“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence,” Rabindranath Tagore said this when he referred to Shanti Niketan.
A similar confluence of knowledge, harmony, and wisdom is Cygnus World School, Vadodara. As a pioneer and leader in the educational spectrum, the institution meets the eye as a magnificent green campus housing five artistically constructed school buildings with ample outdoor spaces for children to play, move around and explore, along with overwhelming greenery standing out in the concrete neighbourhood. It is definitely not Rome that was built in a day. It stands as proof of the extensive research and detail that has gone into the making of this dream school.
Cygnus World School stands apart as an institution that purely aims for qualitative, holistic, child-centred education which is a lifelong experience. Cygnus World School, or CWS as it is popularly known, is a progressive brain in a secure and aesthetically designed body with a multi-faceted heart and a unique soul. That is the complete definition of Cygnus World School. It includes academics, sports, art, music, nature, and value education in its lesson plans. This is not just books and walls but a direction and way of life.
Spearheading this revolution in the global education space is its Founder—Ms. Madhavi Agrawal. Her eye for detail and perfectionist approach is obvious as one notices every piece of furniture, the fittings, and the embellishments along the Cygnus ecosystem that is blossoming the life of every student.
We, The Knowledge Review, crossed paths with Madhavi Agrawal and the School Principal—Ms. Kanchan Joshi, over a welcoming cup of coffee in the office of the Founder Director of Cygnus World School in Harni, Vadodara, Gujarat.
How it all started?
Cygnus World School (CWS) was established on 8th June 2011 with 53 children, ten teachers, and five administrative staff, spread across 7.3 acres. With a humble beginning, the school has always represented its educational excellence and wants to shape students for the challenges of the future while teaming up with teachers, students, and parents for inclusive growth. It is the faith of this team and the parents that took the school from its inception to where and what it stands today.
The World Inside Cygnus
The Cygnus ecosystem nurtured by the School Founder—Ms Madhavi, is about the place and the people who have a ‘soul’. And this has become possible because the head, hand, and heart function in harmony. There are not just lessons from books that are taught here; life is lived here through the symbiotic associations formed among the people of all ages that form the Cygnus family and with the community around it.
“Yes! Education is not simply from the printed and the spoken. It is from the philosophy that guides those that guide a student. Anything and everything that can nurture a student’s potential, develop the student and enable the student to rise, and blossom are what education is all about. And that is the essence of Cygnus World School!” says Ms Madhavi Agrawal.
This success of CWS is a result of the vision of the Founder and Chairperson—Mr. H. V. Kanoria. He is an eminent industrialist who truly believes in giving back to society. He stands for his faith in education being the way to herald economic, social, and cultural change. This makes him an ideal member of the Board of Trustees of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan and Chairman of the Social Committee of Gungabux Kanoria Bhavan School, Kolkata. With the guidance and blessings of such an experienced visionary, his team has travelled across the globe to research, observe and adapt best practices in every ingredient that goes into the making of an educational institute for over a period of a few years.
With such guiding light, Ms. Madhavi has made the school become the most favoured and top leader across the education community worldwide. Let’s know her story and how she diligently shaped the school ecosystem and is successfully giving back to society.
A Standout Educational Leader—Ms. Madhavi Agrawal
As Ms. Agrawal goes down memory lane to share her glorious academic and sports career, her passion for holistic education is obvious. An alumnus of New Delhi’s prestigious Modern School, Shri Ram College of Commerce, ICFAI, and Harvard, Ms. Agrawal has also represented New Delhi in hockey and has been into athletics, basketball, tennis, and horse riding. A good orator and a theatre enthusiast, Ms. Agrawal’s school and college career saw her in many challenging and leadership roles. This was where she began appreciating the importance of a 360-degree education and perhaps subconsciously nurturing a dream to establish an institute to that effect.
At Cygnus, she has exemplified her leadership skills and has introduced an ecosystem that is not only self-gratifying but is also responsible for providing an astounding academic experience.
She shares that the Hallmark of Cygnus has always been to be extremely well planned. “Post pandemic, the new Hallmark of Cygnus will be the ‘Adaptability to Changing Circumstances’,” says Ms Agrawal. In response to the virtual learning process, the school fortified its strong training programme even further by offering online training programs. 90% of their teachers are now Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) and over a span of 3 months, 4 of them became Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEE).
Words from the Principal
Principal—Ms. Kanchan Joshi reflects upon how the school has grown over the last few years with the complete support of the school management, a trained set of dedicated teachers, and parents who place their faith in the school. She explains how they aspire to nurture the torch-bearers of tomorrow, who will be well-formed and well-informed rather than just well-filled. She says, “At Cygnus, we prepare future leaders who take pride in being Indian and are global in their approach and understanding.”
The Cygnus Way of Education
It is quite interesting to see how the school campus, the trained educators, the technology, and the ideology, all find a harmonious home, every day in and how the school functions. The team ignites curiosity and encourages the ability of the children to explore, question, and accept the world around them. They work with a progressive, innovative, constantly-updated curriculum and integrate the best from current international teaching practices. What goes into the making of the happy and knowledgeable faces smiling across the campus of Cygnus World School is thoroughly researched activities that are crafted to address multiple intelligences in each child.
