Sadhana Bhalla: Consolidating the Foothold of Education in India
Sadhana Bhalla

Teaching is an admirable occupation. Prospective teachers relish access to shaping a child’s future; however, it also tackles immense accountability. With more than 10 million teachers in the country, India continues to outshine the world in education. A fair part of the credit goes to the educators who have lent their life for developing and propagating education to every possible person in the country.

Sadhana Bhalla is one such educator who has devoted more than three decades of her life to education. She has served as the Principal of Mira Model School, New Delhi, and has also been Chairperson for the National Progressive Schools’ Conference from 2017-2019.

With the highlights of an interview conducted with her, The Knowledge Review takes this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the impeccable contribution of this stalwart educator.

The changing role of an inspirational woman leader in the field of education

I firmly believe that a woman head brings a different emotion and value. Given the inherent nature of a woman’s resilience, patience, and the innate nature of being a nurturer and a superwoman, it is easier for a woman leader to shift gears to become a gardener, a nurturer, a firm leader, and shift gears with ease, which the role demands in different and ever-changing situations.

Thus, in my opinion, while the head of a school has to be an inspirational leader leading from the front, the role as a head would require to be a keen gardener, philosopher guide, and an eminent leader for a vibrant and meaningful learning school, an administrator, a team leader, armed with strong psychological understanding and skills and so much more.

Being a school leader is a tall order for any institution to be as good as its leader.

Please tell us about your journey throughout the education sector right from the beginning of your career.

I have been immersed in the field of education for the past 37 years, first as a teacher, a Headmistress, and finally as the Head of School since the year 2000.

Mentoring is my forte and something I enjoy thoroughly. It is for this reason that my experience as a Mentor to Principals and teachers across the country in the ‘Global Teacher Accreditation Award’ under the aegis of the British Council is something that I feel, has given me the bandwidth to engage myself in capacity building programmes.

It is in the same vein making 125 heads of schools of the State-run schools in Delhi computer literate ,and training Heads of schools under various trusts have armed me with the confidence of being able to bring best practices in multiple areas of self-development.

I have throughout explored other opportunities and participated in teacher and principal training, headed a national body of 195 private independent schools and been a Consultant, Mentor, and British Council Ambassador.

These opportunities have added to my learning, making my journey vibrant and alive.

What inspired you to step into the education field? Who were your role models growing up?

Belonging to a family of educationists, my transition into education was a normal progression and the most natural thing for me to do.

From being refugees of the partition of 1947, to becoming leading educators in their mission to bring education in an area where there were no schools, my parents’ inspirational journey was the backdrop for my siblings and me in which we grew up.

My mother, having been denied schooling for the longest time. Educating herself as a young bride and mother, my father’s encouragement and unstinting support were just some of the stories that we grew up listening to, and ultimately defined our journeys in the field of education.

Incidentally, Mira Model School was set up by her 58 years ago, and therefore, I have had the opportunity of being mentored by the best.

Tell us about your esteemed institute’s mission, vision, and core values.

Mira Model School has been strongly rooted in the community with a global outlook. A Miraite—students of Mira Model School—through education here, aims to be a well-adjusted, well-rounded, practical, and balanced individual who should evolve as a sensitive, considerate, caring individual who will contribute to the world in a positive manner.

The vision is that every child must respect the viewpoint of others and believe in the value of social justice and equality while being able to assume leadership in all fields to endeavour, and have the ability to stand up for themselves and others.

The core values have been respect and tolerance, giving back to the community, and being always rooted.

What are the priorities of your institute in terms of course objectives and learning outcomes?

The priority of this school is to provide student-centered, focused, meaningful, relevant, inclusive and differentiated learning to each child, which will bring them closer to who they are and help them embark on a journey of self-discovery.

Creativity, collaboration, and cooperation are the focal points of students’ journey. Every experience must help them imbibe essential skills of learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together.

Education is considered a tool of empowerment. What efforts do you and the institution take to make sure that education is provided to those who need it?

We at Mira Model School take pride in our commitment to our mantra ‘from the family to the community to the city, to the country, to the globe,’ leaving no child behind, equal opportunity for all, and an open-door policy of educating anyone seeking education.

Starting with the first generation learners, marginalised communities, refugees, displaced children to children of the moving community of government servants, the school has never denied admission through any selection or testing to keep children out.

I would like to particularly mention the experiment I have initiated in the school of employing and training mothers of our students. These mothers who lived in their spouses’ shadows became shadow teachers and special educators. We encouraged them to take on more such roles and even complete their education and help them stand on their own feet. I feel privileged to have been a part of their journey wherein they evolved into empowered educated women.

Kindly mention any of your awards, accolades, and accreditations.

  • “GRIHA Exemplary Performance Awards” for existing day schools, 2021
  • International School Award for Leading the Integration of International Learning in the school, 2015 by the British Council
  • CBSE National Award for Teachers, 2014
  • Appreciation Certificate for Support and Commitment to the British School Program, 2013
  • Central institute Of Education Alumni Association, Award for Excellence in Recognition of distinguished contribution and meritorious services in the field of education, 2011
  • CBSE Pariksha Award, 2005
  • World Environment Education and Development Award by the International Institute of Ecology and Environment, 2005

What advice can you give to those who want to step into the field of education? 

To those who wish to choose teaching and education as their path, I would urge them to do so for the right reasons, at the core of which should be the innate love for children, learning, and the capacity to be a lifelong learner.

Please share what lies ahead for you and your institution in the near future.

Mira Model School is currently in its Golden Jubilee year. It is also time where the realignment and upscaling of the school to make it even more dynamic, sustainable, and vibrant for the next 50 years is what is being done undertaken currently.

Education, especially during the covid, has jolted the world of schooling, manifold. Thus, the focus for immediate and long term goal of this institution is to provide relevant, quality, sustainable and meaningful education to our children. A leading school that continues to be rooted in tradition, values, and history and yet, remains a progressive and stellar institution is what we aspire it to be.

As for me, I strongly feel that I am at the crossroads of my career where I would like to put to the test all my learning, skills, and experience that I garnered along the way in a different context and learn from something outside of my comfort zone.

Setting up a school in a rural area in the hills has been my long-standing dream. Alternatively, immersing myself in Principal and teacher training is something that would be challenging and exciting for me personally and maybe, for my future.

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