About Dr.BINDU HARI
Dr. Bindu Hari is currently the Dean at NPS (National Public School) International Singapore, Senior Principal / Director at The International School Bangalore , Senior Principal of NPS Koramangala and NPS HSR schools. She joined the NPS group of institutes in 1990. Over the past several years, she has been instrumental in the growth of the group of institutions in India and also pioneered the foray abroad. She has done her M.Sc and Ph.D in chemistry and B.Ed.
Personally this rendezvous was special because it was a way for me to re-connect with my past – to be specific, the school that I studied in. Looking back, I do think that NPS did shape my life in more ways than one – For starters, I was fortunate to study in one of the best schools in Bangalore way back in 1994. And by virtue of this experience, I can confidently say that there is a definite value in studying in a premier educational institute.
For those who don’t know about NPS, it was reputed to have the BEST (and most envied) academic records (for E.g.: In my batch, there were several students who were among the Top 100 in IIT entrance exam, several were Toppers in the Medical entrance exams like AIIMS, etc.) and many of them set records in these exams as well. It was a privilege to know some of these “great minds” back then; many of whom have made a global mark for themselves today. Second and probably more important was that I forged several life-long friendships here! Last but not the least my tryst with NPS paved the way for my future – in terms of the subsequent formal education that I pursued; and also for my professional choices and growth.
Nischala: Good Afternoon Dr Bindu! Firstly, Thank you so much for your time Dr. Bindu. It’s a pleasure to connect with you after so many years!
Dr. Bindu: Hi! Good afternoon! Great to hear from you.. It’s wonderful to speak to you after so many years
Nischala: Lets start this rendezvous by going back to your journey in the education sector – Specifically what inspired you to get associated with education, academia and NPS? Especially since you had a stellar academic record yourself and could really have pursued any other career of your choice.
Dr. Bindu: Looking back at my own life, I have always been interested in research. After my Masters in Chemistry, I enrolled into a Ph. D programme and really enjoyed the process of research a great deal. Classical research is an amazing process – collecting and playing with a lot of data, number crunching and drawing conclusions to prove or disprove a hypothesis almost every day! But the flip side is being in a research lab all day, doing experiments and working on the computer results offer very limited or almost no social interaction. And after a point I realized that I needed more social interactions, communication and personal enrichment so I started teaching. I taught Chemistry at NPS Indiranagar to students in the middle years and senior school. That was an exciting experience for me – Simply because children think so differently from adults – they are full of ideas, enthusiasm and express the same in many different ways. It was a thoroughly enjoyable process! So if I look back to connect the dots, I started at the grass root level in teaching and grew from there!
I also have a very academic bent of mind. So I always knew that I would someday go back into the classroom – It is where I belong! Just that I probably did not know where I would start and how the journey would pan out! So today while I am responsible for several qualitative aspects in all the educational institutions, I still do take time to train or teach. For e.g.: School assemblies are teachable moments, I take a few sessions in Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and I am involved in creating Training modules for teachers.
Nischala: That’s an interesting journey! So from what I understand the group has grown significantly over the past two decades. So can you elaborate a little on your presence and strength today – primarily in terms of the number of students you have an opportunity to mold and influence?
Dr. Bindu: Well, Yes! We’ve had a phenomenal growth in the last decade. So as of date, we have the NPS (National Public School) International Singapore, The International School Bangalore , NPS Indiranagar, NPS Koramangala, NPS Chennai, NPS Rajajinagar and NPS HSR . In 2013 we open our doors to students at NPS Mysore. As of date, we have about 12000 students across all schools and about 1700 teachers.
And then of course we have NAFL (National Academy for Learning) which was started in 1993. This school aims at providing international education in India in collaboration with CIE (Cambridge International Examinations), Cambridge. So students have an opportunity to appear for IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education). The success of the early experimental foray into international education led to the creation of TISB.
Nischala: That’s great to hear! It’s a good opportunity in India for students aspiring to get IGCSE. So from your view - Is there any difference between TISB and say NPS Indiranagar?