- Sports and Health- A Way of Living
The schoolhouses a well-planned sports programme in action on its multiple sports areas, football, badminton, and basketball courts. The 7th and 8th-grade students shared how they have regular dedicated coaches who undertake regular morning and evening practice sessions along with their routine ‘Group Games’.
The attention to detail of Ms Madhavi is visible in the specially designed basketball court that allows effective water drainage and provides the ideal ground for the children to play an international standard game.
The centre of attraction for students and visitors is the ‘The Bistro’. The Bistro accommodates 540 children at every meal. It has a smooth functioning of the service and cleaning teams as well as the maintenance of quality and discipline. 35 happy personnel serve these children, supervised by an efficient manager. The food served is delicious, with varieties ranging from paneer to soya and halwa to balushahi. The students are completely justified in the bond they feel even for their Bistro.
And no! It is not just all play and no work here. Team Cygnus has effectively found a centre ground that balances between free learning and adequate assessment. It follows a continuous, comprehensive, and constructive assessment system.
- School Council – Way to Impactful Leadership
An expansive 45-member secondary school council that includes students from grade 7 to grade 11 taking charge of events like Teacher’s Day, Annual Concerts, and so on and so forth. They learn to be a part of various teams like the editorial, sports, cultural, etc., and are prepared for larger leadership roles in the school and their future lives.
The school has successfully been able to instil responsibility and confidence in its students by enabling a separate council for its primary school, which is responsible for its events. The members are selected after a valid process of nomination, fair campaigning, and elections. Civics is lived in the lives of these children right from grade 1.
- Co-scholastic – Way to Entrepreneurial Leadership
At Cygnus, the students play a crucial role in guiding their own learning. It is evident even in the Co-scholastics building. One could see the efforts of the students and art teachers in the colourful displays, sculpture teacher’s lessons taking the form of art and sculpture exhibits, and a group of theatre enthusiasts rehearsing a street play to be performed for an inter-school competition as notes of melodious instruments and voices wafted across the corridors.
The school enables students to work in groups regularly. The spacious corridors of its beautifully designed building have a lot of charts covering their boards outside the classrooms, and students draw and colour over these blank canvasses of soft boards based on thematic charts, write-ups, and images. The school organizes some friendly competitions like The Entrepreneur Week where students had created business ideas and designs, made products, and sold these items in the school to raise a commendable amount of Rs. 66,000/-. The students shared how this entire experience included learning about market research, having their own Shark Tank experience, applying the technical and digital skills they had learned, and actual experience working in teams for planning, execution, marketing, and sales.
- STEAM LABS – A Way to Experiential Learning
The school is equipped with Creya and AI Labs—an innovative STEAM program lab for students, from Grades 4-9. It is an experiential learning system that provides students with a set of literacies and competencies for success in the 21st Century. Tynker, Tinker CAD, IoT, and digital learning are part and parcel of the lives of the Cygnites. Using these to create 2D and 3D models in their academic subjects is the ideal integrated foot forward. It also includes collaborative learning, the use of experience, and questioning. Through the AI lab used by grades 8 and 9, Semantics, an AI-driven online game is used along with Autodraw and Inkelwriter, and MIT App Inventor for app development.
With such core hands-on learning, analytical skills are honed to the maximum. The young children are found to present their work and explain it confidently reflecting on the exemplary student-led learning once again. These labs are not just free grounds but also offer the AI academic parcels of knowledge as laid down by CBSE for classes 8 and 9.
- Social Welfare Programs—A Way of Giving Back to Society
The school students are also involved in educating selected underprivileged children of the city as a part of the welfare programmes initiated by the Baroda Citizens Council (BCC). The students had also visited ‘The Lakshya Trust’ a shelter home for transgenders from across the country in Vadodara and befriended them, spent time with them, and helped them get computer savvy through the teaching of basic computer skills like MS Office Applications. They also had a lot of interactive sessions with the trust members and trustees. They came up with a project called ‘DNA-Definitions Not Applicable’. This kind of involvement with the community around s ai commendable project indeed!
- Green Way of Living and Learning
The school, with its nature-centric ideology, has made a positive difference in the air quality in school despite the reasonably large concrete belt around the school! The school has a well-maintained RO system, biogas plant, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting system. This gives the students much learning outside their classroom walls, right within their school campus. The school participates in many awareness drives about banning plastic, increasing the green cover, and saving the environment. The 3 Rs are practiced through art, craft, and all their activities. Their cultural performances and assemblies often have presentations based on such themes. Not only that, every year, the Cygnus family is gifted with a jute bag to encourage the 3Rs in practice and at all times. The school does practice what it preaches, and the students live what they learn!
