One World, One Family
Serendipity is the word that comes to my mind when I think of how I wandered into the world of education. It has journeyed through the years, from being a ‘temporary profession’ to being the core of my life. But every year has been an annular ring of growth with the challenges and opportunities the school brought, that helped to shape my existence.
The school was started by two dynamic farsighted women. One, a visionary, Ms. Janaki Menon who wanted to propagate the values of Swami Chinmayananda and impart it to the youth. The other, an architect, Ms. Kamakshi Balakrishna who translated this vision into reality. Chinmaya Vidyalaya was the first private CBSE school in Kochi and was started in a small palace with a pool, surrounded by trees, with wooden ceilings and cracked floors. The classrooms were divided with wooden panels. This has grown into a beautiful school with graceful buildings, landscaped gardens and infrastructure to support more than two thousand students. It has all the state-of-the-art technology that a student would need: a herbal garden, well equipped labs, a cafeteria, a biogas plant, an organic vegetable patch, a huge library with a vast collection of books and colourful welcoming kindergarten.
The curriculum is based on the Chinmaya Vision Programme conceived by the founder more than two decades ago. “There is no destiny beyond and above us. We are ourselves the architects of our future.” Thus spoke one of the greatest gurus of all time, Swami Chninmayanandaji, our Pujya Gurudev. Children are the architects of the future. Teachers are the engineers who build the bridges that span the distance between their dreams and reality.
Chinmaya Vidyalayas are ‘schools with a difference’ that offer children a value based and holistic education which paves the way for the integrated development of the child with a universal outlook.
Mind, Body and Spirit
At Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Vaduthala, our efforts to offer holistic education begin with Physical Development. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Keeping this in mind, we give great importance to sports. The children undergo rigorous and specialised training early in the morning in athletics and team sports. While the mind and body are intimately connected, the students of middle and senior classes are trained in the ancient art of yoga.
Not to be left behind the tiny tots are allowed to indulge in spontaneous and unsupervised play, sometimes. Such play teaches them the importance of team work, following rules, honesty and the sportsman spirit.
Highlighting the role of nutrition in physical health eventually affecting thoughts, emotions and behaviour, students are exposed to the importance of eating nutritious food by the class teacher each morning for fifteen minutes.
Good health doesn’t stop with good food alone. Hygiene plays an equally important role and hence, students are encouraged to keep their surroundings clean and to take part in programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
To ensure the good health of the students, periodic health check-ups are organised by the school, where doctors from reputed hospitals visit and run a battery of tests to identify problems early.
“Where the Mind is without fear”
As trailblazer Maria Montessori says, “Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” Children are given a free rein to use their imagination without fear of being chastised. This encourages them to express themselves uninhibitedly.
To encourage such out of the box thinking, the school has a programme called Bibox which is an interactive platform for students. Here, they use scientific knowledge and creativity to make interesting working models. The students recently constructed a musical fountain which sparkled and danced to the music programmed by students. We also have an innovative forum called Igniting Minds where students can listen to and exchange ideas with well- known scientists.
Debates help students to look at a problem from different angles, to respect others’ point of view and defend their own intellectual convictions. Literary activities that include public speaking, creative writing, and theatre begin from primary classes. MUN (Mock United Nations) starts as early as Grade VI and is a good way to introduce young people to the world around them solving global problems, through discussions and rational thought.
Event management teaches children, a wide spectrum of organising skills. We conduct inter-school competitions that give the children an opportunity to showcase the talents.
Chaithanya is a mega event which includes music, dance, drama, fashion designing and many other interesting items. The students are in charge of the entire event from the time the theme is conceived to the time when it culminates.
Avishkar is a unique competition for those with a scientific temper. Each year it deals with a different branch of science.
Sankalp is a competition devoted entirely to literary events. The students are taught to budget resources and also allocate them from the money partially collected by them.
A ’Meet the Experts’ programme is conducted every year when students get to interact with experts in the field of their interest. This helps them have a fair idea about their career options and what each job entails so that they may choose it wisely.
For the present generation of students, reading is sadly a lost art. Reading sharpens our ability to understand others emotions and is a crucial skill in understanding social relationships. The school organises a week- long celebration of books and reading called the Book Week celebrations. During the Book Week, competitions are organised to encourage the children to read more and write stories on their own. Children read out extracts from their favourite books and poems so that they are introduced to various authors.
One of the most interesting inter school competition conducted as a part of our attempt to encourage reading is Novice Novella, where young writers in tandem with illustrators are invited to collaborate in story writing. The books so written are published and sent to school libraries. The school also has a documentary film making competition to enable students to see the world through the eye of the camera. We have eminent people from the film industry, to talk to and interact with the students.
Traditions and customs need not always be restricting or serene. They can be joyous and full of fervour like the celebration of festivals. Such celebrations allow children the latitude to express their personalities within the framework of the traditions observed.
The school believes in celebrating festivals that have a social significance like Bhishma Pithamaha Day (Grand Parents Day) and Mathrupooja (where children offer salutations at the feet of their mothers).
“If music be the food of love: play on.” Thus spoke the great Bard. From the prayer in the morning to the anthem that closes the school day, music plays an integral part in a student’s life. Children are offered classes not just in vocal music but also in instruments of their choice, both Indian and Western. They are also encouraged to write lyrics and compose music during festivals.
Painting is an expression of one’s inner landscape. Every child is a born artist. We strive to bring out their creativity and let their imagination run wild. The children are taught pencil sketching, watercolours, oil painting etc. Mural painting introduced recently have students decorating wall spaces with their art work.
Spic Macay is a forum that was conceived as a platform for exposing the Indian youth to the wealth of art forms of India. The school has a wing of Spic Macay called Panchajanyam, which brings artistes from all over the country to perform in front of the students. Kerala folk art is also encouraged by bringing artist from this field to the students.
