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‘I appreciate Apeejay School Panchsheel Park’s culture of inclusivity, respect and non-competitive motivation’

Pan Macmillan India head of production and HR Tina Baruah says she is grateful to the school for creating an environment where her daughter can express herself freely and grow into her own person

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A senior journalist who has successfully reinvented herself as a publishing professional, Tina Baruah is the Head of Production and HR with Pan Macmillan India. Her daughter Tara Baruah studies in standard 9 at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park. In a wide-ranging interview, Tina Baruah says being part of the Apeejay ecosystem turned out to be a great decision since the school “gently supports parents like us who stumble into parenthood without an instruction manual!” She also speaks about the inclusive environment at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, how the school encouraged her foodie daughter’s love for cooking and the innovative pedagogy and teaching techniques of its faculty. Edited excerpts:

What made you choose Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, for your daughter?

To be honest we didn’t have too many expectations while seeking Tara’s school admission. We wanted her to study in a coeducational school with a sound academic record that catered to children from simple, hard-working, middle class families like us. But after she got into Apeejay School, we found ourselves being guided by stellar mentors, engaging with students in the most efficient, patient, and loving manner. Tara and I are truly fortunate to be part of this wonderful ecosystem. 

 What is it about the school that you appreciate the most?

I could write a book on this, but to tell you briefly I find the school’s culture of inclusivity, respect and non-competitive motivation most admirable. The principal, Ritu Mehta Ma’am, and her predecessor AP Sharma Sir, run the school through conviction, empathy and sheer strength of personality. Teachers truly believe in connecting with parents and students, helping them tide over the stressful pandemic and adolescent blues, while never pushing the children too hard for the sake of higher scores. It gently supports parents like us who stumble into parenthood without an instruction manual!

 Kindly tell us a little about your daughter and the manner in which her personality has evolved during her school years.

When Tara joined the school in Nursery, she could barely talk. We are a multilingual family, and she was happy communicating through gestures. Her teachers overlooked this bit and focussed squarely on her strengths and ability to forge friendships with children who weren’t excelling academically or making friends due to their diverse economic background. Eventually she started talking, and communicating well. But even now, she does stumble while she reads. But often I hear her reading out passages from textbooks, anchoring morning assemblies and expressing herself freely in class. I am deeply grateful for this rare and inclusive environment where a child can express freely and grow into her own person.

 Apeejay is known to focus on extra-curricular activities as much as academics. Is your daughter getting the requisite exposure to these?

Absolutely. Tara is a foodie and loves cooking and she loved being a part of the Junior Chef Competition and reached all the way till the Final round. Her French teacher encourages her to cook simple French cuisines. Recently, she rustled up salad niçoise based on the recipe shared by her delightful French teacher!

How has your experience been with the online mode of learning during the pandemic?

It truly helped Tara to excel in studies, have heart-to-heart talk with teachers, and gain a degree of confidence. While she braved multiple personal losses during the pandemic, her teachers became her, and mine, pillars of strength.

 Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park is one of the most established schools in South Delhi, how do you perceive the quality of its faculty and the facilities provided to children because of the physical infrastructure?

The facilities are superb, though Tara and I sorely miss the canteen which was our favourite hangout after every PTM.

 Are there any innovative teaching techniques and pedagogy that your daughter has benefited from?

There is a lot of discussion that goes on in class, where children are encouraged to talk about a chapter or topic. HW is kept to bare minimum. Unit Tests keep kids from slacking. Rote learning is actively discouraged. Besides these, teachers share many pearls of wisdom that figure nowhere in the curriculum. Tara’s Maths teacher told her to practice dictation from Hindi and English news channels, to help improve her speed in writing. An English teacher introduced her to the joys of meditation and chanting. A Social Science teacher encouraged her to read Opinion pages of newspapers. A Science teacher shared tiffin with her during break time, as she regaled the students with stories of Swami Vivekananda… These tiny gestures leave a deep impression on young minds.         

 Do the teachers and the principal cooperate with parents when you interact with them?

I remember walking into the school with mild trepidation in the first few PTM meetings as I braced myself for unflattering feedback about my daughter’s academic and behavioural prowess. Instead, every time I was met by a cheerful, stellar bunch of teachers who continue to guide us towards bettering ourselves.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

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