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Aug 01, 2017 at 05:42

Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar prides itself on the intellectual workings and the social initiatives of its students and staff. Mansi Tikoo in conversation with Madhulika Sen, the Principal; Mallika Preman, Senior School Headmistress; Preeti Chadha, Junior School Headmistress and N Saroj, Dean- Academics.

How did it all start?

MS: The school was established by Mrs. Hari Sen. She had done her Masters and Ph.D in education, from Berkley University, USA. She had gone there on a scholarship with a pledge to come back to India and contribute to the field of education. She came to Delhi in 1964 and that’s when she started the school, in a residential premise in Defence Colony, which was later shifted to another house in Lajpat Nagar. While the school was running over there, this current land was allotted to them in 1971. While the building was being built, the school ran in a residential house across the road. With ten small classrooms on the ground floor, the school started in 1972.

Does the school abide by a particular educational philosophy?

PC: We still abide by Mrs. Sen’s vision of creating an intelligent group with an equilibrium between modernity and tradition. For instance, the students are in the habit of touching the teacher’s feet every morning, which sometimes shocks parents as well, but this is how we encourage them to not drift away from their roots.

MS: Disrespect towards the teachers is unheard of in our school. Furthermore, we strive to strengthen the moral fibre of the students and so we give utmost importance to honesty and respect for elders.

PC: Honesty is appreciated and rewarded in the school. We have seen students returning large sums of money, which they found, even our support staff does the same. This might seem surprising to some, we honour our support staff every year. At our graduation ceremony, valedictorians from each section invariably thank someone or the other from our support staff.

What are some of the cultural activities that the school has taken up?

MP: Our Social Service Programme is one of our dearest projects, wherein we take up one social cause per year and work upon it for an entire year and sustain it further. We started the LGBTQI Awareness programme, something which has never been done by any school in India.

MS: The idea was pitched to us by one of our teachers and we agreed to it because, keeping in mind the present scenario, it is of utmost importance to build awareness about the LGBTQI community and dispel myths about the same. Bullying of LGBTQI kids starts at the school level, so we had to build an awareness about that. We initially started the programme for the students of class 10, 11 and 12; surprisingly enough none of the parents had any objections to our initiative, rather they encouraged their kids to participate on the weekends as well.

The main idea behind the initiative was to bring awareness about the community and act as a reminder of the fact that even they are human beings and their rights should be upheld. We trained our students to talk about the misconceptions and help with self acceptance. Our students have been interacting with the members of the LGBTQI community for the past three years now.

Another achievement of this initiative was the launch of the e-magazine, Thrive, the only e-magazine in the world, about the LGBTQI community, and we at Tagore International are the proud founders of it.

What are some of the other social causes that the school has taken up?

MP: Last year, we launched a programme called, Flawless Flaws for the acid attack survivors. We collaborated with ASFI (Acid Survivors Foundation India) and they trained our students to give presentations and create awareness. Our students did Nukkad nataks at Dilli Haat and in various slums to create awareness about acid attacks. We are looking forward to the end of March, when our students will be doing around eleven presentations, at different locations including the Governor’s house, in Kolkata.

What are some of the advancements in the field of education that the school seeks to adopt?

MS: We have already introduced Flip Classrooms in our school last year; right from class 1. Our teachers provide the students with the course syllabus and study materials along with some relevant websites and students then prepare themselves for the lectures ahead of time.

MP: We also stress upon inculcating life skills through the curriculum. We take utmost pride in the fact that every year, in the month of June, our school hosts MUN, solely organized by the students. Our students also organize and host the Leadership Summit, every year, where the Head Boy and Head Girls of different schools are invited. They take care of everything, right from the budgeting to invites to sponsorship; all that we have to do is show up at the event.

PC: Emotional Intelligence classes are another unique feature of Tagore International. We train our senior students to be peer mentors to the students of class 5, 6 and 7. The senior students guide them about dealing with puberty, parental pressure, emotional distress and other such problems.

Tell us something about your Distance learning programme.

PC: In our Distance Learning Programme, we have been conducting virtual classes with our partner school in Shanghai, since 2008. We have one hour classes where our teachers teach Yoga, Kathak and Indian Arts to the Chinese students while their teachers teach Tai Chi, calligraphy and Chinese painting, to our students. In recognition of that, our students are invited there, every year, for cultural and technological events. In 2010, the then Premier of People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, visited our school.

MS: On the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, 36 of our students, along with 12 girls from China, performed a dance drama of Tagore. The credit of this feat goes to our teachers, who over a period of six months trained the students.

You have a very unique way of dealing with defaulters. Please tell us about that.

MS: Decision making is another life skill that we focus upon. Our students are aware of the fact that the school does not tolerate cheating, bunking, use of abusive language, physical violence and disrespect to the teachers. Now, if the student makes a conscious decision to commit one of the above acts, they must prepare themselves for the consequences as well.

MP: When we suspend a student, they are required to put in, a few hours every day, of social service. They can serve at a Gurdwara or work at an Old Age Home or Orphanage and bring back a certificate, only then are they allowed to attend the classes again. We  are very grateful to the parents as well for supporting our decision and encouraging their children to bear the consequences of their actions and learn through their mistakes.

Is the school an inclusive one?

PC: Yes, we have about 54 students with learning disability, 3 students with physical disability,  3 students in the Autism spectrum and a visually impaired student. We have special educators who cater to the needs of such students but we do not isolate them from the rest of our lot. We are very happy that our special needs students are doing extremely well.

Anything else that you would like to say about the school and its students?

MS: We have always been told that our students are very confident, outspoken and well behaved and the credit goes to our teachers. They are enthusiastic and motivated and this translates in their students as well. We have also been often told that the school has a very happy and calm environment, which is one of the reasons why our students enjoy the learning process.

April -2016