Leading from front

Read more below

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 2.12.02

Arun Prakash, founder-principal of Delhi Public School (DPS), Guwahati, is known in education circles as a man with a vision. Deeply committed to “education for enlightenment”, Prakash has achieved success in all his previous assignments — as founder-principal of DPS, Dhaligaon, and earlier, as the senior-most teacher at the DPS, Korba, in Madhya Pradesh. The 41-year-old educationist, who is a DPhil in chemistry from Allahabad University, believes that his love for children is the key to his success.

Amid hectic preparations for the laying of the foundation stone of DPS, Guwahati, on Monday (December 2), Prakash took some time off from his busy schedule to talk to The Telegraph. Excerpts:

What is your impression of the education scenario here?

The children here are extremely bright and have a lot of potential. However, without proper opportunities, they tend to stagnate. It is not just the absence of facilities. The learning process at several schools here is also tuition-oriented. Since teachers are ill-paid, most are just average. The lessons are, therefore, not taught properly and the child, as well as his/her guardian, is forced to look outside for tuition. In fact, the tuition culture has grown to phenomenal proportions. Moreover, since a child also knows that he will be taught at home, he or she becomes lackadaisical during classes. It is a vicious cycle. The child’s ability never gets tested. Therefore, up to the board levels everything is fine. It is only later that the problem begins. The whole education scenario is such that children do not grow up into confident human beings.

But then are not tuitions taken to help a child weak in studies understand his lessons better?

Yes, definitely. But now the entire purpose of tuitions has been twisted. Parents think that it is imperative and children think they will get tips which other students will not. Tuitions have now become more like parallel teaching. Here I would say that I am yet to meet a topper who ever took tuitions.

Would the DPS tread a different path?

Yes, as far as tuitions are concerned. For example, the school intends to make sure that no child will ever need to take any tuition in order to supplement what he or she has been taught in the class. The learning process in the class itself will be so strong that the child will not feel the need for tuitions. And if we find a child not doing well or lagging behind others we will see that he or she is coached in extra classes. Again, the school will also motivate a child to be independent and confident. All children would have to, by rotation, practice public speaking during the assembly on stage. One has to also learn to play one game or the other. Even those who may not have any inclination towards sports will have to at least learn to enjoy a pastime.

The tuition culture is very strong. Do you think you can change it?

Not overnight maybe. Gradually, when parents see that their child is being adequately taught in the school itself, they will not go in for tuitions. In the initial years, we plan not to give the child much homework. Then there will be seminars for parents and parent-teacher meets where there will be free interaction between the two. Parents will then be motivated not to send their child for tuitions.

There are five existing Delhi Public Schools in Assam. Is the society planning to open more schools in the other northeastern states?

The Delhi Public School Society opened its first branch in Assam at Digboi in 1996. Thereafter, in collaboration with public sector units, other branches were opened in Dhaligaon, Numaligarh, Nazira and Duliajan. Now, in pursuance of our objective to open schools in all major cities of India and abroad, the society is opening a school in Guwahati. The other Northeast city, which will have a DPS is Dimapur, from next year. We have plans for one in Shillong, too, but it is in a very embryonic stage.

Of late, several new school projects have been announced in Guwahati. Do you think there is any special reason? Moreover, most are affiliated to either the CBSE or the ICSE. Why?

While the city has been expanding by the day, there are few good schools here. No doubt many schools have come up over the past few years in response to the demand but most of them have not been able to provide quality education. Hence, the sudden boom. The CBSE and ICSE courses are progressive and flexible. They give the schools under their affiliation the freedom to experiment and create. Maybe that is the reason.

Will there be a special mission statement of the DPS, Guwahati?

All the DPSs are committed to the overall development of the child. The learning experience will be such that the student will be allowed to grow intellectually, emotionally, culturally, socially, physically and morally. The students will be equipped with the necessary skills and values to adjust to an ever-changing society. Apart from all the facilities that a public school has, a unique experiment that has been started by the DPS society schools elsewhere — mathematics and language laboratories — will also be part and parcel of DPS, Guwahati. This school will have a robotics laboratory in addition to the above. We will also have trained councillors to take care of the emotional and adolescent problems of the child. It will be a place where the child can open up.

You will be leading a new school from which people are expecting a lot. How are you viewing your role?

The school’s role is very important. In fact, more important than even parents sometimes. There are so many influences on today’s children — some bad, some good. I would personally see to it that the children of the school learn to balance these influences in their minds. If the value system is strongly ingrained in a child then he or she will grow up to be an individual who would be the right blend of a person with roots and a world vision. The DPS has already proved its mettle. My task will be to make the school here the best in Guwahati. I personally have great hopes.

Interviewed by

Monideepa Choudhuri