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The LIC IPO indicates that the government is serious about privatisation, says this SRCC Professor and Apeejay alumna

Apeejay School Pitampura alumna Varda Sardana says educators need to work extra hard outside the classroom to impart great value to students in it

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This Apeejay School Pitampura alumna is living her dream of imparting education to young minds at the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), the highest rated institution amongst constituent colleges of the University of Delhi having been graded A+ with a score of 3.65 by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. Since the time she was young, Varda Sardana had her sights set on a career in academia. Having done the hard yards with a B.Com (Honours) from SRCC, followed by an MA, MPhil and PhD from the Delhi School of Economics, she has returned to SRCC as a faculty this time round. In a wide-ranging interview, she discusses among other things, the effect of the NEP on pedagogy, the government’s plans to privatise PSUs, her fond memories of the time she spent at Apeejay School, Pitampura and why teaching at SRCC is a dream come true for her. Edited excerpts:  

 Please share with us your educational and professional journey

Once I completed my schooling from Apeejay School, Pitampura, I enrolled for B.Com (Hons) at the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC). I graduated from there in 2015 and by the end of the course, I was clear that I wanted to pursue teaching as a profession and build a career in academia. That is why I pursued my M.Com at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. To pursue a teaching career in higher education institutions in India, we must clear the National Eligibility Test and JRF exams. I cleared and enrolled for an MPhil which is a bridge course, which is now being phased out in accordance with the new National Education Policy (NEP).  The MPhil is another stepping stone for a PhD. I completed my MPhil in finance in two and a half years and  enrolled for a PhD at the Delhi School of Economics. While I was doing my MPhil I tried out multiple things. There was a Commerce academy where I taught and mentored students for UGC for one year. Then I switched to a startup which is engaged in teaching for UGC, NET, JRF, UPSC and RBI through the online mode. And in 2018 I joined SRCC as an assistant professor and it has been three and a half years since I have been working here.

 What do your job responsibilities entail as a faculty at SRCC?

In academia, whenever you enter higher educational institutions as a faculty, there are broadly three types of responsibilities one has. One, of course, is your teaching responsibilities that include evaluation as well. You need to mentor students and be their guide within the classroom. Secondly, you have to contribute to the corporate life of your institution.   This means helping out the college with extra-curricular assignments such as annual days, ranking framework, reporting etc. And the third aspect is research. In my career, research and teaching go hand in hand.

How is the feeling of having studied at SRCC coming back here to teach as a faculty?

Actually my dad is also an alumni of the Shri Ram College of Commerce. I was interested in Commerce from the very beginning. I had a clear-cut target that if I had to pursue Commerce, it has to be graduation from the Shri Ram College of Commerce. I studied hard in school and was one of the toppers of the Commerce stream and went on to join SRCC. Once I graduated and knew that I had to join the teaching profession, I again had this thing in mind that I wanted to contribute and give back to the institution that had given me so much. SRCC is not just about good teaching pedagogy, it is about a lot of other things.  There is so much that it offers to you in terms of extra-curricular activities, the various platforms for communication, skill-building and personality development.  I explored a lot of my interests in this college. So, I had it in mind that if I want to pursue a career in teaching, I want to give back to this college. I would like to come back to my alma mater and teach here. And this was a dream for me. And when I was finally eligible for it I sat for interviews for many colleges and never got selected anywhere. And once the vacancy interview for SRCC came I was obviously very nervous. But the first time I visited SRCC for an interview, the interview got cancelled. The second time round I got selected as a guest faculty and within one month, on September 5, 2018 I was confirmed as a full-time teacher. That Teachers’ Day became memorable for me. I was seated in the staff room and we were introducing each other. I said I am a guest teacher but I hope I will be regularised since I love this institution to the core. At this point the teacher in-charge stood up and said Varda, from today onwards you are a regular teacher! It was a dream come true for me.

Contrary to perception, educators work really hard on their research and pedagogy in order to impart knowledge to students. Do you agree?

