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Interview with Dr BS Rao, Sri Chaitanya Group of Institutions

EducationWorld January 2022 | Cover Story Magazine

Dilip Thakore interviewed Dr. B.S. Rao in the Sri Chaitanya Group of Institutions (SCGI) head office in Hyderabad. Excerpts from the 60-minutes interview:

In 1986 after practising medicine in the UK and Iran for 16 years, you and your wife Dr. Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Boppana returned to India to start the first Sri Chaitanya school in Vijayawada. What were your aims and objectives at the time?

The inception of SCGI was the outcome of a long-cherished dream. We had observed that students — especially girl children — from rural Andhra Pradesh had very limited access to professional education because of lack of awareness or resources. Therefore, we took the initiative to address this lacuna by establishing the first Sri Chaitanya Girls Junior College 36 years ago. Our objective was to prepare students who were deserving and meritorious get access to top-ranked higher education institutions and become successful in their careers. This required a fresh approach to intermediate-level education.

Almost four decades later, how satisfied are you with the evolution and progress of the Sri Chaitanya Group of Institutions?

The growth of SCGI since then has been tremendous. After we established a boys’ junior college in Hyderabad in 1991, we quickly launched several junior colleges (classes XI-XII) in other towns of then unified Andhra Pradesh. Currently, there are 321 state board-affiliated junior colleges and 322 K-10 Sri Chaitanya Techno Schools in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In addition, we have established 107 CBSE-affiliated Chaitanya schools in other states of India. This is very satisfactory progress.

In your opinion, what are the distinguishing characteristics of a Sri Chaitanya school education?

In SCGI, we have created a unique blend of world-class curricula, contemporary teaching methodologies with equal focus on intellectual, physical and personality development of students to produce future leaders ready to take on the world.

Our concept-based pedagogies which equip students to top national and international olympiads with unparalleled consistency, has caught the attention of the students’ community. Our students are encouraged to participate in the NSOs, ISOs, KVPY, NTSE, NEET, JEE MAINS, JEE Adv etc to assess where they stand in fields of intellectual competition. Participation in olympiads and internal assessments serve as motivation to do better every time; thus instilling fierce competitive spirit that is essential for winners.

Some critics say Sri Chaitanya institutions are essentially exams-focused cram schools that don’t provide well-rounded holistic education. What’s your comment?

On the contrary, our goal is to focus on the holistic development of every child supplemented by enriched curriculums and dynamic ICT-enabled pedagogies to give our students competitive advantage. Today, we are proud that we have contributed towards the foundational education of thousands of world-class doctors, engineers, IAS officers, chartered accountants who are involved in the national development effort.

Schools across the country were shut for 65-70 weeks forcing many to switch to online education. How satisfied are you with the pandemic management of Sri Chaitanya schools? What’s your learning loss estimate of Chaitanya students?

None of us anticipated that children would be confined within four walls of their homes for more than a year due to the pandemic. But we have coped with the lockdown challenge very well in the past year. In SCGI schools and junior colleges, we started online classes as soon as the lockdown was announced. So our children never fell behind the curriculum. Moreover, we provided our students counseling and clarification sessions followed by exams throughout the shutdown of schools.

What is your assessment of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020? How beneficial is it for school — especially private school — education?

One of the prime objectives of NEP 2020 is improvement of learning outcomes. Greater focus on early child education under the 5+3+3+4 structure and a three-tiered institutional architecture in the higher education segment — research and teaching focus and autonomous degree-granting colleges with strong employability focus — are welcome features of NEP 2020. However, almost 50 percent of children in India are currently enrolled in private schools. The Central and state governments need to partner with private schools to attain the aims and objectives of NEP 2020.

Looking at the big picture, how optimistic are you about the future of Indian education and India’s 260 million school-going children?

We’ll see the lasting effects of digitisation in education. Unlike offices, schools will go back to inperson instruction except perhaps for limited remote learning options for older high school students. What will change though, is utilisation of digital tools to enhance the way children learn.

The ability of new digital education tools to transform the classroom is, of course, dependent on children having access to technology at home. The access gap has narrowed since the outbreak of the pandemic and will continue to narrow. But a lot of children still don’t have a decent computer or reliable, fast Internet at home. Finding ways to expand access to digital learning is as important as innovating new ways of learning.

Also read: National rollout of India’s largest private schools chain

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