Captain. A.J. Singh — Principal, Pinegrove School, Dharampur
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla; Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and College of Materials Management, Jabalpur, Captain (Retd.) A.J. Singh is principal and executive-director of the fully-residential co-ed Pinegrove School, Dharampur (Himachal Pradesh) and St. Soldier’s School, Panchkula. Together these schools have a total enrolment of 3,000 students and 250 teachers. Singh is also a former chairman of the Indian Public Schools Conference.
What is your overview of NEP 2020?
NEP 2020 is an inclusive, comprehensive and progressive document which if implemented in true letter and spirit will have far-reaching positive impact on Indian education. Revision of the pedagogical structure from the 10+2 system to 5+3+3+4 was needed to give primacy to early childhood and primary education. Also, the proposal to introduce national examinations to assess the learning outcomes of children in classes III, V and VIII will definitely improve foundational learning outcomes of children. Moreover, the complete overhaul of the regulatory system in higher education, and increased government investment in education to 20 percent of government expenditure over the next ten years, are most welcome.
How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/ blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?
The forced switch to online learning couldn’t have come at a better time. In our case, after sending children home on March 20, we resumed online classes on April 1 and thus far, our teachers have successfully completed 40 percent of the syllabus, conducted two unit tests and issued report cards as well.
In the past few months, there’s been increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?
In these difficult times, reduction in school fees was necessary. But various state governments stepped in to make fees payment voluntary. This has prompted litigation across the country. The fallout of the courtroom battles which have divided parents, school managements and government will negatively impact societal respect for teachers and schools, and damage student-teacher relationships. Moreover, it will discourage private investment in education.
What are the major initiatives Pinegrove School has taken recently to upgrade teaching-learning?
Over the past few months, we have focused on training our teachers and students to make a smooth switch to online teaching-learning. Designated a Microsoft Adopted School, Pinegrove has made a successful transition to online learning. We have received numerous letters of appreciation from parents with 98 percent of them satisfied with our online classes.
Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.
- Increase government spending on public education to 6 percent of GDP immediately.
- Launch a nationwide teacher capacity building programme and a national publicity campaign to motivate talented people to enter this profession.
- De-regulate private education and encourage private investment. State governments should motivate private organisations to promote education institutions in rural India through generous incentives and subsidies.