A believer that no task is big or small and deserves complete attention, the former Geography masters and the Progressive Principal Award winner and Iconic Principal Changing the World Award winner is now at the helm of affairs at the Hyderabad Public School, Skand Bali talks to Brainfeed magazine on what education means to him…
Your views on the present Indian education system…
I am concerned about the present Indian education system. One of my deepest concerns is that many of the reforms that are being introduced in this system are driven by commercial and political interests. There is misunderstanding on how real people learn and great schools actually work. Any education system that highlights grades or marks over process and attitude is bad for the students. Our present system is of an industrial character, based on standardisation and conformity, which suppresses individuality, imagination, and creativity. This system is completely unsuitable to today’s circumstances. Simply improving the conventional standards will not meet the challenges of today. What we need is a complete overhaul of the education system, a revolution based on a belief in the value of a person, the right to self-determination and a potential to evolve and live a fulfilled life.
What are your suggestions for reforming K 12 education?
We need to have a purposeful outcome to our curriculum. Self-motivation and character building need to be given utmost priority. Ethical surfing of internet, use of smart gadgets are required to be taught in our syllabus. We need to move toward experimentation and creativity. Let kids choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn. The idea should be to foster the study of any discipline in depth, develop a child’s knowledge of it but also enable them to go beyond their own experiences and observations. Right now, we are clear on the ‘How’ of the subject matter but seldom refer to the ‘Why’ or the purpose of that particular learning.
Tell us about rote learning.
Education can never be rote learning. As I see it, Education is not about remembering facts but about understanding the reasoning behind those facts. Education should enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so they may become self-sufficient, empathetic citizens.
It is the Principal who plans and leads the school in a right path. How do you describe the term leadership?
Leadership is a very complex yet very meaningful term. Everything a Principal does as a leader is closely related to people both inside the school and in the community. Leadership to me means immense responsibility, a responsibility where you have been given the powers to make a positive difference in the lives of those under your direct or indirect influence.
Leadership can be collaborative or be commanding, but it must inspire those they lead with a sense of capability and value. The job of a Principal is not to improve test results; it is to build community among students, teachers, and parents, who share a common goal.
Do you feel that technology can take over the teachers in the coming years?
It is true that digital technology is transforming how we all work, play, think, feel and relate to each other. But no amount of technology can replace the human factor! Technology will inevitably become a part and parcel of life everywhere including classrooms, sports fields and every other corner of the school. So teachers have to keep pace with technology if they do not want to be left behind. Only those teachers who adapt and accept technology wholeheartedly will be able to connect with the new generation. But the heart of education is the relationship between a student and a teacher. Technology is a welcome addition to the classroom setting; it will and should not be a replacement for a teacher.
You are specialised in Geography. How does the subject help in today’s context?
Pupils encounter different societies and cultures because of various factors and not just learning geography. Geography makes them aware of these societies and cultures; it makes them understand differences with similarities. Did you know that the land you stand on shapes the society in which you live? Geography actually determines the world’s balance of power. It aptly explains the concept of cause and effect. It is one subject, if taught and handled well can actually unite the whole world.
What are the defining features of preschool education?
I feel the defining features of any happy and progressive preschool education is that it should remove the fear from a child’s mind and should encourage them to be creative and curious so as to develop the habit of questioning in them. Our preschool should let children have the courage to be different and develop their individuality meaningfully. Preschool education is where the first step towards formal education takes place; this is where we have to focus most especially on teaching communication and inclusion. I always say that one must begin right to end right!
You were a Geography Master at the Doon School, Dehradun. Now you are the Principal at The Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet. Which role do you feel is difficult?
I believe every role can be difficult if one does not put his or her heart and soul into it. Simply for that reason, I give my 100% to everything I do. No task, big or small, is undeserving of complete attention. There are challenges in every role but at the end of the day, I love what I do and always try to make a positive difference with whatever responsibility entrusted to me.
You have been a part of IAYP. Comment.
I have been associated with IAYP programme since 2007, first as award leader and Manager of first YES centre and later on becoming the trainer and then National Head of the National Training Panel of IAYP in India, hence conducting many national and international workshops. I don’t get that much time now to go and conduct workshops anymore. Close association with the award has helped me take it to the masses in Uttarakhand and Punjab. IAYP is one programme I feel should be offered to every young person in India.
What is your vision?
My vision is simple; it is to make a difference. My vision is a commitment to provide an environment where students can maximise their potential via self-motivation and engagement. I want HPS to contribute positively to the learning revolution that I can foresee in the future. If “civilisation is a race between education and catastrophe” (H.G. Wells), I want to see education win!