In a world where new technologies and effective innovations are increasingly being applied for effective transformation in the educational sphere, a world where online learning and an extensive variety of learning methods are available to the learners of the 21st century is the kind of energetic dwelling we are living in today. In today’s world where massive transformation in education and teaching pedagogies are a part-and-parcel of everyday life, there is a pronounced need for effective educational leadership.
Effective education leadership is increasingly being viewed as the key to far-reaching educational evolution. After all, it is the students of today who are going to inherit the world. We need leaders who not only direct the resources, innovation, and the potential of the learners for the betterment of the world but also set an example for the rest to follow. We need influential educational leaders like Meenakshi Ramesh.
Meenakshi Ramesh is the Director for Curriculum, Research and Development of Vels Group of Schools. Realising that creativity and innovation are fundamental for any curriculum, including academics, Meenakshi Ramesh contributed to the creation of Kindle Kids International Curriculum.
We, at The Knowledge Review magazine, are honoured to bring you the interview we conducted with the eminent leader and the cultivated educator, Meenakshi Ramesh.
So, sit back as we present the interview to you and relish the wisdom you are about to receive.
Please share your story with us and your journey of becoming an influential education leader.
Having been in the field of education for the past 35 years, I have had the exposure to assume a variety of roles and responsibilities as a Lecturer, Academic Supervisor, Principal, and Correspondent of schools catering to first generation learners. With my strong belief in enhancing and equipping skills as an ongoing process, to keep abreast of the latest knowledge, skills, and understanding in any field, I also sought to try out these with an international curriculum.
I feel that it is my responsibility to motivate, guide, train, and help teachers and other colleagues to reflect on one’s practices. I feel this will bring in a change in the individual to work with a deep sense of Choice, Commitment, Confidence, and Compassion. I have derived immense satisfaction in conducting many teachers’ training workshops, symposia, and other aspects of team learning with teachers. I also strongly believe that the education system in our country needs a precise paradigm shift towards helping children become self-engaged, self-responsible, and self-researching.
The elevation from Principal to Director was a blessing in disguise, where I was provided with the golden opportunity to take up all the projects in a detailed manner which I was not able to do as a principal.
Education is a vast area comprising of different types of professionals working together as a team for accomplishing a common purpose. Academicians, educationalists, teachers, and philanthropic leaders come together and get involved in this field to provide quality education to the children of the society. Here, I initiated my career as a humble teacher. At a particular point, after gaining good experience in teaching, I promoted myself as an education administrator.
On looking back at the 40 years of experience that has given me ample opportunities and loveable memories, I can take the legitimate pride in saying that there is no activity connected with an education that I did not touch upon in all the institutions, wherever I worked. All the institutions had given me enough freedom, rich experience and entrusted me with all responsibilities in which I could ground myself with a sense of contentment, commitment and pleasure. This helped me to be myself and hence could give my best to be in line with the vision of all the institutions that I was associated with. Now it is almost sixteen years of my enriching journey with Vels.
Please tell our readers about your institution/organisation and how you came to be associated with it.
Vels Group of Institutions, a premier educational group in Tamil Nadu, runs 36 educational institutions in varied fields with 30,000 students and 6,000 staff members in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, London, and Singapore. The Institution offers an uninterrupted study for a student from prekindergarten to PhD under one roof.
My association at Vels started in 2004-05 when I took over as the Principal of the International School. From then onward, I have always encouraged the teachers and the learners to progressively move forward in the quality of content and methodology. Under my leadership, as the Director of R&D since 2018, the team could successfully launch an indigenously developed world-class curriculum – Kindle Kids – to enthuse the children to explore, engage, experience, explain and evaluate.
What learning practises or pedagogies do you think are most needed in the education outlook of this country? Which of these pedagogies have you incorporated into your teaching practices?
In such testing times, we as a school have taken it upon ourselves to keep our students engaged and updated. We conduct online classes with ease and have learnt the techniques of teaching virtually to our students. Reaching out to children virtually poses the challenge of lacking eye-to-eye contact and personalized teaching. An added advantage to virtual classes is the facilitation of self-paced learning, which is considered rather difficult in a traditional classroom.
