As India stepped into the new light of freedom in 1947, education was recognised to play a critical role in the country’s development. But the challenges in front of the country and its leaders were endless. With limited resources, even if the importance of education would be accepted by the masses, its access was restricted to the privileged only.
It was a force of resilient teachers and visionary leaders who came forth for the rescue, as India began its education revolt.
Today, Indian education has set an example for the world with its substantial fundamental institutions and skilled human resources. A sizable credit for India’s emerging economy also goes to its education system and its vast network of schools.
Shabnam Bhowmick at Podar International School at Muzaffarpur is one such visionary educator who is a torchbearer and an advocate for quality education for all. Below are some excerpts from the interview conducted with Shabnam by The Knowledge Review.
Please tell us about your journey throughout the education sector right from the beginning of your career.
I grew up in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Both my parents were educators in central government-run schools, and my entire school life, I lived in teachers’ quarters which meant all my neighbours, family friends, parents of my friends were teachers. Conversations at the dinner table, house parties, and even gatherings mostly revolved around school and teaching. So teaching was too obvious a career choice for me, and I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher. I lost my father in the final year of my graduate degree in Chemistry from Pondicherry University. To honour his wish, I completed my Bachelor’s degree in education, but right after that, I set out to do what my heart desired: to be a harbinger of change in any small way possible. I enrolled for the Mass Communication course at the Nagpur University and joined Central India’s largest selling newspaper.
Later, I received my Master’s degree in English literature from the same university. Initial ten years of my professional life, I worked as a journalist and a Public Relations Officer. I started teaching primary classes in 2010. Since then, I have been upgrading myself and taking professional development courses. I worked in International Baccalaureate and CAIE schools, teaching A-level English and Global Perspective. I joined Zee Learn Group’s flagship school in Patna as their Academic Coordinator in 2016. Presently, I am heading the Muzaffarpur branch of the Podar International School.
What inspired you to step into the education industry? Who were your role models growing up?
I came into teaching not really by choice but by compulsion. After the birth of my first child, it was difficult to continue journalism due to the erratic schedule. I decided to join a school for a few years. I joined Edify School in Nagpur as the homeroom teacher of grade 2. I was in charge of a 6-7-year-olds class and immediately fell in love with the super energetic, smart group. Soon I realised, teaching was something I truly enjoyed: this was my calling. Teaching is the best way to change lives for the better. In the teaching career of over a decade, I have taught primary to senior school students and have formed some really strong bonds. I feel privileged that many of my students from all over India are in touch with me regularly.
My role models are my parents. Both of them were great teachers, but I learned from my father that students are your family as well. He was always there for his students whenever they needed him. He was always respectful towards them. Even after two decades of experience in teaching the same classes, both my parents would prepare for their next class, as they believed it would be disrespectful to walk into a class unprepared. Even today, I prepare well for the next day, and I train my teachers to do the same.
Another thing that I learned from my parents was never to snub a child’s curiosity. No question is silly or irrelevant. Kids have questions, and they have every right to get the answer.
Tell us about your esteemed institute’s mission, vision, and core values.
I am currently heading Podar International School, Muzaffarpur, a branch of Podar International Schools. It was established in 1927 by Sheth Anandilal Podar. With over 94 years of experience within the educational space, the Podar group is now a network of 136 Podar International Schools (completely managed by Podar Education Network) and 79 Podar Partner schools, with a combined student strength of more than 1,80,000 and the support of 7,600 dedicated and loyal staff members.
Mission: At Podar International School, we provide opportunities to students through a stimulating, safe and supportive environment for attaining personal mastery and team spirit through collaborative learning.
Vision: To achieve excellence by creating globally competent, ethical, and high-performing world citizens through world-class education.
Values: My institute is driven by four core values; Innovative, Open, Committed, Long-term.
What are the priorities of your institute in terms of course objectives and learning outcomes?
The Podar Group ensures that education is of the highest quality in all its schools. Our highly experienced Podar Innovation Center sets all our Lesson plans and exams.
While setting Learning outcomes, extreme care is taken to ensure character building and skill development among students to reach the curricular goal.
What are the biggest challenges and struggles faced by educators in general?
The biggest challenge teachers face these days is that the profession is losing the admiration and respect it enjoyed earlier from society. Teachers work very hard, and teaching is just a part of their job description these days. Still, the remuneration does not match the workload, which takes away part of working zeal.
Education is considered a tool of empowerment. What efforts do you and the institution take to ensure that education is provided to those who need it?
The Podar Group is proud of the fact that they promote inclusive education. No child coming to any Podar International School is ever turned down. The dedicated Inclusive Education Cell continuously trains teachers and monitors the development of special children in our schools. My school does not conduct any admission tests or parents’ interviews for admission. Every child is treated as equal, and education is provided to everyone.
Kindly mention any of your awards, accolades, and accreditations.
- Certificate of recognition for extraordinary contribution in the field of education by Best Principals in 2022
- Times Woman Extraordinaire Award in 2020 for contribution in education
- Best Zonal Teacher Award by Science Olympiad Foundation in 2020
- Dainik Jagran Guru Samman for outstanding contribution in the development of education in Bihar in 2018 and 2019
- Nation Builder Award by Rotary Club Patna City Samrat in 2017
What advice can you give to those who want to step into the field of education?
Teachers have the ability to impact the lives of children; they have the opportunity to shape the future. Those who want to be teachers should never forget that they are handling human lives. They will be watched, and their actions will be emulated by their students. Teaching is a responsible profession, and teachers go through a lot of pressure to live up to the expectation of society.
Also, they should be ready to keep updating themselves and be aware of the world around them. Like a soldier, a teacher is also never off-duty.
Please share what lies ahead for you and your institution in the near future.
I consider myself lucky to find an organization that not only preaches holistic education but also practices it. Students in my school are taught Sanskrit shlokas and classical music and are also encouraged to create their own rap songs.
The school is situated in a rural setting in Bihar, and many students are first-generation schoolgoers. I aim to make sure the dream with which they have joined this school is materialized. I encourage my team of educators to ensure that the students are kept abreast of all national and global news on a daily basis. I feel it is important to expose the kids to various books, music, cuisine, culture, and art forms, so every week, we conduct presentations and contests for the students.