Running a School amid a crisis

Principal of Vidyaniketan School, Ms. Lalitha Desikan

- An interview by Sangeeta RoyChaudhuri

Education in the new normal takes vision, adaptability and most importantly, the decision to always keeping the learner in focus. The Ken42 team interviewed the dynamic Principal of Vidyaniketan School, Ms. Lalitha Desikan to understand how one of the premier schools in the city is ensuring that children do not lose out on a crucial year of education.

Here are her thoughts.

Ken42: In the current context, what is your opinion on the effectiveness of online education?

Lalitha Desikan: Online education if well planned and well delivered, is as good and effective as classroom teaching. It needs sincere and systematic planning, reviewing and guiding, with a lot of emotional connect by appreciation and understanding. It needs schools and teachers to understand that online classes cannot be modeled along the lines of a physical class - neither in methodology nor in the number of hours per day. Ideally if children could have a mix of both kinds of learning (Online and offline) it would be most effective. Online classes will ensure that time spent on digital media is productive.

Ken 42: How do you assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our education system?

Lalitha Desikan: In my opinion the virus has perhaps made us realize – schools, teachers and children, how one-sided our methodology and focus has been in imparting lessons. How rooted we have been in the belief that teaching was possible only face-to-face and with absolute hand-
holding of the children being taught by us. It has, perhaps, revealed opportunities during adversity. But I strongly believe the one area likely to be impacted is the emotional, social health of children. They have been locked in and isolated for too long from friends and peers.

Ken 42: Did you face any challenges in adapting to the new normal? How did you overcome them?

Lalitha Desikan: Actually no. I think the only issues, if any were in understanding how to handle absenteeism by students not signing in on time, or certain network issues like the necessary bandwidth. Since parents were happy with the way classes were being conducted there were no complaints from them. It was important for us to consider our students’ security and to evaluate tech tools that would ensure the same.

Ken 42: What is the secret to running a successful school?

Lalitha Desikan: For us success comes from having teachers who will teach with love and children who learn with joy. Schools need to be student centered with discipline and respect as its core value. At Vidyaniketan we are strong proponents of co-operation over competition. We inculcate this value in our teachers and students. Therefore, there is team work and group learning, and sharing of best practices by teachers. This includes being aware of the right technology platform for teaching and learning. We also strongly believe in making children independent learners and so a lot of self study and self motivation is encouraged and practiced. Giving and receiving feedback without rancour or malice is important to continuous improvement. Technology that enables this constructive collaboration between teachers and students can help a school
achieve its purpose.

Ken 42: What is your opinion on the current education system?

Lalitha Desikan: The current education system unfortunately focuses only on marks. You will agree that today the thirst for education stems from the need for admission to a good university, leading to a good job; and therefore, the compulsive need for excellent marks. A good job means good money and a comfortable life. The universities demand it and so the parents demand it and the schools work hard to ensure that the children in their care are not denied in any way.

Even Nations are focusing on improving the economy; because if citizens consume more the economy will improve. And how can one spend if one does not have money? It’s a vicious circle.

I think it’s time we redefined education to mean something beyond focus on marks.

Can we not as teachers promote good values like honesty, compassion, respect, discipline and mindfulness by weaving them into our day to day lessons, whatever the subject we may be teaching and at whichever grade level?

Education needs to shift focus from syllabus and marks, to Content through values. Education needs to make students self reliant, and confident in their own ability.

It needs to inculcate the importance of discipline, love, service and the value of family. This period of online learning is a good opportunity for teachers to show students that distance learning is helping them to become self reliant and empowered. Help them realize that they need a teacher to light the way but they can discover the path themselves.

It’s time now for all teachers to be a life skills teacher first and then a subject teacher.

Ken42 enables schools to actualize their vision, delivering better student outcomes and teaching experiences, as well as sharper insights for administrative staff. India’s first System for Education and Design Management (SEDM), Ken42 brings together technology, content and people in order to solve prevalent problems in education and contribute to worthy professionals
of the future.

The team is honoured to have the opportunity to interact with Vidyaniketan School.