Giving an edge to education

Giving an edge to education

With a Masters in Business Administration under her belt, Fatima Agarkar also did her B.Ed and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). She worked in corporate firms and then went on to develop three premiere K-12 national and international schools in Mumbai. 

Currently, Agarkar is working with Gitika Mehra-Kishanchandani to create more opportunities for stakeholders in the education space with a passion for teacher training, special needs and sports. Together, they have founded KA EduAssociates, an educational start up, and offer a bouquet of services to schools, teachers, academicians and parents. Here’s more from Agarkar on the education scenario in the country... 

You have studied in India and abroad. Where does India need to improve? And, in which areas does India score?
From a schooling perspective, given our demographics, the gap between private and public education continues to be an area that needs correction and that too quickly. Our teaching tends to be more ‘teacher-led’ instead of facilitation. It is more knowledge-based instead of research-based and we lack creativity in how information is delivered to a class of multi-ability learners. Education abroad is more specific, more child-centric and it factors in differentiation. 
We have plenty of good things going in the country as well — numbers mean more diversity in the classroom, a hardworking spirit, receptiveness — all qualities that can be capitalised.

You have topped your state and university exams. Has the definition of topper changed since then?
It is a ranking at the end of the day. The way I see it is on that particular day, all the variables came together and a score was assigned. The format was what I focused on and these tests are meant to be optimised if you adopt efficient study skills. The definition continues although back then, the marks were not as high as they appear to be now. 
My big question is the learning ... does that happen with relevance and will there be applicability to it because while I was paper-perfect in terms of a score, on my MBA, I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to group discussions, case studies, research, presentation and so on. 
 
Can you tell us a little about KA programme for the teacher? In which areas do they need skill upgrading?
KA focuses on getting the teacher ‘class-ready’ and ‘time evolved’. There are plenty of disruptions in the education space today, and often even the most experienced teachers cannot keep pace unless they upgrade their knowledge and skills. So, KA focuses on developing teachers with practical content (first-timers) as well as upgrading the level of the teachers who are in the system. 
Our content is curated keeping in mind the time constraints teachers have to fulfill in their academic and administrative responsibilities in a classroom. Therefore we offer useful tools, strategies to help them optimise, differentiate and customise their teaching to suit the needs of learners in a classroom.

What do your interactions with parents tell you? Have you observed any changes in parenting between earlier and present generation of parents when it comes to children’s grades?
In last 20 years, I do not think the anxiety, needs and aspirations have changed significantly. However, there is more awareness now and more receptiveness to new-age learning. But the fundamentals have not changed at all. 
Parents also feel the pressure of being those new-age parents and keeping up with the times, and that leads to unnecessary micromanagement. To be fair to parents, our system that follows at University is based on a marking system and with far and few between options, of course, they want students to excel. It is a circle but there are solutions, and there are ways to optimise marks without taking on too much stress and these need to be adopted. 

It is quite evident that there are more career opportunities as compared to the past. But then we also have scenarios where one seat has several claimants (students). What should children and parents focus on in situations like these?
It is about evolution and we have moved away from manufacturing to services to now a more tech-aided world. Therefore, the opportunities are endless and yes, in specialised skills, the competition will be intense. The claimants will always be there irrespective of the era, it is a matter of coping, and adapting to it. That will be the difference. 
 
Can you share your thoughts on RTE and how it has shaped the education system in the country?
We have to think of India as a whole, and our future policy makers are somewhere in those classrooms be it public schools or private. Private education impact has data to suggest that the quality is consistent and there is investment available to upgrade and upskill programmes. And therefore if those classrooms can include deserving candidates, who otherwise may not be able to afford, there is a definite benefit. 
As educators, we worry that at times, some policies are not thought through and the implementation is the real problem. RTE needs policymakers to address the implementation challenges faced by school management and create a more level playing field. 

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