Starting with modest beginnings to becoming one of the most influential schools in west Delhi, Principal Mrs. Vandana Chawla and Founder-Director Mrs. Usha Chopra, in conversation with Mansi Tikoo.

How was New Era established? What was the idea with which the school started?

UC: I had completed my B.Sc, B.ed and was married at the age of 21. Three years into my marriage, my father felt that an educated girl should not be spending her time at home, doing nothing. So, he encouraged me to open the school.

New Era will enter its 56th year on the 13th of April and I feel that the school has evolved every day since its establishment. I still remember seeing nursery kids with their small backpacks and thinking when will they start bringing bigger backpacks to school. Once we had reached up to class 8, the teachers had a meeting to discuss the expansion of our school. Thus, we became one of the only three school, at that time, to have secondary education.

What has been the educational philosophy for the school over the years?

VC: I have been associated with the school for the past 35 years and our educational philosophy has always been the same, that is to do our best. We as teachers try to impart our knowledge to the students in the best way possible. Furthermore, we encourage our students to do their best, whether it’s in the field of academics, sports, morals, social work or co-curricular activities, the students must strive to achieve excellence.

How would you say that education and teaching has evolved over the years?

UC: Everyone who meets me, tells me that I am a strict taskmaster. The four students that passed out from our first class 12 batch, still give me the credit for their success. So, I think, with the evolution of education and teaching, one thing that has remained intact is dedication, and that is the key to success.

Earlier, when I used to interview teachers for my school, I would frequently hear young women telling me that they did their B.Ed for they didn’t have anything else to do. However, today, teaching has flourished into a profession and a passionate one at that. I can only try and keep up with the ever changing times.

What sets New Era apart from other schools?

VC: Our school has been taking part in the Republic Day contingent for many years now. However, recently with the introduction of various activities within the school, sending our students to practice for hours at end has become a little troublesome.

Quizzing is a forte of New Era. Our team participates at national level quizzes, and I think it’s safe to say our team is the best in the city, if not the country.

We also have the privilege of being one of the very few school of NCR to have magnificent indoor Badminton courts, complemented further by our excellent Badminton faculty. We have recently developed an international standard cricket pitch where the students can practise their cricketing skills.

For the last thirteen years, we have been partners with an organization called “Food for Hungry”, whereby, round the year, every month, students of a class donate either 1Kg rice or 1Kg lentils, and it is used to feed the poor and hungry around the

country. We encourage our teachers to donate as well, to make the students realise that we have a responsibility towards our society.

Our students have also been a part of the cancer awareness programme called “CanSupport”, for many years.

At the basic level, we aspire to provide an environment which would facilitate holistic development of each student.

What are some of the challenges that you encounter in the field of education?

UC: Most important change that needs to be made in the education system is the very change in our attitude towards education. It is not enough, to get your child into a good school, but parents must play an active part in their child’s education. Also, the teachers must invest more of themselves into imparting their knowledge and nurturing wiser, morally sound and holistically developed students.

VC: One of the primary challenges that we face today is technology, in the sense that students, nowadays, are so fascinated by the entertainment value of technology that they fail to realise or even acknowledge its worth as a source of knowledge.

To combat this, we always encourage our students to host and participate in open events. We believe that “Reading maketh a man”, hence, twelve years ago, we started a programme for reading, wherein we organise an inter school writing event which is based on a book.

We abide by the fact that a certain amount of respect and authority can help you mould yourself into a more positive and successful being and therefore a conscious effort needs to be made towards inculcating discipline, the kind that comes from within.

Another thing that bewilders me is the lack of role models that the students have these days. What most of the students fail to realise is that, the cricketers, actors and entertainers they idolise, did not shoot to fame overnight, but have worked hard for it.

What is the school’s policy on dealing with indiscipline?

VC: We are strictly against corporal punishment or humiliation. If a child is misbehaving regularly, we take the help of our counsellors to understand the root cause of the behaviour and help the child accordingly. However, if that fails, we involve parents, as a last resort. We often ask the parents to be present at the school, while their child is in class. Nothing worries a child more, than knowing that their parents would be called up to the class if they misbehave and that usually curbs their misbehaviour.

What are some of the forthcoming initiatives at New Era?

VC: New Era is one of the very few schools that is solar energy compliant. We installed the solar panels last year, and we plan on replenishing the cost in the next five years. We also plan on installing air conditioners in our classrooms as it has, nowadays, become a necessity and  a physically comfortable environment facilitates better learning.