Principal, Welham Boys School, DehraDun
A Rhodes Scholar, Dev Lahiri, Principal, Welham Boy’s School, Dehradun, is currently leading one of the finest schools in India. In conversation with Dr Ravi Gupta and Yukti Pahwa, Dev Lahiri talks about the latest technological trends that are transforming school education
Many say this era is the beginning of the era of technology. What do you opine about the same?
People are going to use common sense and hopefully will use technology wisely. Its like whenever you get a new thing in hand, people get excited, go over board and them settle down. They then think of not letting the new thing dominate their life and weigh the pros and cons of that particular thing, and how it is effecting their lives.
It is not only being noticed in the West but also in India, as to how it is affecting the quality family time. Children are getting alienated and losing their social skills, such as interaction with one another, because of constantly sitting on the box (computer) and fiddling around with it. In our times, when there was no IT, we went out to play, to climb trees, going out, entertaining love for nature and so on. Now, I have to teach environment through text book. Whereas we grew up with the environment and with the environment, because that is where we spent our time. So mankind is paying a heavy price. Nobody can deny the good features of technology, but I also tell my students that cyber space also a huge junkyard and you got to be careful of what you access. At the same time the positive side of technology cannot be ignored.
We are trying to have an arrangement with ONGC, whereby they take our students and and show them the technology that they are using for betterment of mankind. We are launching a very ambitious project called “Vidya ONGC” with support from ONGC.
In the age of IT, how do you engage parents of the students with IT?
Our experience of using IT, as a medium, with parents has not been so useful, because majority of the parents we address are not very IT friendly. We have, otherwise, a very good website which is updated regularly. And ideally in an ideal world, parents would be accessing the website to get the latest updates. But it doesn’t happen and I find myself writing to them, in case any communication is required. Many parents are from rural areas or semi urban towns, where mothers are not tech savvy and father doesn’t have time to access mails. So, we find it safer to back up the IT communication with hard copies.
What are the efforts being taken up by the school to upgrade teachers’ skills, in context of technology?
That is being done on regular basis. We conduct in-house workshops for teachers. We have an efficient IT department which is to keep a check and constantly address to teachers’ concerns. Some teachers who are old, are a little reluctant with use of technology. For instance, putting scores from examination digitally, again with backup in registers. So, technology is being used to make things efficient and effective. We have central server and everything but as far as the classroom intervention is concerned, I am very careful with that, as there is a danger of confusing education with entertainment.
There is a whole debate on access of internet and use by students. What is your opinion about the same?
You can’t get away with internet. We try to safegaurd students from unhealthy access, but students these days are so computer savvy. We have spent lakhs of rupees on firewall on all systems. But when students operate systems at home, they access all kinds of sites. We can only teach them the values. If you try to compete with students technologically, its not possible. The kids are very fast and they can hack into anything. You can keep on trying to introduce firewalls and all but beyond a point it is just like fooling yourself. So, that is where role of teachers becomes more effective. You can teach them but not fight them on a technological platform. The fact is you have to teach them moral values and if they know the difference between right and wrong, they can choose for themselves what is good for them.