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Making quality education accessible

Interview with Prasad Kulkarni,Principal,Laxmibai School,Mulund (East).

Written by Vishal Manve |
October 22, 2012 2:52:13 am

Interview with Prasad Kulkarni,Principal,Laxmibai School,Mulund (East)

Success is sweeter when achieved with hard work and persistence. This is what Prasad Kulkarni,principal of Laxmibai School,Mulund (East),believes in.

The school has been consistently imparting quality education and producing meritorious students.

Necessity is the mother of invention.Thus was born Laxmibai School.

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Getting quality education was difficult is most parts in 1976,including Mulund East. Then,there was the issue of transportation.

To address both issues,the late Shriniwas Kulkarni opened Laxmibai School in a residential complex.

In his years of struggle,he was backed by wife Jayshree,then a teacher in a BMC school.

With the sole purpose of making quality education accessible to more people,the school increased student base and moved to its current location.

The school today has grown by leaps and bounds — from two to 1,719 students.

Quest speaks to the captain of the ship,principal Prasad Kulkarni,who guides and mentors the school and contributes to quality and holistic education.

What are the pillars on which your school stands and what is its motto?

We have been in the field of education for nearly 36 years. My parents,who started the school,prepared me for the field from an early stage. This early exposure to education has helped me lead the school in the right direction. We consistently produce meritorious students and our alumni are achievers in several fields. For the record,14 of our students made the merit list between 1993 and 2003. This is an exemplary record.

Student safety and security are one of our prime focuses and hence,we have installed CCTV cameras all over the campus.

We want student participation in the process of education and want to ensure nothing interrupts the process.

We had classes up to SSC until 2000,when the department director expressed the urgent need to start a junior college.

As per reports,there was a serious dearth of junior colleges in Mulund East and students had to travel to faraway places. This would lead to many dropping out.

Hence,we started a junior college. It was only a science stream expansion,which was highly successful.

Why science?

Science was our first choice because every component of life has it. Also,there was student demand for science.

Parents,students and teachers shared our view and we set up labs and organised workshops to start the stream. Science develops the inquisitive instinct and questioning skills of students,whereas commerce teaches you the ways of the world.

We plan to soon start other streams such as commerce and management.

Nurturing latent talent

Our focus in mentoring students is to enhance capability and performance.

Every student is a bundle of qualities. Right coaching and direction completes the process of education.

Our teachers are well-trained to identify hidden talents. Once we know a student’s core competence,we help him/her discover and develop it.

This does wonders to a student’s confidence. The most important task is to mould students into individuals they will consent with in future. Sounds tough,but it is very simple.

Student qualities

We expect students to be obedient and disciplined and have a sense of responsibility. These are the qualities that act as anchors and make students take concrete and responsible decisions.

Ethics are fast disappearing and it is the responsibility of schools to make sure values are not lost altogether. Schools need to train students with meticulous planning.

Schools and parents are solely responsible for nurturing a child and teaching him/her the dos and don’ts.

In an era of nuclear families,keeping students grounded is equally important as teaching them to aim higher.

Extra-curricular activities

There is an increasing demand for other languages and fields. Students want to explore new cultures and literature. Hence,we make groups,such as a nature group and science group,of like-minded students.

Such groups break monotony and make student life more interesting.

Numerous projects are given to students to research and rectify errors.

We understand the importance of languages and have language-specific days. The school celebrates Marathi,and English literature and other language days.

We understand Sanskrit is the base of every language and teach it.

Once you learn Sanskrit,picking up western languages becomes easy.

Parent involvement

We try to bridge the student-parent gap created by technology. Increasing cyber crimes prove something is terribly wrong in the judgement of kids today.

We conduct computer classes for parents to create awareness.

When a parent knows technology as much as a child does,s/he can keep a check on cyber activities of children.

Basic computer and internet education makes parents confident and increase their participation in the life of their children.

We also teach parents basic English. We are happy the parent community is open and participates in all such activities.

We will next conduct Sanskrit classes for everyone after proper affiliations with universities.

Social involvement

We as an institution believe in helping socially diverse classes. In on our cultural and children’s days,we involve orphans.

We have tied up with NGO Vatsalya Trust that takes care of orphans.

