30 Eduleaders weathering covid tsunami: Sandeep Goenka

EducationWorld August 2021 | Magazine

Sandeep Goenka
Chairman, C.P. Goenka Group of Institutions, Mumbai

Sandeep Goenka is promoter-director of the C.P. Goenka Group of education institutions (CP Goenka and Swami Vivekanand International schools) comprising eight preschools and CISCE/CBSE/Cambridge/IB schools in Mumbai and Pune with a total of 18,000 students mentored by 2,000 teachers.

How satisfied are you with the C.P. Goenka schools’ switch to the online mode of learning over the past year?
We have availed this disruption as an opportunity to build online learning capabilities and capacity. Therefore, to get the maximum benefit, we went beyond replicating physical classrooms by collaborating with technology platforms to deliver engaging online classes while continuously investing in the training and development of our teachers. The evolution of a robust, blended teaching-learning model is a promising work-in-progress.

Please share three successful strategies/solutions you devised to deal with the challenges of online learning and prolonged closure of schools?
Initially as we transitioned to online learning, we faced resistance from all stakeholders. We had to create a climate for remote learning by striking a balance between parents’ expectations, students’ co-operation and teachers’ capabilities. We devised acceptable protocols for these important stakeholders. Every detail starting from lesson planning, guest lectures, assessments, libraries, lab experiments, PTMs etc, were adapted to the online mode.
The second challenge was to train our frontline workers — teachers — for the world of virtual education. We found that younger teachers were faster at adapting tech tools. With their co-operation we created online platforms for peer learning and collaboration across all our schools.
Initially, parents of pre-schoolers in particular were sceptical about the efficacy of online schooling. We had to work hard to create a 360 degree programme for them. Since children could not come to school, we sent the school to their homes. Today, parents of our pre-schoolers have acknowledged these efforts.

Many state governments have issued fees reduction diktats in the pandemic year. How have your schools coped with this financial exigency?
It has been a roller coaster ride. While we understand that some of our parents have suffered employment and financial loss, we had to continue to pay teacher and staff salaries, invest in online technology as well as maintain the infrastructure of our eight schools.
To walk this fine line, we offered our parents deferred tuition payment options, broke down fees into smaller instalments and reduced fees for extra-curricular activities. Simultaneously, we started working on slashing administrative expenditure. Despite all this, we are still dealing with many fees defaulters.

What are your plans to manage the continuing pandemic disruption?
The first step is to work proactively towards devising strategies to reopen our schools. We are working on detailed plans and protocols to ensure safety of our students and staff, making up for learning loss, training teachers and students to work with our newly designed hybrid/blended teaching-learning model and maintaining financial sustainability to manage further disruptions.

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