A school does for its children what nobody else can do. Nobody can deny the importance of good, holistic education and that does not mean scoring straight As or 10 CGPAs. A school’s role is way bigger and it starts right from when the child starts his/her education in preschool.
You know how strongly I feel about schools being happy places and children growing to their full potential without judgement or pressure. We have been fortunate enough to interact with an educator of experience and repute, Mrs. ShyamaShree Chatterjee, Principal School of India. We asked her plenty of questions and she was kind and patient enough to answer them for our readers.
Over to Mrs. ShyamaShree now.
SW: What according to you should a school do for its students?
SC: School is the second home for children. In fact children spend more waking hours at school than at home. Hence a school should ensure the academic development as well as the emotional and social well being of the students. Children have so much to tell about their experiences, joys and sorrows. Listening to them will solve most of their problems. Parents sometimes do not get so much time to spend with their children. Thus it is very important that the child feels comfortable enough to narrate the minutest detail of what seems important to her, to the teacher. A school should be child friendly not only in its infrastructure but in its overall attitude towards children.
SW: How important it is for children to have a balance between studying and extra-curricular activities?
SC: Children these days are very intelligent. If we give them the opportunity to excel in academics alone, they will do so. If we give them the opportunity to excel in extra curricular activities also, they will do so equally well. The decision is on us whether we give them the right kind of exposure to curricular and co curricular activities. All our content knowledge comes from what was taught to us inside the classroom whereas our personality is shaped by the activities we enjoyed outside the four walls of the classroom. In today’s world, it is important to know the facts, but is equally, or sometimes more important to present the facts well. Therefore, a healthy balance between academics and extra curricular activities is absolutely essential.
SW: As an educator who has plenty of experience behind her, do you think every child is talented in his/her own way?
SC: Of course yes. Every child is unique. Don’t we see among ourselves how different each one of us is? These differences are not shortcomings; they are the unique strengths of every individual. We have to accept every child the way she is. We should harness talent right from childhood so that every child grows up with the confidence that she is good in certain areas and can work happily towards being better in the other areas.
SW: What should parents do to encourage their children and bring out the best in them?
SC: Parents should be facilitators in their child’s growth. They are responsible for creating an environment where a child can explore, experience, win and lose. For example when a parent is playing with his child, he should not always allow the child to win. It is important for parents to create situations where the child loses. He may throw a tantrum the first time, but the parent can carefully train him to accept defeat graciously. Another important virtue that parents have to consciously inculcate is sharing and caring. With one or two children in a family, it becomes impossible to create such situations. So they should participate in family functions, spend time at their ancestral homes, take slightly older children to celebrate their birthday in orphanages or old age homes and involve them in other such activities.
SW: You say that School of India is a happy school. What does that mean?
SC: School Of India is a happy school. The children come to school happily. They have teachers who are ever willing to listen to their little joys and worries. There is no comparison between them. Every child has to raise his or her own bar. There is something that every student looks forward to in school, be it academics, sports, music, dance, art or something else. With an ideal student teacher ratio, the students have the privilege of individual attention, getting selected for the numerous activities round the year and generally enjoy a happy family kind of an atmosphere at school.
SW: What does School Of India aim to do for its students?
SC: School Of India aims to provide a strong foundation in academics and life skills to all the students. Our students can stand proudly as Indians on a global platform and choose whichever career they want to pursue. I believe that if the base is firm, we can design any monument on it. There is no pressure on them to take up any particular profession. They just have to be good in whatever they do. And most importantly, they should be very good human beings with a zeal to add value to the world in their own way!
Her thoughts and ideas completely resonate with me and I am glad and hopeful that more and more educators think in this way and our schools become happy places where each child is appreciated and given an environment, where s/he can reach her/his full potential rather than a factory model which is adamant on turning individuals into products which must meet the required criteria.