The Marvels of Cygnus Preschool
Sharing insights on how the school ensures a happy learning experience, The Head of Preschool, Ms. Aparna Maheshwari explains how her team ensures that a happy learning haven with an optimal growing environment is created within their pre-primary school, Cheviot Kids. The well-arranged, colourful, and safe classrooms reflect the efforts of the teachers and the thoughtful inputs by the team. There are plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning, incorporation of technology with the use of smart flat panelled screens bringing the world to the fingertips of the teachers and an array of books and manipulatives, and teaching-learning aids. In these premises, one stands witness to a strong foundation for the pursuit of knowledge and a complete understanding of effective learning.
At Cygnus, the team understands the core competencies of every child and gradually familiarises them with multidisciplinary subjects like Maths, Science, Social sciences, and Linguistics (English and Hindi). Theory and practice go hand in hand here, and a healthy ‘learn and apply’ cycle is created. This is evident in the way the children move up to Primary school and as shared by the Head of Primary School, Ms. Sakina Giniwala.
We also happen to spot a well-equipped and manned infirmary close by. When asked about medical facilities in school, Ms. Sakina explains, “We have a full-time in-house doctor to attend to the children. This is quite in contrast to the frail and flimsy first aid provided in the name of full-time medical attention.”
Balancing between Academics and Co-scholastics
As the student proceeds into secondary school, they are gradually moved into the CBSE-based curriculum, curricular competitions, textual learning, additional modules created by subject teachers, and supplemented learning through various digital portals. This helps the students have an easy and interesting transition from primary to secondary school.
In an engaging discussion, the Secondary Co-ordinator—Ms. Madhavi Mangat, and the Senior Secondary Co-ordinator—Ms. S. Jyothi explains the academic-extracurricular balance maintained by Cygnus World School. They said, “Interspersed with all events are tie-ups with offshore coaching centres, remedial classes, coaching sessions, sample board paper discussions, laboratory activities, and also preparatory leaves. In the list of other activities, the students also participate in quite a few MUNs that are held across the country and their students outshine most others. One tough balance made easy for them all!”
The students of this section have a lot of help at hand. They have 2 in-house counsellors, in addition to a special educator for the entire school, who help them understand their own selves, and grow emotionally and socially.
“We use in-house presentations, NIMHANS Life Skills Modules, and informatory videos and documentaries as a method of teaching, followed by quick feedback and summary of the sessions. The ‘Awakened Citizenship Programme’ has also been implemented for the students through the Ramkrishna Mission, Vadodara along with meditation sessions through the Heartfulness organization. The primary graders have sessions on ‘good touch-bad touch’ and the middle schoolers have open forums on ‘puberty and adolescence’. There are sessions to help them understand and question the world around them, know about the future that awaits them, and make intelligent and informed choices in life. This includes their subjects right from the third language to their optional subject choice and eventually career choices. There are programmes like American Field Service (AFS), Ciaflo, Global University Fair, and college visits to give ample of opportunities to the students to interact with each other, their juniors, their teachers, experts from the various professions in the real world, experience various work arenas and get a real slice of life. Leadership roles and roles which ask them to take ownership and responsibility are encouraged,” concluded Ms. Madhavi Mangat and Ms. S. Jyoti.
Awards and Recognitions
Cygnus is one of the only ‘Green Schools’ in the country and is the proud recipient of The LEEDS USA Gold award for green construction and the Planum award from IGBC India for green practices at the school. The school has been conferred with the National Swachh Vidyalaya Puraskar 2018 by the MHRD-India for exemplary work in water, sanitation and hygiene.
Cygnus is the proud recipient of the Brainfeed School Excellence Award (2019- 20) for having
*BEST SPORTS EDUCATION,
*LIFE SKILLS EDUCATION &
*BEST TECHSMART SCHOOL.
It has been conferred with the ‘Leading Schools of the World’ award.
Recently in 2020-21, ‘Cygnus World School’ was Ranked No.1 in Vadodara under the category – CBSE City-Wise in a survey conducted by EducaonToday.co.
Cygnus is the recipient of the British Council ISA award twice in a row for 2017-20 and now from 2020-23 for bringing an international dimension into the school curriculum.
A short film titled ‘Nine’ about organ donation, which was scripted, shot, edited, and directed by our students Siddhant Agrawal, Siddh Jain and Avi Patel, won the Silver Beaver Award at the 8th National Science Film Festival at Guwahati (Assam). Also, for the film “No Tomorrow”, produced by Cygnus World School, Siddh Jain, the Director, received the Junior Beaver Award at the 10th National Science Film Festival of India 2020.
- British Council International Dimensions Award – 2020-2023 and 2016-19 for inculcating worldwide accolades and integrating global activities into the curriculum with an aim to go beyond the classroom.
- British Council ISA Award – 2017 – 2020- For providing an international standard of education within the country of India.
- LEEDS USA Gold Award- 2014: For green construction and eco-friendly infrastructure of the school.
- IGBC India Planum Award- 2021-2024: For availing of green and sustainable practices within the school.
For career counselling and psychometric and DMIT testing for high school students. International Collaborations Bickley Park School, United Kingdom Belgrano School, Argentina Mills Berry School, Nepal School House with Khan Academy.