Speech, AGM July 2006
Two years have gone by very
quickly. I still remember the very first time that I stood at this podium, when
the then chairperson, Dr. Henal Shah asked me to introduce myself to the general
body, and acquaint you with my career as an educationist. It was an unfamiliar
moment for you and me, and an introduction for both of us.
Now is a sufficient time
period and good enough for me to reflect on and evaluate all that has transpired
during my career at BIS. I would like to share my self-evaluation with all of
you. To look at what were some of my goals when I came in, to tell all of you
the changes, which I introduced, and the rationale behind the change. Change is
a very big proposition and research has shown that it is more effective to
implement small and concrete changes, which then build into a larger picture
rather than attempt a “whole-school transformation.” It is each of these little
acts that then contribute to a movement and create a dynamic environment for our
A school is by
definition a place where pupil learning is the key objective. If students are
engaged in the learning process, whether curricular or otherwise, they are
motivated and behave well. The first key area on which I concentrated during
these 23 months is the academic sphere.
As a Principal, I think it
is of utmost importance that I teach so that I am able to maintain the “pulse”
of the students. It is a role model for other teachers, so that I can draw upon
my own experience when making academic demands from them.
I maintain a detailed
logbook for the subjects I teach which may be used as an example. I also set an
example with the types of test papers and questions which I set, and the way in
which I expect corrections to be done and followed up. It is very important to
lead by example. My teaching schedule has been to handle chemistry in both Std.
IX and X since I joined in September 2004. In time I intend to teach other
subjects in different classes.
2) Systems Created:
I have created a test
schedule, which is given to all students of Std. VIII, IX and X in advance each
term. This has been done to avoid multiple tests on the same day, as the earlier
practice, which burdened students. An advance schedule also gives adequate
I create an exam
schedule, which ensures that there is only one paper per class, with breaks in
between for junior classes.
I check all question papers
set by the teachers. Answer scripts of all classes are now returned to the
students, and teachers are expected to discuss the answers and ensure that the
students do their corrections. This, according to me enhances the learning
I have created a new format
in which the Reports are now consolidated into Cumulative Reports: Preprimary,
Junior School (I-IV), Middle School (V-VII) and Senior School (VIII-X).
Certain changes have been
incorporated to make the Report more “child-friendly”. For example, the earlier
grades for music have been cancelled and replaced with tick marks. I have also
re-written other subject parameters so as to be more appropriate. I encourage
teacher initiative, as in the pre-primary report, which was re-worked by the
teachers, and approved by me.
I have created a system in
which most teachers write comments in rough for their own subject, as well as
class comments. These are discussed with me and changed if need be before it is
put into the student’s report.
The data from the reports is
now stored electronically and the Reports returned to the students rather than
stored in the office, as had been the practice before I was appointed.
3) School Timetable
The Class Timetables earlier
were not changed each year. I believe that the dynamism must be maintained, and
each year can have different issues to be considered. Hence I re-work the
timetable for Std. V to X each year. Changes in the Timetable include
Assembly period on
Monday and Wednesday Morning at 8.30 am
Splitting of Art
and Computer periods to create groups of 16 children (maximum) so as to
Special timings have been
designed, so as to accommodate March-past Practice in the morning and Founders’
day practice in the afternoon.
Re-structuring the Morning
Instead of the earlier
5-minute attendance slot, I have introduced “home-room time” for 15 minutes in
the morning before academic teaching begins in order to set the tone for the day
on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. In the past, “home-room” used to be for 40
minutes in the afternoon. The time was inappropriate, and such a long period was
difficult for students to sustain interest. This morning slot gives class
teachers separate time with their classes. Some teachers are in fact using this
4) Environment Education:
education has been accommodated in the Timetable as prescribed by the Supreme
5) Splitting of classes
In 2004 the Board of
Governors recommended that it is more efficient and in keeping with the
philosophy of the school to teach in smaller groups. I completely agree. There
are various factors, which are instrumental in the careful planning. For this
purpose, more teachers are required. I have made this change slowly, addressing
any issues, which may arise. Thus far Std. VI has been split for English, Std.
VII has been split for mathematics. There are two teachers teaching social
studies in Std. VII, so that the project approach to learning is facilitated.
6) Curriculum Planning
Along with groups of
teachers, I have ensured that the syllabus has been carefully developed for
Social Studies, Math and Science by discussion with all subject teachers from
middle to senior school. I have always believed that the backbone of teaching is
at the Middle school level. English has been looked at, and an alternative
reader, “Wisdom of Words” has been introduced this year together with the
Prentice Hall Text. However, a creative approach to language teaching is still
to be introduced.
7) ICSE Performance Feedback
Each year I have
analysed the ICSE results, shared it with the students, parents and the Academic
Council. The analysis has shown a common trend of 60% of the students attaining
85 to 90%. This is a good result, and is consistent.
