I was recently at the book launch of Once Upon a Story by Dr Swati Popat Vats and Vinitha R, a story based on the life of one of India’s finest, but unsung, educators from Gujarat, Gijubhai Bhadheka. About 100 years ago, he pioneered some path-breaking work in the education sphere with limited resources and support. That was pre-Independence India. And, when I think about it and what he had been able to achieve, I feel that, as an industry, we have it far easier today as a free country, with an abundance of available resources and accessibility — thanks to technology. So, we can either call them ‘barriers’, or look upon them as ‘challenges’ and turn them into opportunities.
And, yes, we have our own problems — over-populated public schools and insufficient funds for public schools; a very small percentage of students in private schools; not enough skilled teachers — and the list goes on! Always blaming it on someone else and spending the next 20 years in a disgruntled manner will get us nowhere.
“If there’s a will, you’ll find a way”, is what the attitude should be. So, using this as a backdrop, I think we’re far luckier today than we’ve ever been and the future looks even brighter. There’s tremendous exposure to new ideas and collaboration because of technology. We’re adopting, and embracing, best practices in whatever manner we can cope with — whether public or private.
Also, more professionalism is coming into the industry with corporate intervention, which is always a welcome sign and there’s a tremendous desire to improve upon, and create, best practices. There’s also increasing awareness and collaboration and more conferences, where more people are able to connect with technology now. We need to continue to be open-minded and not get into the rat-race of numbers, or become territorial about numbers for ‘our own school’.
Competition should enable one to improve standards and processes and allow the ‘consumer’ — the parent to decide which environment works best for his or her family. This is the healthy way to go. Also, invest heavily in skilling teachers — the soul of a school — and creating more opportunities for hands-on and personalized learning for students. This will automatically raise the standards of your school and become a benchmark for others to follow.
Also, in the coming days, with community upgrade, the economy will benefit, since the school is the foundation for building careers. Instead of always focusing on what the government has not done, perhaps, as an industry, we can identify ways of mobilising communities to participate in, and contribute, and once the wave gathers force, it triggers a positive reaction even at the Centre. I believe the human mind is capable of generating solutions and, if this becomes a collective voice and everyone thinks of socio-economic relevance and the country at large, there’ll be growth and everyone will have a piece of the pie.
*Fatima Agarkar is an Educationist & Co-Founder of KA EduAssociate