Dr.Bindu: The most significant difference is TISB has a heterogeneous student profile from across the globe – We have students from over 30 nationalities and this diversity enriches the learning experience as students develop cross cultural skills- awareness, sensitivity and communication early in life. In contrast, NPS has a homogenous student base and staff profile as the students are from almost every Indian state.
Also TISB is a residential school offering boarding facilities and hence living on campus offers a unique and exciting life experience as students develop self-reliance and independence early in life while actively contributing to community living.
The NPS group of schools, NAFL and TISB have emphasized academic rigour. However, the vision of all our schools has evolved to include holistic education to enable students develop a broad range of multidimensional life skills and to achieve this end, there is an increased focus on multiple learning opportunities and co-curricular activities within and outside the school environment. NPS has and is continuously evolving in its educational programmes in order to prepare students for tomorrow’s global economy.
Across all our schools our students aim for admissions into the top 20 universities across the globe and top universities in India. Many of our students score top ranks in various competitive exams including IIT JEE, PMPD, AIEEE, AIIMS, CLAT etc. And the latest feather in our cap is our first student from NPS, HSR Layout will be heading to Oxford University to study History. There is increased awareness among students about educational opportunities across the globe and parents can afford to fund this education.
Nischala: This is awesome! Makes me a proud NPS-ite! So from all your experiences – What are your observations in terms of key changes in the students and this could be in any aspect – from an eagerness to learn, to awareness of technology, to a passion to do something unique, etc etc.?
Dr. Bindu: That’s an interesting and thought-provoking question! Firstly, students are more aware simply because they have access to vast amounts of information at a mouse click. Google is the answer to many questions! Greater information accessibility leads to greater exposure and presents students with more opportunities than probably students had a decade ago.
Secondly, this generation of students are “digital natives” - comfortable with technology, software, use of all Apple products including the iPAD, etc . They learn any new technology at the blink of an eye. In contrast, parents or teachers are “digital immigrants” and struggle to get started let alone achieve mastery!
Hence students are extremely confident because of greater exposure and opportunities presented to them from an early age. They tend to articulate with clarity and their ability to express orally or in writing is impressive. One of the reasons for confidence is that students are performing on stage at school from the age of 4 years and most of them have no fear of public speaking or interacting with a large audience.
However, an issue of concern is that children of today have limited attention span and patience. It is the world of instant gratification and real-world expectations are based on their experience in the digital world,i.e., at the click of a button. The real world however does not always work this way!
Nischala: That’s interesting to hear!What about parents? What are the significant differences you observe in parents with respect to their expectations on the role of school and education system and their involvement in the growth and development of their children?
Dr. Bindu: The reality of today is that most parents have 1 or 2 children and more recently most parents are opting to have only 1 child. Hence “Helicopter parenting” is very common. Parents hover around their child in an overly protective manner and bubble wrap them in a world of material comfort! Subsequently as children get older, some parents become demanding of the child!
Some parents are uninvolved with the life of their children as they are far too busy to spend time with their children and we do see children of neglect. Others are overly involved, i.e., they don’t give much space for child to grow and evolve. There are some parents who are involved to an appropriate degree in their children’s education.
Parenting styles vary between authoritative parenting, jellyfish parenting or assertive parenting. There is no right or wrong here but the most effective parenting style in our experience is one in which the parent showers unconditional love, engages the child in conversation, uses teachable moments to highlight key messages and reasons in order make the child see reason.
As a school, we always communicate to the parents that education of a child is really a joint venture between the school and parents in order to accomplish the most we can in the best interest of the child. It is a very “child-centric” approach that we adopt. And we have always had incredible support from our parents.
The other point I want to make is that today parents have greater purchasing power and are great providers for their children! There is a real danger of our children growing up with a sense of entitlement because of this.
And again the fact is that Parents will always be the child’s first teacher. So if a parent chooses to be resilient in a tough situation, the child learns to be resilient! Children learn and absorb based on parent’s responses and reactions. We emphasize the role of parents in the growth and development of the children at every opportunity that we get!
Nischala: And my next logical question is around teachers. What are the noteworthy changes in the teaching community? – In terms of access to teachers and willingness for qualified individuals to take up teaching jobs?