8) ICSE Subjects
Each year I have discussed
the choice of subjects for the Icse in meetings with all students and parents of
class VIII, after the Icse Board in
Delhi distributes the Syllabus. I place emphasis on the
selection of skill-based options such as physical education so that there is
less stress on the students. Quite contrary to BIS philosophy, the choice of
subjects in the past has been based on performance marks rather than interest. I
am hopeful that the trend will change with time and conviction.
ICSE projects are spaced out
through the year according to a mutually planned schedule so that students are
not burdened. I discuss the guidelines in detail with the teachers before it is
given to the children.
I am the external examiner
for Projects in Physics, Computers and Environment as per the Icse requirements.
projects are now based on experiential learning, particularly when they are sent
on educational trips. For example, the History project was based on a trip to
Sanchi, and the Geography project on the Gir Forest.
10) Computer Programme
The computer programme at
BIS had been out-sourced to a company called Aptech when I joined in 2004. The
main problem with the programme was the high staff turnover and lack of
accountability. I re-vamped the entire programme by hiring three new staff, and
with the help of the IT committee the school has purchased 17 computers. The
programme is now functioning very well, and the recent excellent Icse results (8
out of 9 children who opted for computers attained above 90%) are a good
indicator of the success of the programme. This is a very rapidly evolving
field, and I do realize that there will need to be a continuous evaluation and
re-enforcement of the programme.
11) Environment Education
of Environment Education as a compulsory Icse subject took place in May 2005.
However, I pre-empted it since the judgment of the Supreme Court was pending.
Hence the transition at BIS was smooth. I attempted along with a few south
Bombay schools to try and convince the Icse Board not to treat it as an academic
subject. Since other schools did not respond, the movement did not gain impetus.
Std. X did a very creative
project by visiting an alternative Farm in Panchgani. I accompanied the class
during the three-day visit and assisted in the conceptualization of the project.
1) In-service Training.
I have introduced a two-day
in-service training for the entire staff from pre-primary to Std. X at the onset
of each academic year in January. The approach is experiential, and the feedback
from the staff has been very positive, with a desire to continue.
In addition, I also conduct one-day
sessions to re-enforce values and methodologies of education during days when
the children are away, such as study leave. Now, the trend is to refer to this
process as CPD or continuous professional development. As I increase my own
knowledge and resource base, I intend to further empower the teachers.
2) Regular Staff Meetings
The staff told me that
earlier meetings were held on the basis of issue or need. I expect that there
should be an open channel of communication and have regularized the meetings in
a formal structured manner. This has created an open atmosphere, and a united
3) Subject Co-ordination.
This was a system at BIS
right from when I joined. I meet teachers once a week to discuss content,
methodology, look at students’ books, and discuss grades/marks, problem areas,
and completion of syllabus, creative ideas and any other issues specific to
subject teaching. The teachers who meet me individually are:
math, physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography, environment science;
junior and middle school Marathi;
The teachers who meet me in
English, social studies, math and science.
Special Needs Teachers meet
me once a week, and they also sit in on certain subject teacher co-ordination
The Counselor meets me once
a week, and we discuss her plans as well as what has already been done in the
The sports teachers do not
have a fixed time, but keep me informed about all the activities.
The two music teachers,
three computer teachers and speech and drama teacher meet me once a week to
discuss regular classes as well as special programmes.
4) Observation of Classes
in-service programme this year, the staff invited me (or any other staff member)
to come into their lesson in a spirit of sharing and learning. I speak to the
concerned staff member in advance before I enter the classroom. I firmly believe
that this creates a feeling of mutual trust and hence willingness to learn.
5) Staff Recruitment
The reality of the
situation in Bombay today is that with the burgeoning schools in the city, staff
turnover is a reality traditional schools have to contend with. I have a vast
network of colleagues from the B.Ed. Colleges, as well as the teaching
fraternity. The most effective source of finding a reliable teacher is the
old-fashioned word of mouth. I have been able to find teachers even for
short-term substitutions through this method. It is essential to maintain a
balance wherein teachers are retained; at the same time precedents, which could
have adverse effects on the rest of the staff, are not set. It is quite a
delicate balance, and I am aware that the staff morale is of crucial importance.
Until now I have maintained equable relations with senior staff members as well
as managed to find new staff members who are of a certain caliber.
6) External Training
teachers as well as the Administrator, to participate in programmes conducted by
other agencies and schools in order to continue their personal growth. I have
kept a record of attendance so that all teachers are given equal opportunity. I
myself avail of the opportunity to enhance my own personal growth.
