Giving a conducive environment to kids where they can explore themselves despite all odds and be their own listeners turning inwards is the biggest challenge while administering a boarding school, says Anil Sharma, Principal, Birla Vidyamandir, Nainital
Who needs residential schools the most?
With the rise of nuclear families, an ever-increasing ambitious middle class and the rising number of working couples; of course, residential schools have become the need of the hour for a majority of the upwardly mobile middle class.
Is academic excellence a matter of concern to the teachers and management?
Well, academic excellence should not be viewed in isolation. It is actually a manifestation of the level of perfection that you have. Residential schools worth their name always take care of the holistic development. You have a code of conduct, a schedule, disciplinary norms, remedial measures and certain values to condition you. Obviously, in an impressionable age, when you are being conditioned in a time-tested setup with required amount of resilience, your overall performance is bound to have an edge. And as for academics, it is a part of it.
On what parameters does one judge a residential school? Please list them and elaborate for our understanding.
Faculty, infrastructure and facilities available do occupy prime importance. Besides, it is important to take an account of the school alumni. It is their overall success and their contribution to the society that tells a lot of the school they had studied in. Here, I would like to emphasise that ‘success’ as such should not be taken in the narrow sense of materialistic gains alone.
Does the accreditation to the International Education Board ensure higher admission intakes?
It does to a certain extent; yet as an individual, I consider it to be more of a marketing gimmick.
With your years of experience in managing operations in residential schools, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages for kids being sent to such schools?
Reasons apart, the greatest disadvantage is that for a considerable span of time in the year, the child is deprived of the personal care and possessive concern of parents. Nothing in any residential school can ever be the substitute of mother’s waggle or father’s frown. As for advantages, I think I have already spoken about the holistic development and deliberate conditioning.
Is rampant indiscipline, drugs and alcohol in boarding schools a matter of one’s imagination? If it is real, how does the school address it?
Much of it is a myth. It depends on what kind of residential schools are being talked about. Of late, quite a few ‘over the counter education shops’ have also been claiming to be residential schools. In most of the residential schools, there is zero tolerance for such offences.
What are the challenges of administering a boarding school?
On the basis of my experience, I can say it with conviction that our society being in transition in terms of its values to stick to, its preferences and so on, pressure on students is mounting from all quarters. Giving a conducive environment to kids where despite all these odds they can explore themselves and be their own listeners turning inwards I think is the biggest challenge.
What is the teacher-student ratio in your school? Do you also hunt for global talent?
It is the case with schools that are more of profit centres than educational institutions. In our school, it is 1 teacher over 20 students (to be verified). As I said earlier, things like global hunt and all are more of a marketing gimmick. There is no dearth of talent in our country.