EducationWorld has introduced a new series, the ‘Eduleader Focus’ featuring interviews with principals of reputed educational institutions who are popular among their students and staff. In this edition of ‘Eduleader Focus’, Rev. Dr. Dominic Savio, principal St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata and the President of St.Xavier’s College (Calcutta) Alumni Association discusses the importance of holding offline exams in post-pandemic academics and vision for a better society through better education. St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata ranked #9 at the recently-held EducationWorld India Higher Education Rankings #EWIHER2022
Here are the excerpts:
Education institutions have been shut for the past two years. What are the challenges that the college community is likely to face once they reopen?
After colleges resume offline classes, the main challenge will be to ensure COVID protocol among the students. Moreover, owing to the mental/psychological issues students are facing due to the prolonged closure of educational institutions, it will be a challenge to guide them towards resuming regular academic activities.
What are the challenges of online teaching and how far has your institution been able to deal with these challenges?
Online teaching had a multitude of challenges but we confronted them with a positive mind-set and successfully adopted online teaching-learning.
To ensure a smooth online teaching-learning experience for our students and staff, the college has purchased licensed versions of “Microsoft Teams” for all the students, teachers and office staff. A core team of fifteen members – comprising teaching faculty and office staff – was constituted and all the core team members received rigorous training on Microsoft Teams usage. They in turn trained other teachers and support staff. Considering the elaborate pattern of different combinations of teachers and students, theory and practical classes, attendance system, etc., the college decided not to outsource the implementation of the software to any external agency. We have arranged extensive training for some staff members so that setting up of the Microsoft Teams platform can be done in-house.
The absence of physical interaction has had a toll on the emotional health of children. What steps has your institution taken to ensure the mental wellbeing of the students?
The absence of physical interaction has undoubtedly taken a heavy toll on the emotional wellbeing of students. Our college administration has arranged online counselling by professional psychiatrists for such students as well as their parents. The service has also been extended to the teachers to ensure their mental wellbeing. Psychological counselling service was also extended by our Jesuit fathers including Fr. Rector. Phone numbers were shared with the students in need.
Medical assistance was provided to the students and their families specially during the second wave. Despite having to defer the dates for payment of tuition fees, we ensured it had minimum impact on the timely disbursal of staff salaries by creating a fund for the purpose. We also arranged a vaccination camp for the eligible students.
If not a teacher, you would be a…
Mentor. This is because I believe in overall wellbeing of the students – not only in academics. Proper mentoring is essential for the young minds so that they may utilise their full potential.
What is your philosophy of education?
I believe in holistic development of my students. A student may be very good in his studies but may be completely indifferent about the people suffering in his/her surroundings. I do not want a young boy and girl to be educated in this fashion. I follow the principle of educating my students in a manner so that they can become men and women for and with others in its true sense. If my education cannot sensitize my students about the different facets of life, then, for me, that education has hardly any value. Therefore, I engage my students not only in their lessons, but also in different social and philanthropic activities.
Describe your leadership style.
I believe that a good leader is someone who can motivate his team members and make each of them feel like a valuable part of the team. Also, I believe in leading from the front. I always try to be the first person to face challenge that confronts us. I also treat my staff members as my extended family and try to inculcate family bonding among them. Moreover, I try to foster a positive attitude among my staff members – looking at a glass as half-full instead of half-empty.
What do you do to unwind/de-stress yourself?
I live very simple life so that I never feel stressed. Complications result in stress. The more you are open and simple, the less stressed you feel. I incorporate prayer and meditation in my daily routine which helps keep stress at bay. During the pandemic, I realised that doing good for others brings immeasurable happiness.
To unwind, I walk for half an hour every evening.
If there was one thing you could change in India’s education system, what would it be?
In the first place, I would like to make the mentoring system compulsory as we do in our college. It is necessary to make the students realise that there is always a helping hand in offer and a sympathetic ear to understand their problems.
Secondly, I want to take the students along with me instead of letting them walk behind me and dumping the study materials to them from above. An atmosphere of learning together needs to be created for holistic student development.
I would also like to promote a love for research among the students so that they may gain knowledge outside their curriculum and syllabus. This will also help develop their capacity of independent thinking in them.
Can you give us an estimate of the learning loss children might have faced during the pandemic? How, according to you, can we make up for the learning loss?
To me, the loss has not only been in education. We have to consider the loss in students’ emotional well-being simultaneously as they are very closely related. I don’t know how can we measure the latter.
To make up for the loss in their syllabus and learning, we have already arranged for special tutorial classes and planning to revisit some important topics in the laboratory. Each class has been assigned with a teacher-mentor who collects the information on the requirements of every student.
Teachers have been under tremendous stress because of hybrid learning, unprecedented lockdowns, completion of syllabus, etc. As a leader, how did you help them deal with it?
We stayed in constant touch with our teachers throughout the pandemic. Medical assistance was provided to our teachers and their families especially during the second wave. We ensured that monthly salary is credited in their account on a regular basis. We were there to support them in any emergency and also arranged a mass vaccination drive. The teachers and their families were given the slots on a priority basis. Our alumni association has provided commendable support in this respect.
How satisfied are you with the growth and development of your institution?
I am very satisfied with the way our teachers and students engaged in different activities during the pandemic. However, we believe in the motto “Nihil Ultra” meaning “Nothing Beyond” and are determined to conquer newer heights in education service. We are proud to ranked #4 college in India by the National Institution Ranking Framework in 2021.Eduleader Focus