Independence Day and other national festivals are celebrated with fervour to instil in the students, a sense of patriotism. At assembly, students are encouraged to talk about the armed forces and the service they render to the nation, not only during the times of war but also whenever calamities strike the nation.
Children are like clay in the hands of an experienced potter. They can be moulded into nondescript clay pots or earthen lamps that spread light. We strive to make the children better citizens by kindling the child’s pride in his country and inculcating civic consciousness in the child.
Project Citizen inspires students to go out into the community and interact with their fellow human beings and gain first-hand experience in understanding their problems and attempting to solve them. The students conduct surveys and mock elections.
“Wars, terrorism and other forms of violence will no longer be glorified as ‘heroic’ in epics and myths but condemned…”
In the workplace of today, we find people from America to Zambia. It is important that the child learns to appreciate the commonalities and differences between world cultures. To foster the feelings of fraternity and the ‘one world one family’ spirit we have a student exchange programme. Every year a delegation from Elon University, USA, visits our school and spends a couple of days interacting with the students. Our students too, visit Elon and spend a month learning with American students during the academic year.
Such exchange programmes do not just have a cultural give and take but students also get a different perspective to world issues and ways to resolve them. To teach the children accountability and responsibility, the ‘i-share’ programme reaches out to the less privileged among society to provide health and reassurance to the needy. As a part of this programme, children spare a rupee a day for their less fortunate brethren. The Interact club has a list of service activities to its credit that includes collecting rice every week for distribution to any needy families nearby. Visits to orphanages and old age homes are part of the school’s outreach programme.
Teachers are constantly evolving Education can never be complete if the learning process involves only students. Teachers too are constantly learning and evolving to meet the challenges of an increasingly demanding profession. As part of the teacher empowerment programme, we have talks and demonstrations by experts in the field of nutrition, child psychology, learning disabilities, first aid, grooming etc. Teachers have panel discussions, discuss classroom problems and teaching strategies and every staff room conducts a staff meeting once a term. Teachers are sensitized about the difference they make in a child’s life through panel discussion, quality management circles and TED Talks. These are a part of the in-house training programme. Leadership has always been participatory and decisions are taken after a discussion and there is total transparency in procedure.
A book I was recently reading, was ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg. Most of my staff comprises lady teachers and I spoke to them about the importance of their career and the right work-life balance to be maintained.
What makes us the school with a difference?
We believe not just in value education, but in value-based education. We know that values cannot be taught in the conventional way. So we follow an integrated approach to value education. For example, while riding a bike values are imbibed through a combination of practice and instruction. This equips students with invaluable social skills and emotional intelligence. Values are woven into the fabric of the subject and not only taught as a separate subject. For example, honesty and integrity taught through Profit and Loss.
Every child is an individual and is treated as such, catering to their special needs. Our resource room has specially trained educators and counsellors who help children to cope with their learning disabilities and overcome emotional outbursts. We also believe in inclusive education where children who are visually impaired, autistic and hearing impaired are taught along with the main stream.
A panel of students from the senior classes form the Senate. This panel discusses problems of the student community with the Principal and tries to come up with solutions. They are also involved in organising school and interschool activities along with other badge holders.
Students’ involvement is encouraged at all levels. Each class has student council, member who interact directly with the Principal. They represent the class and put forward problems faced by the students. Issues such as peer pressure, bullying, completion of portions, time management, innovations and remediation are brought to the fore.
Leadership programmes are conducted and the senior students listen to talks on the importance of effective communication, NLP and even power dressing and the art of fine dining. This moulds our students to fit in any milieu.
One of the biggest assignments the school under took, was the ‘ The CBSE athletic meet in 2007-2008. It required mega planning while the logistics involved in accommodating and transporting 1750 athletes and 800 coaches from across 6 countries outside India and all the states of India, was tremendous. We were asked to conduct this by the Chairman of the CBSE, Mr. Ashok Ganguly. The event turned out to be a great success and was significant in our learning curve.
We introduced Total Quality Management(TQM) and Quality Circles after following the guidelines given by the experts at the Netritva camp, conducted by CCMT Education Cell. The teaching and non-teaching staff were involved in the activities associated with this. At a staff meeting all the teachers were given briefing on the concept of TQM. We decided on the areas that needed immediate attention and based on that, teams were formed. Each team had a leader and they had regular meetings to decide their action plan. A display board was dedicated to these team. Their names were put up and each month and the team that did excellent work, was awarded a star by our Principal. This brought in an element of competition.
The teams were the following:
- School Discipline/ punctuality
- Classroom management, behaviour and uniform
- Aesthetics of the school/ cleanliness of the school and washrooms
- Infrastructure and traffic management
- Canteen food and discipline
- Proper use of staircase / student movement in the school
In the future, the school intends to use technology more frequently. PowerPoint presentations, paperless evaluations and innovative use of content prepared by the teachers are a part of our attempt to harness technology for education. We are exploring the possibility of using Gaggle to create a safe digital learning environment. Integrated teaching in the middle school is also being researched.
One of the major challenges we have faced, is how changing societal morals are impacting the student body. A generation which has to be entertained all the time and has a very low attention span, is being groomed to be global citizens with values they do not always believe in. Though parents have become very supportive of their children, they raise them to be self- centred and self-absorbed. They do not teach them to respect old age or others less fortunate than them. It is all about I, me and mine. At Chinmaya despite all odds, we try and sensitise students through various programs and would like to introduce more such initiatives.
What we are proud of
We are proud of being a school that believes in excellence, innovation and integrity. No one is afraid of failure so experimentation is encouraged. Utopia? Not yet! But we are striving towards it and the journey is exciting!
As the poet says “What’s a heaven for if a man’s reach does not exceed his grasp”.