BIS prides itself on
exposing the children to a wide range of co-curricular activities on a regular
basis. I did initially notice a casual attitude about the preparation and
planning for some of the assemblies such as debates and elocution. By positive
praise, encouragement and reinforcement of effort rather than achievement, I do
feel the overall standard has improved. I make it a point to comment about every
assembly, as well as ensure that the senior school is able to sit quietly and
respectfully listen, especially when the junior school is performing. Having
shifted the Monday afternoon (last period) assembly to being the first in the
morning also helps in reducing the feeling of restlessness, particularly during
the hot summer days.
2) Founders’ Day
Last year I streamlined
Founders’ Day, in which each class was given a specific performance item. It
worked very well for the planning and implementation and was much appreciated by
the staff and parents. I ensured that a certain standard was maintained. I also
developed an original script and used multi-media effects for the first time. It
was an extremely creative exercise for the children as well as for me.
This year I am attempting a
different programme since I like to experiment and learn about different methods
3) Guest Speakers
I encourage a wide
number of people who wish to address the children to speak on a range of issues
such as art, film, music, science, studying abroad, theatre, to mention a few.
There is a vast resource of speakers available and I am always open to alter the
daily Timetable so that the students may derive maximum benefit.
4) Inter-school Activities
I encourage as many students
as possible to participate in a wide variety of inter-school activities, which
range from Quiz competitions, to Art, Speech and poetry, dance, creative
writing. We are invited by several groups and whenever feasible the children
5) Educational trips
I accompanied Std. VI and
VII to Rajasthan in December 2006. The rationale for choosing these classes was:
I already knew the students of Std. V, I would be teaching VIII and IX of 2005,
hence after the educational tour, I would personally come to know students from
every class, Std. VI upwards in 2006.
6) Annual Plan
I prepare the calendar of
activities for the following year during the Diwali vacation. A dummy calendar
is put up in both the primary and secondary staff rooms. After an exercise of
brainstorming and introducing any changes, which are seen to be required, the
same is given for printing. Until Ms. Master was brought in as the
administrator, I used to co-ordinate with the printer and proof read both the
calendar and the Diary.
7) Activity Clubs
I witnessed the sessions of
the Activity Clubs during the latter part of September 2004. There was a lot of
scope for improvement and involvement of the staff. I have had to make
priorities for the school and hence my initial focus has been on academic
overhauling. However, I consider these clubs to be of tremendous benefit. Hence
the staff and I have done some planning and will introduce the Activity Clubs
during the morning slot, so that it is easier for Parents to come in as resource
persons. We have delegated two committed staff members per Activity Clubs as a
focal point for the planning and execution of the Activity Clubs. I am sure that
all of you have received the circular last week, and will be involved in the
follow-up of this in mid-August, after Founders’ Day.
Discipline can only be
enforced if there is a role model and the process comes from within. I have
tried to instill in the teachers and the children a need for discipline in order
that there may be a happy and conducive environment. Initially I perceived that
the teachers constantly felt a sense of impotence to do anything or take any
action due to reaction from the parents. However, I have empowered the teachers
and assured them of my total support, so that there are some acceptable norms of
behaviour in the school. I have done my best to overcome this hurdle, but much
remains. It is only with complete co-operation from the parents that we shall be
able to enforce a true sense of discipline.
I personally believe that
community service is essential in a school. I work very closely with the
counselor and the SUPW teacher and encourage the culture of community service.
It is extremely important to
teach children to give. To give material things, and to give of themselves. I
have introduced various ways in which collections are made: for instance, in
response to a crisis such as a drive for the Tsunami. Or supporting a specific
cause such as the cancer society, senior citizens, street kids. We are
approached by certain organizations; for example, one was setting up a shelter
for the “girl street child” and asked the school children to “sell-a-brick” for
this campaign. Contribution drives may occur at a specific time during the year,
or as the need arises.
Children need to be able to
do something concrete. When we collected for the tsunami affected regions, each
child made a greeting card, which was sent along with the material things.
Visits to the Helpage home, interaction through CRY and a link program with Seva
Sadan have been established.
The linkages can be as close
to home as Akanksha, and as far as Japan. Last year we make cranes out of paper
using an origami technique and sent them in August for the commemoration of
Hiroshima day in memory of a school child named Sadako who died of leukemia as a
result of the bomb attack. This is an important way of building cross-cultural
links across the globe.
Unless children are made
aware of what they are contributing to, the process becomes a mechanical one.
De-briefing after a session is vital. Children conceptualize their thoughts and
ideas through the medium of art, poetry and music. Writing and expressing
thoughts are very effective tools for sensitization.
Interaction with Parents.