Absolutely! As far as educators are concerned, many outsiders feel it is a comfortable job of 2-3 hours a day or about 14-15 hours a week. Life is easy for them and sorted. What they don’t see is how much effort we put in outside the classroom. When you are teaching in an institution where the students themselves are toppers of their respective schools or cities, you have to ensure that as a teacher, you are one step ahead of them. First of all we must keep updated about what’s happening around us in the world. Secondly, we can’t just use the old pedagogies of blackboard and chalk. So both of these things need to be taken care of to remain relevant and impart something good to the students. Otherwise, they won’t gain anything in the class. So, we have to not just regularly update our knowledge, but also our teaching pedagogies. One has to look beyond using a chalk and blackboard. We have to ensure we share real life examples with them, case studies with them, whatever is evolving, whether it is the Budget or the impending LIC IPO.

During your MPhil in finance you’ve kept a close watch on sectors such as banking and insurance. How do you view the initial public offering by LIC next month, which is making headlines?

There is a buzz around the LIC IPO which is expected to be a blockbuster. A lot of retail investors are looking forward to it. If that comes in, it is a clear indicator that the government is taking privatisation really seriously. We have seen privatisation of PSUs in the past as well, but the LIC is an altogether different story. The insurance sector will definitely undergo privatisation, once the IPO comes in. Generally, whenever privatisation takes place, efficiency improves. We usually say that the support of the government ensures that the product is fairly priced. Whether it is insurance or any other sector, the government ensures that everyone has access to the products and services and they are fairly priced.  To some extent they are subsidised as well. Privatisation may increase the price of insurance, but at the same time it is likely to increase the efficiency in these companies. We may also see that the loopholes and flaws in the sector may reduce to some extent.

 What are your memories of the time you spent at Apeejay School, Pitampura?

My school provided me with a lot of avenues to express myself and I grabbed all the opportunities. Initially my focus was only on academics. Like most parents, my parents encouraged me to put in my full efforts in academics. I was pretty good at it but then I began to explore the other side as well. I was a part of the singing society choir group in school. After two years of being in the choir group I shifted to the dance group. In sports, I learnt table tennis during the summer vacation. Even in junior classes such as nursery and kindergarten, the teachers used to push us to participate in events such as annual days, wearing fancy clothes and appearing on the stage. The fact that Apeejay provided the platform to engage in these activities, those are my best memories of school along with the guidance I received from my teachers. They were the reason I could prepare so hard for the life that lay ahead of me after school. I remember Savita Panhotra Ma’am who taught us English. She is my favourite. She is so calm, so sweet and helpful. I also remember my Economics teacher Anjana Gaba Ma’am fondly.   I am still in touch with Sangeeta Ma’am and Taruna Ma’am, who referred me for a few school awards and the position of a prefect. Being a prefect for two years and maintaining discipline in school among juniors was an altogether different experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

You have done certifications in subjects such as Bilingual brain and social psychology. Are these your interest areas outside teaching? 

I have an interest in psychology, therefore I have done courses in bilingual language, model thinking and positive psychology. I love reading about how people think and how they react to certain situations. The interest developed because I led more than 2,000 youngsters as a part of Rotaract, an international non-profit organisation. I was heading the Delhi district in 2020-21. So, I had the responsibility of professional as well as leadership development of these youngsters as well as community service and humanitarian causes.  At this time, I was dealing with so many youngsters, listening to their diverse views on various issues. This aroused my curiosity about why people do certain things? Why do they behave the way they do and what is the reason behind the perceptions they form? This is how I got interested in taking these courses.

What are your plans for the future?

 My future plans are to grow and stay in the teaching sector. I am enjoying and love what I do. I am in a profession that I enjoy and in an institution that I love. I like interacting with students, teenagers and youngsters and guiding them because I have travelled that path. So I intend to be in this sector and grow and enhance my experience.

How do you think NEP 2020 will affect students and pedagogy?

The new NEP emphasises on the diversity of subjects available to students. They not only get the diversity but also the right to combine different kinds of subjects that belong to different genres and industries and experiment. From the point of view of a teacher, I believe the pace at which the teaching pedagogies used to change will increase. Earlier, we used to know the pedagogies to be employed. We chose practical case studies in case of practical subjects, real life examples, excel sheets and other kinds of software for those subjects. For theoretical subjects, we used to do role playing or case studies of real life organisations. But once the students get to choose different kinds of subjects, the teachers will have to update by mixing up the pedagogies. You cannot just choose one pedagogy. You will have to combine case studies, with the role playing, the software used and online methods as well. Everything will have to complement each other on the pedagogy side. I think this will be a big change for pedagogy and may be a challenge for some teachers. I think pedagogies are going to evolve considerably for the better, in the long run.

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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