Co-founder, Agarkar Centre for Excellence
Educationist, parenting expert and teacher educator, Fatema Agarkar is co-founder of the Agarkar Centre for Excellence (ACE) Mumbai, a firm providing K-12 education consultancy services, sports and life skills programmes to over 25 schools with an enrolment of 20,000 students. An alumna of Mumbai and Birmingham universities, Agarkar served with Commerzbank, Times of India and Egon Zehnder International before switching tracks to education consultancy in 2000. Since then, she has facilitated the promotion of over 40 private schools countrywide.
The Covid-19 crisis has majorly disrupted the education system. How has ACE responded to this challenge?
ACE’s objective is to empower and engage children by redesigning curriculums, student assessment systems, and introducing trans-disciplinary pedagogies with strong focus on life skills and sports education. Over the past two months since the nationwide lockdown was announced, ACE is engaging online with parents and educators and highlighting the enabling role of technology, and importance of developing children’s emotional intelligence and life skills.
What are the major challenges confronting K-12 education in the new Covid-19 era?
The major challenges confronting Indian education are lack of IT infrastructure and capability — hardware, software and Internet availability, and trained faculty. The switch to online learning requires realignment of content delivery, superior subject expertise, creativity in lesson planning and building teacher-parent partnerships.
Several state governments have issued fees waiver/ deferment circulars to private school managements. Your comment?
The school fee payment/deferment debate highlights that parental and school expectations are completely mismatched. There’s a lack of faith and trust between them and it has become a running us versus them war. This needs to be corrected. School managements must invest in building trust and dialogue with parents.
What are your top 3 proposals for reforming K-12 education in India?
- NCERT/exam boards need to urgently revamp K-12 curriculums to make learning experiential and projects-based. The focus of teaching-learning should be on ‘how to teach’ not ‘what to teach’
- Schools should overhaul pedagogies to make learning differentiated and personalised. Also the exam/assessment system needs to be revamped. Our report cards are too generic, they need to become more qualitative than quantitative.
- Government and the private sector should invest in building robust IT infrastructure and online learning platforms that are user friendly, engaging and equipped to skill teachers in virtual pedagogies and collaborative teaching-learning.
What are your future plans for ACE?
Recently, ACE launched #CricketMath — a gaming app for middle school students — which connects math learning with cricket. We are also collaborating with some publishers to produce resource material related to sports and academics, and are planning to expand our reach to schools in south and north India.