1) Parent Teacher Meetings
These meetings are
held annually and are the interface for parents to meet with teachers and learn
about the academic plans for the year. The teachers and I have detailed meetings
prior to the PTMs, We discuss general and subject issues of each class so that
there is clarity about goals and expectations. For the past two years I have
attended each and every PTM from Std. V to X as I was requested by the staff to
2) Parent Meetings
In addition, and in order to
maintain total transparency, I address Parent meetings on a diverse number of
issues, whether it is to campaign against the Environment Education as a seventh
subject, to discuss programs, class issues or academic matters. I may call for
the meeting, or parents have also requested for these meetings. If it concerns
another teacher, we are always both present at the meeting together.
3) Visiting Hours
I have regularized the visiting hours
of the Principal to twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I welcome
suggestions from parents and discuss a diverse range of issues with them.
Unfortunately very few parents come at the appointed time. Unless it is a crisis
situation, I am not able to entertain and meet with parents on an ad hoc basis
or at their will.
During the past 23
months, I regularly attend the meetings of the following:
Library Committee (I am
called in only for the relevant part of the meeting).
Kitchen Committee, on
Admissions Committee, of
which I am the convener. I work closely with the co-coordinators of this
Repairs and Maintenance
committee involve me in the planning, and some decisions for execution of
design. Ms. Master, the Administrator, keeps me abreast of the progress of this
I convene the requisite
number of meetings of the Academic Council.
Sometimes committee meetings
take up a lot of time, especially when protocol is not followed, agenda and
minutes are not circulated and discussions are not focused on the issues at
hand. If this were to be streamlined, it would be a more efficient use of my
1) Model United Nations
The Model United Nations or the MUNs as
they are popularly known are exclusively a student driven activity. There are
different levels of MUNs, which require varying degrees of expertise. The MUN in
school is the most educative and participative one, and I made it compulsory for
all students of Std. VIII, IX and X. The maximum learning occurs in this forum.
The inter-school MUNs are more competitive, and it is a matter of prestige,
which children go. The number of participants we may send is pre-determined by
the host school. The more experienced MUNers are sent. The HMUN is the
international forum. Parents of Std. IX are asked if they are willing to sponsor
their children to HMUN, after which a selection is made, determined by the
country allocated by HMUN and hence the delegation size.
1) Schools in Bombay.
I regularly attend
the meetings convened by the Association of ICSE schools. I have met with
various other principals and I have a good working relationship with some of
them. We share resources such as ideas, exam papers and attend programmes in
each other’s schools.
1) Seeds of Peace
For the past two sessions
at BIS and (six years otherwise) I have been actively involved in helping the
students prepare for the Seeds of Peace Programme. I personally read and help
them write the essays and prepare them for the oral interviews.
2) International School
The British Council sent us
a proposal to apply for an International School Award. The staff and I felt that
this would help us systematize our work and use creative methodologies across
subjects. British Council has accepted our school proposal for the International
School Award. I have set up a committee of teachers who are working on this
project, and are confident that we will be able to do a good documentation of
all the projects we have undertaken.
3) Link with Pakistan
As part of the above
programme, I have been communicating with the Principal of Karachi High School.
We are exploring the possibility of establishing a link between our two schools.
4) Link with Ramallah,
This year at the Seeds of
Peace Delegation Leaders’ Conference in
I met with a Palestinian delegation that is interested in creating a link with
BIS. These schools are closed until end of August, and I will explore this with
a teacher from our school as well.
We had a visit from the
Principal of Synergy School, and the teachers found that it was easy to relate
to him, as we seemed to share a similar philosophy. We have made contact with
one of the teachers and hope to create a link wherein we would exchange stories
and photographs with them.
As a leader, I see
my role as being the one who evolves the ethos of the school using a strategic
vision. The past 23 months have been a process in which I have created systems.
They say, that what is new the previous year should become routine the next
year. I would just like to share with you some elements of a successful school,
developed by Professor Tim Brighouse who is the Chief Advisor to London Schools.
Creating the right
Self evaluating and
Involving Parents and the
It is a good framework, and
a starting point to look at our school.
There has been an
explosion in the field of education during the last few years, and we are no
longer forerunners. At every forum I meet Principals and teachers from different
schools who are using extremely creative and innovative pedagogical techniques.
We now need to work towards a systematic analysis and evaluation of where we are
and where we are heading.
My vision for education is that it is a
vital process, which opens up worlds within worlds, helping a human being
realize his or her own potential. It is a tool, which prepares a child for life.
The scope and content of true education is such that it caters to individual
needs and is holistic and broad based rather than narrow and confined.
I see my role as a leader,
and in order to take the school forward, I need continuous support from the
parents, the staff and the pupils. The saying, “Every Child Matters” has been
adopted in the UK. I think it is apt for BIS as well. With the co-operation of
the staff and parents, I am confident that we will be able to move with the
July 31st 2006
Presentation of the AGM