'There is a Big Focus on Life Skills'
June 2014

‘There is a Big Focus on Life Skills’

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Shanti Krishnamurthy
Shanti Krishnamurthy

Shanti Krishnamurthy,
Principal, Chinmaya International
Residential School, Coimbatore

Parents expect their wards to step out with an all-round personality once they graduate from a boarding school, says Shanti Krishnamurthy, Principal, Chinmaya International Residential School, Coimbatore. In conversation with Elets News Network, she points out that parents also demand academic excellence and why boarding schools cannot ignore it

Could you explain to us who needs residential school the most?

There is no specific thing that can be mentioned as to who needs a boarding school. But yes, there is a mindset required for parents and children to study in a boarding school. Both parents and the child need to prepare themselves before they decide to come to a boarding school. Basically, when parents have studied in a boarding school, they do understand the advantages. Anxious parents will find it difficult to cope up. They need to trust the school and hand over the children.

How does a boarding school enhance the performance of average and below-average students?

There are specific study hours and most of the children who are not regular at studies, soon catch up because they see other children doing it. There is a lot of peer motivation available in a boarding school. Also, most of these underperformers are going through stress because parents focus only on academics and invariably, to improve performance, they go for tuitions etc. when they are in day schools. This is the primary reason for children hating studies. In contrast, even academics becomes fun in a boarding school because of the stress-free environment. Academics is just one aspect in a boarding school among so many other activities. Children participate with excitement in art, music, theatre etc during their free time. And of course, in CIRS, we do have a committed team of faculty members who work round the clock to motivate children. We do have structured remedial classes, language orientation classes for the ones who start new languages etc. Customised assessments are conducted to motivate children, especially in the languages.

Is academic excellence a matter of concern to the teachers and management?

Today, every parent wants their wards to achieve excellence in academics and there is no way boarding schools can ignore it. We do have academic concerns but we are particular in maintaining a small class size with a maximum of 25 students and an ideal teacher-student ratio of 1:9. Thus, we are able to cope up with these challenges. The system of mentoring works well in the school and not just academic performance but also behavioural issues are sorted out by the mentors.

Is a boarding school the right place for students who have broken homes due to fights between parents facing separation and divorce?

Single parenting is be- coming more and more common in the society these days. Whether it is boarding or day, all schools have a good number of children having single parents. That can in no way be a criteria for sending the child to a boarding school. In a boarding school, we do prefer to get a clarity on the status so that the security issues of the child can be handled by the school.

How crucial a role does psychological counselling play in integrating children with boarding schools?

Normally, we suggest parents to make a visit to the school prior to the registration time. The parents, along with the child, visit the campus. They meet few faculty members, go round the campus and if required, also meet a few children. This is done prior to the time of registration and helps a lot. Sometimes, we do provide reference of a few parents so that the parents can mail and interact to get to know about the systems in the school. Counselling plays a major role in integrating children to the school. Children are counselled to learn to live with other children in the dormitories. That is when children absorb a lot of social skills. Sharing, helping and following a routine help the child become independent and develop into an understanding individual. The personalities of children get shaped very beautifully. The dorm parents keep counselling children constantly. We do need a lot of support from the parents. If the parents are too anxious, children find it difficult to settle down. There is a lot of alignment required from parents to the system. We conduct orientation programmes for the parents before they drop the child in the school. The vision that we are happy that parents are partnering well with the school is communicated very clearly, which is the secret behind our success.

Do you have exclusive programmes which will help change the wards’ total attitude and make them successful, disciplined and more importantly, confident so as to excel in academic and extra-curricular activities?

The vision of the school is to help the child achieve an all-round personality. This means being physically fit, emotionally balanced, intellectually alert and spiritually evolved children. Yes, we do have exclusive curriculum to achieve this. We have our spiritual acharyas of the mission conducting 30 minutes of classes everyday in the morning and evening. Age-appropriate texts from our Hindu culture are taken up and discussions are conducted in the morning classes while evenings are a special time when children enjoy singing bhajans and chant few slokas together. Children do a lot of internalising during these classes and this brings about a complete change in their personality. The attitude towards discipline is one that will stay with the child all along in his/her life.

Since children are available with us 24×7, learning is achieved in an informal environment

Are the learning methods different as compared to public schools?

Since children are available with us 24×7, learning is achieved in an informal environment. Teachers do try a lot of innovative strategies. Hands-on experience is extended to all the subjects and across the classes. There is a big focus on life skills. All learning is connected to real life situations which is more concrete and enquiry-based. Teachers are technology-savvy and interactive boards are available in all classes.

What are the challenges of administering a boarding school?

Every school has its own texture and gets communicated to the society. Value-based education is the USP of our school. Since our school has established its vision in the past years, parents know what they are getting in the school. The only challenge is to have the vision in place and ensure that the changes andEvery school has its own texture and gets communicated to the society. Value-based education is the USP of our school. Since our school has established its vision in the past years, parents know what they are getting in the school. The only challenge is to have the vision in place and ensure that the changes and strategies are made keeping the vision intact. Of course parents expect the ward to come out with an all-round personality once they step out of the boarding school.

On what parameters does one judge a residential school? Please list them and elaborate for our understanding.

Performance in academics, sports, extra-curricular activities, the alumni placements in the society, parents satisfaction, infrastructural facilities, teacher competency, leadership styles, student teacher ratio, pastoral care in the dormitories etc. could be a few parameters for judging a residential school.

What is the teacher-student ratio in your school? Do you also hunt for global talent like recruiting teachers from other countries?

The teacher student ratio is 1:9 in CIRS. We do have some of our alumni/mission youngsters volunteering for a year or two in the school. Some of them are from other countries. Of late, we have been partnering with schools in other countries and children have been sharingdeas over Skype. We also had teachers visiting from other countries to exchange ideas. We have not attempted to recruit from other countries so far.

Does accreditation to the International Education Board ensure higher admission intakes to some residential schools?

To some extent, for the students who come from other countries and wish to continue their graduation back in their respective countries, it does become essential to offer international curriculum.

Do you have any policy to reach out to bright students from poor families?

The cost of maintaining a boarding school is high and hence the charges are generally managed by upper middle class/business class people. However, we do offer scholarships for deserving candidates.

Is rampant indiscipline, drugs, alcohol etc in boarding schools all a matter of one’s imagination? If not, how does the school address it?

The rules and regulations in a boarding school are indeed more rigorous than a day school. There are a good number of schools like ours where discipline is one of very high order. Discipline has never been an issue in our school. There is no question of drugs/alchohol in the cam- pus. Children and parents are educated on these areas clearly. Every minute of the child is planned and he is kept busy in a tight schedule. Through regular programmes and counselling, we give an understanding about the harmful effects of practices like these. We do have guest lectures organised for children regularly on various adolescence issues. Guidance is given to children to be responsible citizens – both in and out of the school.

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