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Aug 01, 2017 at 06:05

Heading the premier educational institution in East Delhi, Principal of Ahlcon International, the dynamic Ashok Pandey, in conversation with Tanima Kedar. 

What was the idea behind the foundation of the school?

The idea first materialised 16 years ago, in the wake of the dawn of the 21st century. We realised early on, that the aspirations of the parents in the 21st century differed largely to the aspirations of parents in the 20th century and earlier. There were three main distinguishers that we identified, the first being, that the parents not only want their children to be academically sound but also participate in co-curricular activities with equal zeal and vigour. Secondly, technology was making its way into the day to day functionalities of offices, schools, and even homes and therefore, was fast proving to be a game changer. Thirdly, we noticed that apart from the academics, each parent desired that their child should have a warm, welcoming and conducive learning environment and thus, we realised the importance of good infrastructure. Having recognised these three changes, we then designed our vision, programme, curriculum and educational philosophy around it, with our motto, “Global perspective, Indian values.”

Fifteen years down the line, what do you feel are some of the major changes in the institution?

Initially when we came up with the idea, we had a lot of apprehensions. We were worried that the parents might not like our ideology, and that they would resist to the integration of technology with education and complaint, of our lacking in academic rigour. However, fortunately, we did not face any such resistance, but the idea was welcomed by parents, wholeheartedly and that, slowly, became our unique point.

If this school has the reputation and parental approval that it does, it is only because of our emphasis on value inculcation, and giving our students the opportunity to develop physically and intellectually. We have always acknowledged the fact that learning music, dance, art, games, being a good speaker and a good human being, is as important as learning science and maths, and therefore, the school has 20 activity rooms and 77 classrooms, along with 25 activity teachers out of a total of 150 teachers.

With this vision, as we moved forward after the establishment of the school in 2001, we have consistently come out with good results in the board examinations. We rank among the top schools when it comes to results, and we proudly boast of an average of 87% in board results. Not only academics, our children are performing well in other activities as well, the school provides facility for squash, swimming, rifle shooting, basketball, yoga, judo etc. We are proud to say that two of our students have represented India, in Kuwait, in the 15th Rifle Shooting Asian Championships. It is our faith that, when provided with facilities, children always, give results.

Also, since our motto is, “Global perspective, Indian values”, we feel that it is our duty to develop very focused, well structured and consistent international linkages, for there is a lot that we learn from the other countries and so it becomes our duty, to give back to them. We have strong linkages with schools in countries like Germany, UK, Australia, Denmark, to name a few, these relations have helped us understand that learning is a two way street, and this understanding has helped us improve ourselves over the years.

Could you please tell us about the school’s exchange programme with Germany?

Europa-Schule, in Koln, Germany have been our partners for the last five years. Under our foreign exchange programme, every year, the students from both Europa-Schule and our school undertake a project and work on it for an entire academic year. This programme includes two exchange visits, under which two of our students go to Germany and likewise, two students from Germany, visit India. Now, the unique aspect of this exchange programme is, that the hosting of the students is done by the respective families in both India and Germany. We can only imagine the extent of cultural exchange and cultural exposure, when an Indian child is treated like a family member by a German family and vice versa!

What would you say are some of the major achievements of the school?

Several, I would say. Firstly, I would like to point out, what gives us an edge in education and schooling, which is our  Professional Development programme, where we look at teachers as learners and encourage them to better themselves, every day, for no school can be greater than the greatness of its teachers. We, therefore, treat our teachers as our assets, we celebrate their successes as much as our students’, we invest in their learning and give them opportunities. In the last six years, almost 30 of our teachers have travelled abroad on professional visits and all of them had to undertake professional training apart from our in-house training. So, you will find that all the teachers at the school are technology certified, the English teachers have done proficiency courses, they are encouraged to undertake research, write papers, write books, attend seminars, present papers and constantly undertake newer challenges. We incentivise the work of our teachers by treating them as assets and we constantly encourage them to grow, not in terms of the position they hold, but in terms of personal knowledge, and this is an aspect that we take great pride in.

We have several clubs and societies like the eco club, the book club, the model united nations club, dance club, music club, and we encourage each and every student to be a part of one of these. We also invite ideas from students for the establishment of newer clubs and societies.

Furthermore, the school has ranked Number 1, in East Delhi, consistently, for  four years, we also are among the top 20 schools in Delhi. We are the recipients of the National School Sanitation Award, awarded by the Government of India, along with being the Tony Blair Faith Foundation Lead School and Eco Club Lead School. We were also sanctioned a Grant by the Bausch Foundation, whereby we undertook a project on Rising Women Power in India and Germany.