Orphans and special kids visit the school. Our students and the orphans both learn a lot from each other.

We also have a Food Judgement Day when dishes prepared by students are judged by others. The main motive is to teach students budgeting and make them realise that a lot of hard work goes into making a plate of food.

Sport

Sport should be encouraged as they promote healthy competition and relieve stress. It aids in complete development.

Our students are coached and participate in cricket,football,baseball,tennis,carrom and gymnastics competitions at various levels. We also promote traditional Indian games such as mallakhamb.

Our cricket team had signed up with Matunga Gymkhana for coaching. In the first attempt itself,our students reached semifinals of a tournament.

State- and national-level sportsmen and sportswomen train our students.

Future plans

We want to start bi-focal science,management and professional courses. We also want to construct a new building for college and add commerce streams.

What is your opinion on RTE Act provisions such as not failing students till grade 8?

The whole Act is affecting education negatively. In the long run,the standard of a school and quality of education go down. Students take education lightly which shows in performance.

The policy has been made without a mechanism to get feedback.

There is lack of transparency in the whole process.

Plus,they are implementing the difficult NCERT portion in 9th grade. Without a sound foundation,students cannot cope with the pressure at a later stage and flunk invariably.

On the whole,we have more students dropping out of schools.

We should have a constant and continuous evaluation (CCE) process. This will reduce the number of dropouts.

CCE ensures all aspects of education are tested in an easy manner again and again.

A common pattern observed is dislike among children for maths and science subjects.

But these are the subjects most of them go for in future. That is when weak foundation shows. Options are available,but are availed by a few.

For example,easy maths is available for weak students. But they go for hard one because it allows them to enter science streams in future. We really cannot blame them as future is uncertain and parental expectations high.

Proper guidance,coaching and counselling is advised at this stage.

If there are no tests,schooling is useless. All major schooling methodologies involve testing. An alternative is to make parents understand importance of testing. We make students solve easy papers to boost confidence.

Also,we use audio-visual aids because of which students attend lectures. This can be followed by other schools as well. Students love innovative methods.

All stakeholders in the schooling process should keep a tab on educational activities and feedback by students. Only then will education have a positive impact.

What is your take on the other RTE Act provision reserving 25% of seats for lower-class students?

We support RTE Act because everyone deserves an opportunity to study. We provide financial support to students with family issues. They can submit income certificates and other documents and get support. We also have scholarships,free-ships and arrears. There cannot be disparity in education.

We have a visually impaired student who has shown remarkable progress after inclusion of Braille in her curriculum.

We monitor students for weakness and fix it. We suggest regular check-ups at Nair and Sion Hospitals for stress-related problems. Parents appreciate our concern.

There should be a public-private tie-up in education. After all we are producing and mentoring future citizens who are going to run the country.

Our society has a belief that government-run schools are of low order. We need to discard this notion.

What are your views on the RTO recommendations for student safety and how has the circular been received?

We are located in a prime area and students don’t need school buses here.

They rely on public transport. But as we expand,we will include more school buses and tie up with contractors.

All norms should be followed. We observe a pattern of carelessness in accidents that occur again and again. This callous approach needs to change.

School safety measures are sufficient when implemented properly. But the problem is cost escalation. How do we cut cost,yet make all policy changes?

Even parents get apprehensive looking at cost charts. Student safety and RTO measures are important and we will implement them when the system is established.

How does media coverage affect a student’s opinion?

Media coverage is a very positive way of encouraging students. It motivates generations. But add the coaching class system and it becomes strenuous.

Classes are profit-making bodies and try to use media coverage given to a particular student to their advantage. They usurp a students credibility.

Hard-working and meritorious students definitely deserve credit. But we cannot ignore the 15 others.

We had a merit list system which the government scrapped. The good move rid students of the fear of performance.

Proper attention and credits reenforce a student’s belief in himself.

How important are extra-curricular activities?

Extra-curricular activities are important for overall development of a child.

For developing linguistics,we have debates,elocution contests and literary events that break monotony and give students a platform to express.

We have a seasoned cultural committee of experts. Our students are in safe hands,readying themselves to face arclights in near future.

Three students from our theatre have been selected for TV serials. The school also won prizes at National Children Science Congress 2012.

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