Examples of few learning practices:
- Creativity – The global marketplace is more competitive than ever. Understanding this, our curriculum has been designed to foster the creativity of our students: ‘Kindle Kids International Curriculum’ to suit the foundational learning for the first five years and the preparatory years as per the NEP 2020.
- Problem solving – Our group of schools prestigiously hosts mock ‘Model United Nations’ that stands a testimony every year on our campus. The students undertake the entire responsibility to hold the event right from planning up to the final event of the day. This event brings out young researchers, excellent speakers, and great thinkers and moments to think and relate to world issues and solutions.
- Critical Thinking – ‘Leader-in-Me -Programme’ conducted in our group of schools helps us to create a ripple effect to work smarter and perform better. Students are encouraged to hone their leadership skills and are presented with numerous chances to showcase the same.
- Leadership – We also give opportunities to our alumni to guide students and even let them teach hard concepts. This brings in a family culture that is prevalent in our school. This culture enables us to keep parents involved with us in developing their children.
- Communication – In school, we work in groups to produce solutions to the challenges and problems we face. Faculty training and enrichment seminars are conducted frequently to enable teachers to be updated and well equipped with the latest technology and teaching methodologies.
- Collaboration – Working in groups is a hallmark of the digital age. Activities/orphanage visits/donations/flood relief funds/beach cleaning drives are among other activities through the Interact club that reminds children of giving back to society and strengthen the feeling of communal oneness.
- Curiosity – I am a strong believer that without curiosity, there is no learning. For me, I always expect a student to experience a “WOW” moment, which happens through extended learning to support their academic interests through engaging projects and presentations.
- Reflection – By making students participate in non-scholastic projects, students reflect on the learning they have acquired.
Where does the Edu-Tech Sector stand in the country today? What role do you see yourself can play in the future of this Edu-Tech space?
From rural blackboard system to remote learning, all cannot exist concurrently in the field of teaching and learning. It is high time educationists put their heads together to standardize systems and procedures to reach far and wide. New inventions in science and technology have to be assimilated into the field of education. As educationalists, we can play a role in synthesizing them with technological upgradation suited to the current needs of the students and parents. Also, industry and agriculture are going to be the biggest beneficiaries worldwide because of these developments. The educational sector is bound to cater to their needs through an innovative syllabus to suit its needs.
What makes your institute stand apart from other institutions/organisations?
- Highly child-centric and child-friendly atmosphere
- It is mandatory at all our group schools to bring mentoring as an interactive system for fast assimilation into the school system for developing a lifelong career.
- Continuous Professional Development – VSKILL – the centre for professional development at VELS provides continuous professional development for teachers. As a team, it is our dream to explore the benefits and challenges of working with schools in other countries and to identify ways of effectively supporting education for global citizenship enhancement through our educational practices.
- To develop new teaching approaches, facilitating active learning and reflective practice.
- Give a new definition to the entire teaching-learning process.
Vels Group of Schools always caters to the needs for ‘Global Citizenship education. Freedom to plan, execute, and function and encouragement to good activities and reach out to all stakeholders need constant energy and support in terms of moral, physical, and financial aspects.
All these are provided by our worthy Chancellor of Vels University – Dr Ishari K Ganesh, Chancellor (Vels University) and Chairman (Vels Group of Institutions), and Dr Arthi Ganesh, Pro-chancellor (Vels University) and Managing Trustee Vels Group of Schools.
The institution under his leadership provides a lot of opportunities, unstinted support, and guidance to all the staff at Vels Group who work collaboratively. This brings in an awareness to connect, commit, and transform to build mutual respect, share knowledge, and give quality output in the respective areas of work in the field of education.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela.
The Vels Group, under the leadership of the Chancellor, Pro-chancellor, Directors, and Principal’s work with a single-minded devotion to accomplish the goals of the institution; that way, it is unique and stands apart, with distinction, from its peer institutions.