Prabha Gupta, Principal, Vishwa Bharati Public School, Dwarka, New Delhi feels a sense of pride and accomplishment when her students sometimes refer to her as their mother, she tells Education Post’s Tanay Kumar.
You have an “O level” certificate in Computer Software. Did you ever consider making a career in IT?
You may be surprized, but I actually started my career in the corporate sector, working as an assistant manager in the finance department of Whirlpool India. It was a kind of job that entailed computer knowledge, and I really enjoyed my tenure there.
But after entering the field of academics, I never thought of switching back to the corporate world. Nothing can replace the love and affection you get from students.
What’s your opinion on the NEP 2020 and the changes it has brought about in school education?
The impact of the NEP 2020 on school education is very progressive. It is very promising and ensures many multidimensional and versatile career options for all the students of all classes. Offering vocational skills right from class 6 provides students with a remarkable opportunity to think beyond some conventional streams of higher education.
Experiential teaching and learning methods are surely going to help students to attain a better practical approach. They’ll get to know the pros and cons of each field before actually entering it, which is really essential as you cannot learn anything completely if you haven’t practiced what you have studied. Probably this is the reason that many engineering graduates are opting for other career options.
Please talk us through the challenges that Indian schools have been facing, challenges that may not have been addressed as yet?
The major challenge that any school faces is to own up the responsibility of each student in order to make them future-ready. This problem largely stems from the fact that India’s student to teacher ratio is skewed.
Even today, an enormous gap exists between what students learn at school and what they learn when they opt for higher education.
The resources and the environment required for the readiness of each professional course are not provided at the school level. Also, the students tend to rush towards only some conventional streams without actually knowing the scope and challenges of that field. The government should collaborate with schools and higher educational institutions so that students can be given the pre-requisite training for the particular field they wish to enter. It will further reduce the dropout rate at the college level.
You received your education from the Haryana State Board. What’s your view on the existence of different state boards with separate evaluation systems?
My school education included the Haryana Board as well as CBSE. I had to change schools due to my father’s transferable job. Coming back to the point, I don’t find much difference between state board education and CBSE. Most of the state boards, including Haryana Board schools are following the same NCERT books that are part of the CBSE curriculum.
The only major difference that I found was that the Haryana State Board focuses more on the Hindi language till class 6, following which they switch to English as a second language. The evaluation system, however, is the same across boards these days – the nine-point grading system.
The ICSE curriculum is somewhat different. It offers new teaching methodologies, encourages an analytical mind, and provides global content. This has helped students pursue higher studies abroad. Since ICSE students have a firm base in English, it gives them an edge when it comes to IELTS and TOEFL examinations.
However, after the introduction of the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, CBSE schools are more focused on innovative and experiential learning and trying to meet global standards.
What are some nonacademic priorities for a school to function seamlessly? Would you tell us about three ‘nonacademic priorities’ when it comes to running the school properly?
Apart from academics, ensuring proper infrastructure and transport facilities is a top priority. Safety of girls at my school would always be an indisputable focus.
Recruitment of quality teachers and other staff members also becomes very challenging sometimes. Health and hygiene of students has always been my school’s priority even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has probably enforced every organization to ensure proper sanitization of their infrastructure, which we had been doing for several years.
You’ve been teaching for over 20 years. You received the “Principal of the Year” award from Universal Mentor Association. You must feel extremely proud of your accomplishments.
Probably every day is a very proud day for me being at school, but yes, there are multiple occasions when I felt a sense of pride being a teacher.
The parents of a class 10th district topper from my school gave me the whole credit for her success.
I was stuck in Kedarnath during the 2013 flood along with my whole family. One of my students did not eat food for four days. He said he could not eat knowing his teacher had probably not eaten. He was hospitalized and was discharged only when I arrived safely back in the city.
A student, whom I taught in primary school, mentioned me on national television when she was selected as a finalist in the musical reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Students hug me, calling me their mother – this makes me feel very happy. When you give love to your students and share an emotional bond, they reciprocate it and that is the proudest moment for any teacher.
Schools and higher educational institutes work differently with different methodologies. What are some of these differences?
The work processes and methodologies of schools and higher education are totally different. First, at schools, teachers own up the responsibility of making students learn and understand the concept of repeating till it is understood completely, whereas in higher educational institutions, because of quantum of content to be taught, repetitive teaching becomes difficult.
Also, in schools, teachers tend to teach every topic from the basic level so that there are no stones left unturned and all the doubts are cleared. On the other hand, in colleges, many teachers presume that students already know about the subject and its basic concepts, which is not wrong. But we know that primary and secondary education in many parts of India is not up to the mark.
In schools, teachers keep a track record of students’ progress and take remedial measures from time to time, but I doubt that such a thing similar happens in higher education institutes. Most of the times, their marksheets are the only parameter of the progress.
What kind of books or films would you list as your favorite?
I am a very spiritual person, so my prime interest is in books based on the art of living, such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma, and Chanakya in You by Radhakrishnan Pillai. Documentaries based on animals interest me a lot. As for movies, I loved 3 idiots, A Beautiful Mind and Life of Pi.