In sports, as mentioned above, our students have represented India, in Kuwait, in the 15th Rifle Shooting Asian Championships. At Ahlcon International, we do not take additional pride in saying that our students have gone to IITs or medical, we take equal pride in saying that our students have undertaken fine arts, literature, music, economics or law, and therefore we proudly say that this year, our topper was a Science student and our second topper was a Humanities student.

How has the school integrated technology with education and what do you feel are the challenges associated with it?

The school has incorporated technology at several levels. Technology integration in an educational institution takes place at numerous levels, primarily, technology is employed to make the processes of teaching and learning; enjoyable, so as to enhance the learning outcome. Secondly, technology is used to enhance our resource base, to make classroom learning dense and wholesome. Lastly, technology is employed to manage the educational institution and pave way for smooth operation.

Therefore, we have interactive boards in classrooms, our teachers are trained to embed educational videos, audios and other technologies to make their lessons more enjoyable and easily understandable. At the management level, since we now deal with almost 3000 students and are required to record and track data, it is of utmost importance to employ technology to help with management. MSTAR, which stands for, Managing, Scheduling, Tracking and Reporting, is our in house school management system, which helps us in managing the institution.

While deciding upon integrating technology with an institution like ours, one faces many challenges. We were faced with the challenge of setting up an infrastructure and training of man force for the operation of the management system, however, with time, we did overcome such challenges and the school runs smoothly now.

Do you think social media is interfering with the educational value of the internet?

Well, I feel that social media is interfering, not only with education, but all aspects of life. Therefore, the youth of today, needs to be educated about the pros and cons of social media the most, because, the “digital natives”; as we call them, are not alien to technology. They do not acquire it but it is rather embedded in them. Thus, it becomes our duty, as educators, to teach them the difference between using and misusing media, and the difference between taking advantage of technology and allowing technology to take advantage of us.

What is the educational philosophy of the school?

Let me tell you the vision of Ahlcon, which will define our educational philosophy. The vision of our school is that Ahlcon International should be a first grade centre of learning. We believe that we must impart to our children, joyful, relevant and value based education, which should fulfil the aspirations of all the stakeholders, namely the students, teachers, parents, management, society and our alumni.

How accessible is the school for parents?

We are always available for the parents, and so I would say that we are fairly accessible to them. We are constantly in touch with each and every parent, through email. Each parent is informed about the weekly assignments, projects, results and the progress of their child via mail. We also have four different blocks that act as interfaces between the parents and the school. Apart from the above, we also conduct monthly parent teacher meeting, where the parents can interact with the teachers, face to face. We also have a special provision for the primary section, where each day is allotted to a class, where the parents can interact with the teachers and learn about the progress of their child.

What is the school’s policy when it comes to dealing with indiscipline?

We try and categorize the activities of children into two domains, discipline and indiscipline, and therefore we feel that indiscipline is something that has to be dealt with. But what do we do for discipline? We always question ourselves that what should we do to curb indiscipline, why don’t we never ask ourselves how to inculcate discipline? I say this because, we need to understand that the two are not different entities. At Ahlcon, instead of trying to minimize indiscipline, we try to maximize discipline, for when we encourage good, desirable behaviour, indiscipline wouldn’t dare creep in.

We also believe that a child’s improper behaviour is a symptom of something, it maybe a symptom of non-interest and non-engagement of the children, or their work not being aligned to their goal. Therefore, we first try to prevent the appearance of such symptoms by making our classroom leanings aligned to the goals of each and every student. We try to prevent unruly behaviour by not allowing the children to sit idle, we encourage them to constantly engage in constructive activities.

What are some of the future goals of Ahlcon International?

Primarily, as mentioned above, we aspire to fulfil the aspirations of all our stakeholders, and to ensure that, we take care that no student fails to come across an opportunity that would allow him/her to explore their true potential.

Secondly, the students that enrol themselves with us, constitute a culturally, intellectually and cognitively diverse group and thus our teachers now face the challenge of moulding themselves in such a way, so as to meet the needs of this diverse group. We encourage teachers to upgrade themselves for differential learning.

Thirdly, we don’t want to be complacent with our achievements, we want to keep striving to achieve greatness. Our achievements should not stand in the way of our achieving greatness. And lastly, all of us, students, teachers and management, aspire to be good human beings and useful members of the society.