Shemford To Open New '9-6' School In Gurgaon

Exclusive interaction of Mr Amol Arora, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools with BW. He talks about the new 9-6 school which is setting up in Gurgaon and will be open for admissions from May'19 and his future plans.

How do you differentiate Shemrock & Shemford from other pre-school and K12 segments?

The core is our philosophy, everything we do is about making the children want to come to school. It's a very simple philosophy, very simplistic way of looking at education, we feel that if we are able to create environments where children enjoy coming to school everything else falls into place.

What we realize is, if they feel that what they're learning is actually going to be relevant for them. So when the relevance comes in they connect to education as well. Otherwise they ask the key question, why am I learning, what I'm going, how's it going to help me? Today, children feel the world outside and in the school is actually two different dimensions.

You are coming up with a new school in Gurgaon which will be a 9am-6:30pm school, what was the key reason behind and tell us about the school functioning, structure etc?

The school in Gurgaon is actually a dream project, it will be full day-learn school of timings 9am-6:30 pm. One can easily drop and pick-up their children before and after work respectively. It is solely based for better child-parent communication for life, to have sufficient and quality time to spend with your child. The homework and extracurricular activities will be taken care in school itself. Also, there will be no unsupervised internet & TV access for the children.

The school will be run & owned by teachers following our curriculum, ‘ShemEduMax’, mapped to ‘sanskars’ of the month. The curriculum includes activity based value inculcation, personality development module, critical thinking programme, spoken English skills, health and wellness programme. The teachers will be hired via Pan India Recruitment by Professional HR Department. All the teachers will undergo weekly training, where every teacher will be attending the video conference to enhance their ability. And each teacher will have an assistant for personal attention to each child.

The school’s architecture design is future-ready with no blind spots. It will be fully air-conditioned building with purified fresh air. We will have no bag policy, lockers will provided for every child. The school will have double height library, drone garden, TV & sound recording studios, apple labs, flexible pre-primary Classrooms, outdoor classrooms and LED smart classes.

Everything will be taken care of with controlled regulatory environment in the school and then parents are free to spend quality time with their children be it going to social engagement or have a family night, its fine because the learning needs of the child are taken care at the school itself.

Also, parents are a big part of our people, with them as partners, we don't look at them just to pay the fee. We want them to come to the game, a lot of options in which they can be involved, from volunteering to being supervisor at the picnic, helping with the annual functions, help in being a teaching assistant, volunteer in the classroom to showcase their career path.

Looking at the new holistic learning approach like early child education, what kind of acceptance/interest have you seen for this revolutionary concept from the millennial or new age parents?    

People have realized the value of pre-school education that how much it adds to somebody who has not had that good strong foundation years. What we teach; most of it can be done at home, there's no doubt, it's not rocket science. 

Firstly, how would you teach in an interesting manner, again mothers are capable of knowing their child and they can adapt their teaching learning and maybe it's possible. But what they could not get at home today at all is the ‘socialization factor’. When they come to school, their lives are taking turns also, then they think there is only one toy and the whole classroom wants most play, so the sharing concepts comes in. These are things which cannot be repeated at home. 

Second part of this concept is ‘peer learning’, children pick up very quickly from each other. They mimic each other when they're young, they pick up words, the verbal development happens very rapidly. So it's like the height of the building is going to be as tall as the foundation is strong, we consider this as the ‘foundation years’. And of course research has been backing that pre-schools have been loud signal that this is the foundation year. Because the brain development is happening, fifty percent of brain development happens by the age of six, and if you have the right environment then this is where the child should be.

So, I think, without a doubt parents now feel the changes that they notice over the years for a child who's been to a preschool is pretty significant.

What major challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?

We are setting up about 1 school every week so real estate costs very very high in this country and one has to find a location which would work for a school or preschool or primary school or the K12 School and it has to be safe, it has to be clear of all problems. So one is finding the real estate and the second is finding teachers as well. We realize that teacher training quality in India is really bad. Teachers who spent many years working in traditional schools, it's very hard to unmake them unlearn, because on the traditional parameters, they've done really well. For me, somebody who is teaching more holistically is more important than traditional way, so teacher quality is a big problem.

We've tried to templatise the whole teaching process to a standard level where it's easy to execute it. We've given them instructions to follow so that they are able to deliver quality of education, even in the smallest of towns with a minimal exposure at a very low price. Also, we invested in teacher training through video conferencing. Again, it's a low-cost solution because virtually it costs nothing and everybody is supposed to attend the training.

We do audits as well to ensure the quality is being placed on and they are implementing that in the class for which we ask for evidence of that. So they're supposed to pay attention to what is being taught the video conferencing. So teacher quality and real estate are the two biggest challenges.

Where do you think India is leading and lagging behind in education? And what sort of support do we need from our government?

There are certain skills that we invite very well in our children which are memorization, which of course overdone is a bad thing, and mental mathematics-mental calculations are something that Indians tend to do better as when compared to adjourn outside.

What we lack, what worries me, is the ‘21st century skills’ about critical thinking, of able to express ourselves, concept of aesthetics, design, creative thinking, to make arguments and to question. These things of empathy, of care, of giving back to the community are highly missing.

Our education system has told us not to think but just focus on the syllabus and that's very detrimental because those skills that we’re teaching them, rote learning, cursive handwriting, right fast in your examination, stick to NCERT, those are the jobs that the robots are going to take over. The jobs that will be left will be of the humane touch, which requires human soft skills. And as a country, we don't focus on the arbitrary. Today's problems require multi-sensory approach, you can't just go with a straight line approach.

Government has its own strengths and private sector has its own strengths and if they can be brought together, it can be gained in educating this country and it is a huge responsibility. The government has resources, they have land and the reach to reach out to children. The private sector is good in implementation, they can implement because in the private sector there's accountability.

We're not going to be able to educate this whole country on charity. We all know all the private schools are the money is being siphoned off. Yet we are happy to send our kids to private schools because that is where good quality education is. So why not allow things like this to happen with of course parents given a transparent system where apart of the mentioned charges no other charges will be asked. Let such experiments start mushrooming and then this will attract the best talent of the country.

What advice will you give to students for success in life with the board exams going on?

It is a now or never situation for them, they have to take it very seriously. A good board examination result will help in the first step of life, the choice of the first college makes an impact on their first career and job. If this one exam can give you a head start in life, it makes sense. Otherwise you'll be catching up, spending a couple of years just catching up with people, so it’s better to spend a few months working hard rather a few years trying to catch.

Having said that if it doesn't work out as per the expectation, it is not the end of the world. There are many other opportunities as well but let that be a second thought once the results come out. Of course, marks are not directly proportional to how happy you will be in life. But at the same time it doesn't hurt to get good marks so that you have a good college, it is very important exam.

And most of the exams can be gamed, so try and look at the trends and be smart. It's not about working hard in these exams about being smart.

What are your future plans in the coming 3-5 years?

We have it very clear, till 2025 we will have 10,000 schools. That's our mission for our whole organization.

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