Do you remember your first day at school? A strange gush of feelings might have been revisited if you try to recall. On the first day at school, children feel like they are separated from the family, but actually, they are stepping into a brand new world of learning.
Would you also be able to recall the very first lesson on the same day? Probably not!
Only a few would recall the very first lesson on the first day at school, but we surely remember the lessons that opened our world of imagination and made us curious about the subject.
There must be some reason why that particular lesson gets stuck in your memory longer than others.
It does not have much to do with the lesson or the idea but more with how it was conveyed for you to understand and how the teacher captured all your attention and curiosity.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn,“ great teachers and their lessons make a formidable impact on children’s minds.
Mrs. Balachandran is one such educator who had started her journey into the field of education with a solemn purpose – to inculcate love for learning among her students.
She has been active as a teacher and Principal of Ramjas School RK Puram for over three decades and continues to inspire us with her incredible journey.
The Story as it Began
As a student in Kolkata, Mrs. Balachandran had opted for education as a subject at graduation level. Very few universities were offering it as a subject. There was no counselling at that time, and she had selected the subject out of sheer interest. She followed it with a B.Ed degree.
As her interest in the subject grew, she completed a Post Graduation in Education (M.Ed) from the prestigious Central Institute of Education, Delhi University. This was followed by a Post Graduation in English from Chandigarh. Mrs. Balachandran was already a voracious reader and had always loved English literature. Hence, she combined her interest in both language and education to grow expertise in both subjects eventually. Today she is recognised in both fields as an expert.
Source of Inspiration
Mrs. Balachandran found her role models at an early age in her teachers. Her biology teacher would constantly guide her on the study methods while conveying the subject wonderfully and even going beyond to teach how large chunks of the syllabus can be managed in a limited allotted timeframe. Her teacher would make the students understand at a very young age that the day would only be twenty-four hours and make the best use of it. This had prepared Mrs. Balachandran with the time constraint, even when she had to reach the highest level in the subject, and has helped her understand time management at its very core.
Moreover, her English teacher induced love for the subject by making the students think creatively and critically about everything they read. As a student of Senior Cambridge, which today is known as ICSE, Mrs. Balachandran had a lot of literature to cover, and it became the most beautiful, enlightening experience. Interestingly, as she completed her B.Ed, she had joined a school as a teacher and became colleagues with her childhood English teacher.
Joining the Esteemed Ramjas Institution
Mrs. Balachandran was a teacher at Modern High School Calcutta for just about a year. After her marriage, she moved to Delhi and joined Ramjas School Pusa Road in 1973. Little did she know that she would remain with Ramjas organisation till 2008.
Mrs. Balachandran had initially joined as a vice-principal at Rajmas RK Puram, but the appointed principal had to leave due to some circumstances. Hence, Mrs. Balachandran joined as the principal of the esteemed school in 1974, till she retired in 2008.
The founder of Ramjas Institutions, Late Rai Kedar Nath Ji, despite constraints of poverty, pursued his studies with great devotion, dedication, and distinction and rose to the position of a Sessions Judge. He was a man of a keen intellect and had in him a rare combination of sterling qualities like simplicity, compassion, sacrifice, fortitude, strong will, and irrepressible zeal.
Mrs. Balachandran adds while speaking about him, “In the real sense, he was a true – Karma Yogi. He was a beacon of light and left no stone unturned to dispel the darkness of ignorance prevailing in society. He resigned from the post of Session Judge and made a significant mark in the annals of history by devoting himself to serving the cause of education. He established temples of learning, The Ramjas Schools, which bore fruits with the Ramjas Team expanding to include 16 schools, one Day Boarding School, one Post-Graduate Ramjas College, and Ramjas Sports & Mountaineering Institute, with a fraternity of about 15,000 students and staff. The spirit of his great noble soul will forever continue to guide us all in our ceaseless endeavours in the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and wisdom.”
The esteemed school shares its motto to be Shradha, Gyan, Karm.
Visionary Outlook of Ramjas School
Ramjas Schools envision their students to do well and compete with the best. But more than anything, the school strives to cultivate the right values in life. The course objectives ensure that the learning outcomes match the course objectives.
The school has always seen teachers as learners and was the first in Delhi to set up a Teachers’ Center with support from the British Council in 1976. The organisation ensured that teachers kept learning and sharing their learning with colleagues.
They had several training programs at the Center by world-renowned experts from the British Council and India. All the workshops were conducted at no cost to the teachers, and invitations spanned across most Delhi schools. Mrs. Saroja Srinivasan, a teacher from Ramjas school, was one of the first teachers to undergo training in the UK on Environmental Studies in 1976 when no school had introduced it as a subject.
Being Ahead of Time
According to Mrs. Balachandran, technology and education go hand-in-hand and have played a vital role during the pandemic. Mrs. Balachandran adds, “Of course, the teacher’s technology skills have a lot to play in the effective delivery of these lessons from both the point of syllabus coverage and attention spans.”
She lists the critical effects of the same below:
- Students have begun to feel that teachers are not indispensable, and technology can be self-sufficient.
- Students have started losing interest in learning as there is often not enough interaction among them.
- Students have subtly started appreciating schools for all the learning that indirectly takes place through the activities like sports etc.
Furthermore, Ramjas RK Puram was selected by ‘Intel’ to set up the first Teach To the Future lab in 2000 to train teachers about the use of technology. More than 3000 teachers were trained at the school, and Craig Barrett, the CEO of Intel, formally inaugurated the lab.
Mrs. Balachandran had completed her Master’s Training, won a special award, and was sent to Osaka in Japan to address teachers on the benefits of technology integration. Many of her students are in the technology field worldwide and have gained recognition as scholars and professors in the US, Canada, and the UK.
Mrs. Balachandran has also been an ODA scholar of the British Council and was trained in England in the Communicative Approach to Teaching English and on her return she trained a large number of teachers in this approach which was adopted by CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education). This approach is now being renewed by CBSE.
She had also represented India at the UN on The Education of Girls in 2007 As a part of this delegation and had traveled to two Universities in the US to address the students.
Innovation in Education
Mrs. Balachandran shares an incident that went beyond academic work and signifies that education is truly an impeccable tool for empowerment. She says, “One of the social empowerment programs was an exchange where students of the school went to a village in Udaipur and lived with the weavers in their homes and experienced their hardships. They were then invited to the school and stayed with us. The same students were then taken to my husband’s village Iringal in Kerala. They were able to compare village life in the two villages vis- a-vis education, development, cleanliness, etc.”
Ramjas School has taken up several international programs in various fields, including Project Citizen India – We The People, where many schools (nearly 500) were involved.
The program funded by The Center For Civic Education California gets students to look at Government policies and their implementation/lack of implementation. Under the project, students took up many civic problems like Lack of Toilets in the Villages, Preservation of Monuments, Acid Victims, etc. A delegation of students was taken to Washington under this project.
Another project was the link with The Droitwich School, Essex, which specialised in sports. Under the exchange program, which started in 2005, many students traveled to the UK, and many students from the UK visited India and stayed with host families.
Ramjas School ensured that every child had a chance to be educated, and long before the Economically Weaker Section rules (Right to Education Act), they had 25% of their students getting free education.
Word of Advice for the Future Educators
Mrs. Balachandran believes that an educator should not treat teaching as any other job. She quotes, “Your contribution will go a long way to make a much better world, so be committed and remember your rewards will come not in a monetary form but in the way humanity will have risen to unbelievable levels.”