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Aug 01, 2017 at 05:19

As one of the most remarkable schools in Dwarka, our team recently had the opportunity of interviewing the principal of Sri Venkateshwar International School, Sector 18 Dwarka, Nita Arora. Here is the delightful conversation.

What was the idea behind the foundation of the school?

The pioneer school, Venkateshwar International School was first established in sector 10, Dwarka. The school earned a name for itself and was applauded for its academic achievements. Thereafter, in South West Delhi, the founders saw a rise in the number of parents, willing to send their children to schools with a modern approach towards education, and thus, Sri Venkateshwar International School was established in sector 18, Dwarka. It is a matter of pride for us that both the schools are doing extremely well and are a class apart among the hoard of other schools in Dwarka.

Since its establishment, the school has grown exponentially. How has the journey been for you, as a principal and as an educator?

When one puts in hard work into an institution, the growth seems exponential to the outer world, but in reality, the process is quite gradual, where we take each day as it comes. So, the growth of our school has been a gradual one, quiet normally paced. We could have done better, but we did not want to grow at the cost of our values, because values form the core of our institution. The motto of Sri Venkateshwara International School is “we stand for value, integrity and strength”, and so we believe in the advancement of our values, before the advancement of the school. When we decided to add the ‘Sri’ to the name of the school, we believed that it stood for conquering of the self and oneness with the cosmos, thus emphasising the cultural values that we wish to inculcate in our students. So, as Sri Krishna propounds, that one must work and not worry about the fruit that it would bear, we follow the same principle and work towards the betterment, without thinking about the results.

I also feel that growth of a school is measured in terms of the results that the students generate, but children are the same in all schools and will generate results according to their capabilities. The students at Sri Venkateshwar have been producing great results, but what helped us grow was how we treated every student as a unique individual, and moulded each one of them into a unique being.

What is the educational philosophy of the school?

We, at Sri Venkateshwara International School believe that each one of us is here, on this earth, for a purpose, and what defines our purpose is our actions or ‘karma’. It is through our ‘karma’ that we mould our destiny or ‘kismat’. Therefore, we provide our students with the strength to direct their actions in such a way, so as to carve out a brilliant future for themselves.

Also, we always encourage our students to dream bigger, because it is their dreams that prompt them into action. The sky’s the limit when you want to dream, and you can always achieve anything that your dream of. Thus, we tell our children that if they have a dream and a passion to make it a reality, they are already on their way to success.

How have you grown as an educator, over the course of your career?

You wouldn’t believe it, but at the age of 9, I knew that I wanted to be a principal. I had nurtured that dream since I was 9, and at the age of 35, it became a reality. After that, I have associated myself with many schools, but wherever I went, I always made sure that my door was always open for my students. Today when my students tell their parents that they had a conversation with me, their parents are amazed at the fact that their child’s principal is so easily accessible, as opposed to their times, when one had to go through several channels to speak to the principal. For me, everyone, right from the students, to the parents, are VIPs.

How accessible is the school for the parents?

Parents have accessibility to the school, not only via face-to-face communication, but via other channels as well. The parent can send a mail to the school, to the teacher, or to the headmaster. The parents can also take an appointment and meet me, if they have a pressing issue. We also hold frequent parent teacher meetings, which take place in the teacher’s cubicle so that the parents can talk freely about their problems, without having the other parents overhear them. For us, the child might be one among the other 2300, but for the parents, their child is the most dear to them, and so we try to solve any and all issue that any parent may have. Our excellent team of headmasters and headmistresses make sure that no query remains unanswered.

How do you deal with indiscipline in the school?

Whenever a child behaves in a manner that is not befitting the decorum of the school, the cause of the problem lies somewhere else. Thus, when we come across cases of deviant behaviour, we try to get to the root of the problem, which might turn out to be the parents, the classmates, the teachers, the grandparents or the child himself. Once the cause is spotted, it becomes easier to get the student back on track. We also believe that it is very important for every student to know the consequences of their actions, once they know the consequences, they refrain from acting defiantly.

The parents however, are a different story. Most of the kids today, belong to nuclear families where they don’t get to spend the summer holidays with their cousins, so they don’t know how to share, they don’t get to go out and play with the other kids for safety reasons, so they don’t inculcate team spirit. More often than not, the children are overprotected by the parents and are pampered to the limit that the child never learns to hear a ‘no’. When this child, who has never been denied anything, comes to school and has to share their things with other kids and hear a no, every once in awhile, has troubles adjusting, and acts out. Therefore, I advise parents to give their child only what they deserve, so that they learn the value of what they have and not develop a sense of entitlement.

Please elaborate on some of the achievements of the school.

To reiterate my statement, we at Sri Venkateshwar International School do not believe that board results are a measure of success or achievement, and thus, I believe that our biggest achievement is the alternative method of teaching that we apply.

To begin with, our school has an extensive library and we use it to the fullest. We run a reading programme where the students can move to higher levels as they complete each level of reading. Through this programme, we also aim at inculcating a love for reading in those students who weren’t taken by it already. Furthermore, I take utmost pride in stating that our school adopts the method of teaching which involves conceptualising and not mere rote learning. For years, the Indian education system has been concentrating on rote learning but we employ various practical methods so that the students can learn a concept by actually practising it.

To this effect, we purchased 40 mathematics kits to help our students from classes 1 to 5 , in understanding the basic concepts of the subjects. With the help of these kits, the students realise the need to add, subtract, divide or multiply in a given situation and not merely do so because the questions asks them to. I also noticed that the students of classes 7 and 8 were not visiting the science lab enough, and thus, we assigned them an assistant teacher that now helps the theoretical teacher and assists the students while they conduct experiments, observe the results and discuss the outcomes. We are working towards creating an understanding of concepts, where their practical implementation is made easier.

How do you think technology has had a negative impact on the society?

Technology, more often than not, hinders interpersonal communication at home. Students tell me that their parents would ask them about their whereabouts through whatsapp; I see four members of a family, vacationing together, each one busy on their own mobile phones. So, technology does encompass us into its own cocoon, but I think this will pass, because people are also realising the ill effects of technology.

What are some of the goals that you have for the school?

Oh, I have big dreams for the school. When I joined the school in 2010, I asked a tarot card reader whether our school will produce a boards topper, a prime minister and an Olympic medallist, and she said yes to all three!!

But on a more serious note, I want all the students to realise their dream, have confidence in themselves and then work upon realising their dreams.

With the exams approaching, how do you want the students to cope with the exam stress?

Nowadays, I feel that more than the students, it’s the parents who get anxious about the exams and thus, transfer their anxiety onto their children. I feel that there is a need to advice the parents to not transfer their nervousness onto their kids, and the students will have a better time dealing with the exam stress.