sole point of physical contact. In this interview, Ms. Manju Rana, principal of Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, talks about the importance of communication between parents and their children in the learning process and outcome.
What role do parents play in a child’s learning?
It is very important for us to understand that school and home environment are crucial to fostering a motivation to learn. Children are not used to studying in isolation. Whether it is a student’s relationship with their teachers, parents or peers, all of them play a crucial role in the student’s psychological well-being. If this is taken care of, learning will automatically flourish. During the early education years, parental involvement can do wonders for kids. They need to be involved in all aspects of the growth of their children, especially in the current scenario, where schools have closed and classrooms have reached the living room. Parent role-reversal has also happened so it is important that parents engage in co-curricular activities and support their child’s informal learning. To monitor their child’s progress, to ensure they are participating actively in school, parents’ engagement at home plays a huge role.
Why is communication important in the learning process?
It is important that parents keep an open line of communication with their children and interact constantly in order to build an emotional language and provide a safe and conducive environment for learning. Communication at all levels is extremely important. Praise, encouragement and support your children’s achievements to build the confidence in children that hey require for doing well in any field.
How are schools supporting parent-teacher collaboration?
Parents should stay connected with their children’s teachers and establish a mutually supportive dynamic. Schools are also facilitating informal interactions between parents and educators through parent-teacher meetings. These days, schools are also organising a lot of community programmes. Here also, the involvement of parents is necessary to encourage learning. These days, parents are highly engaged in school initiatives along with the educators and it is this collaborative effort of all the stakeholders is what is needed to transform the education system and help us re-imagine learning.