Beyond the Classroom


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by Pradeep Vijayakar (1966)

Mumbai: It was an unforgettable weekend for Bandra's St Stanislaus High School which goes back 147 years. The St Stanlislaus Ex-Students Association, celebrating their diamond jubilee had a symposium on education on Saturday and the Reunion dinner on Sunday.

The topic of the symposium was `Beyond The Classroom'. Roger Pereira, advertising guru, class of 1955,gave his own example of how he was against the practice of mugging which Donald Sir did not like. ``Fr Donnelly, our principal however, empathised with me. He would keep me away from Donald's classes on one pretext or another, honed my elocution and communications skills which went a long way towards making me what I am.''

Pereira added,``We would be given essays to mug and reproruce in examinations.I was against this. People thought either I was a dud or a rebel. Fr Donnelly however saw my talent and encouraged me all the way. He went beyond the classroom. If he had not, I may have been a dropout,'' added Pereira who said he had wanted to be a priest or a pilot and became neither.

Pereira related an anecdote about how it took a captain of industry,JRD Tata, to solve the problem of dropouts in Mumbai's municipal schools.``JRD sought my help. We asked the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research to make a study. They found that the language used did not suit the level of the students who were mostly Dalits, the backward class. He got the syllabus rewritten in a simpler language and the students began flocking back to the schools.''

Taking cue from this Pereira said schools should look beyond exams and 100 per cent results. ``Stanislaus should look beyond SSC. Politicians have turned education into a business. He said the school should turn itself into a brand. ``Look what Cathedral and Bombay Scottish have become. Cathedral was a school for children of servants of the cathedral. Scottish was an orphanage.'' Pereira agreed that Stanislaus, being an aided school, could not tinker with the syllabus given to it. ``Maybe we could have a parallel syllabus also and empower our students in a greater way by following it.''

Viren Rasquinha, former hockey Olympian (Class of 1996), was given the topic of how Education and Sport could go side by side. He is eminently qualified to do so having been 13th on the SSC Merit list in 1996 with 91 per cent marks and going on to play hockey for India in 180 games--at the Asian Games, Asia Cup and Afro-Asian Games.``Work is Play',' Work Smart', `Don't look at it as a sacrifice', `Enjoy whatever you do', was his mantra.

Rasquinha said,``There are no short-cuts to success. Self-motivation is important to go beyond one's limits. I never studied beyond one hour at a stretch.I did not think about play when studying nor about studies when playing. While others were partying I would go to bed early thinking about getting up early next morning and going for training to make myself the best hockey player in the world. While doing this I never thought that I was making any kind of sacrifice. Had I done that then I may not have been successful. Sports helped me to discipline myself, take reverses in my stride.''

Aditya Nath Jha, global band manager, Infosys, spoke on ``The Future of Education.'' He said,``The battle will be won and lost in the classroom which will be what the shop floor of the factory was 50 years ago. Everything emerged from the shop floor, which is a factor acknowledged by global leaders in the IT industry.''

Jha made the following points.

1. Classroom will be the new battleground between nations. 2.Learning to learn will be crucial.3.Going beyond chalk and talk will be the key. We would need better technology. 4 There would be need for collaborative learning like Facebook. 5 Learning at one's own pace was important. 6 A Classroom in every pocket, like a Amazon's e-books or an e-video (to come), a virtual classroom would come sooner than later. You wouldn't need to go to a classroom to learn. 7.Video games could be teachers. 8. Lifelong learning through fun teaching and drills, could make difficult things easy to comprehend and grasp.

Pradeep Vijayakar, The Times of India Assistant Editor (Class of 1966) who moderated the discussion, said,``I too went beyond the classroom through interaction with the Spanish priests. I would eat their brains, ask about things in the other side of the world and they would respond fittingly and my knowledge would be enlarged and complexes would dissolve.'' He said a parallel syllabus could have as its subjects, Ideating, Social work,Mind Sports like the card game of bridge, among other topics. Vijayakar said the school could resurrect its sporting brand which made it famous in the 60s. ``A neigbouring school, Rizvi Springfield, has become a brand in sport. Why cannot Stanislaus which has a richer tradition and won everything in the 60s?'' Vijayakar asked. He said it would require the troika of the school, ex-students and parents to come together to fulfil what the likes of Roger Pereira and Viren Rasquinha had spelt out.

Fr Jude Fernandes, SJ, the school principal, said,``We have 140 years of service behind us. The school was founded for the under-privileged and we have fulfilled this role. We are burdened by the expectations of teachers and parents. We want to go forward towards designing a quality curriculum but the limitations of being an aided-school are there. There is a shortage of Jesuits. We are heavily dependent on teachers.''

Brian Almeida, the secretary of the ex-students association,hoped the ex-students would rise to the challenge of taking the school to another level by pooling in their multi-talents and contributing in their own way.

There was a lively Q&A session and prominent ex-students spoke with fervour about the need for the school to make a greater impact on Mumbai and the world. They said some soul-searching should be done why Stanislites are not not putting their children in their alma mater.

Sesquicentenary Inauguration

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