Dr. Bindu: The fact is there is dearth of good teachers around the world. And even in India the ground reality is that it is very hard to find good teachers for subjects like History, Science and Math. And this is a real challenge for the country as a whole and will only compound with time. Finding passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated teachers is hard today and will become harder in the next decade.
Consider our own alumni - the best of our students go on to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. And rarely does a youngster become a teacher by choice!
When we quiz 4 year olds on “What do you want to be when you grow up?” - They all want to be teachers. Interestingly in a Grade 7 class, it is 1 out of 90 students who aspire to be a teacher. And in Grade 11 or 12 no one wants to be a teacher. Youngsters don’t associate glamour or status with teaching and salaries for teachers are lower than other professions such as Doctors, Engineers and Lawyers. As a result youngsters don’t opt for teaching. In addition we live in a materialist society and family pressure drives students into other professions. In Bangalore which is considered India’s Silicon Valley, one can’t compare earnings of a teacher with that of an IT professional.
But as an institute we pay our teachers well – We are probably one of the highest paymasters in the Indian scenario, and so our teacher retention ratio is by far one of the best! Of course most teachers also value the challenge, the culture, the school environment and the style of running the institute and hence they stay on here.
On the positive side, another trend we are observing is many intelligent young mothers are pursuing teaching as a second career. We recently appointed a Chartered Accountant with 5 years of experience at E&Y (Ernst and Young) as a teacher-intern. Work life balance and family commitments are an important priority for many women and they take up teaching as a second career. We welcome this trend.
We have started a teacher-training center to draw intelligent and passionate people into teaching. And we are getting some good response.
Nischala: Thats great to hear! So moving on how do you think technology will transform the education system?
Dr. Bindu: The environment today is dynamic, fluid and changing rapidly. And technology is a definite enabler in the education sector in more ways than one – by providing access to knowledge, enhancing the quality and ease of research, being the mode of distribution of content to students, monitoring and tracking student progress, making the process of differentiated assessment and pedagogy easier, and simplifying record keeping processes.
The skillsets required in industry are changing and hence the need of the hour is really to build skills around creative thinking, critical reasoning, developing research skills, problem solving, compiling and processing and presenting data and information for a specific purpose.
Consequently the role of teachers is changing into a facilitator rather than a mere instructor who directs the class. Teachers are designers of learning experiences based on available resources – And resources can include print, video and digital resource, science and math equipment, etc.
Also there is a definite element of collaborative learning as on many aspects students end up being the “gurus” and teach the teachers. In addition, the nature of questions that students ask today is impressive – obviously based on inherent curiosity and inquisitiveness of the world around them and teachers may not have the all the answers. So we encourage enquiry-based learning and have started a new initiative at NPS for Grade 3 students!
The academic endeavor at our school is to subject the child to a range of experiences to facilitate awareness, comprehension, learning, collaboration and growth.
Nischala: That’s interesting. So can you elaborate on some of the other unique initiatives at NPS?
Dr. Bindu: At the school, we still value core academic skills – Language proficiency, Math, Science, etc. But we are aware that students need supplementary skills in addition to core academic skills to take them through life. For e.g.: We have started a new entrepreneurship course for Grade 6 students to develop Entrepreneurial Literacy. The aim is to sow the seed of entrepreneurship in the students; and even if only 10% become entrepreneurs it is great for India! We believe that entrepreneurial skills are critical for students if we look into the India’s future –It is what India needs. We started this as a pilot at NPS HSR and based on the success of this programme, we plan to expand this initiative into all our other schools.
In fact the latest book by Subroto Bagchi called MBA at 16 is really a co-creation of his interactions with 31 NPS students. So we are now planning to take this initiative to the next level where we work with students to create a concrete business plan and see if we can get funding to actually give life to some of these ideas.
Another emphasis is on developing and enhancing language skills of students. So we have introduced a Novel writing program for students of class 4 and 5 and this project stems from the fact that India has few child authors and fiction for children by Indian authors is rare. The emphasis is on getting the students to appreciate writing as a process.
So NPS is an evolving school. We respond to the needs of society, industry and skills for employability.
I must also credit the CBSE board for introducing the Adolescent Education Programme (AEP) for students in their teens. The fact is that young people are quite confused and have to deal with pressures from peers, pressure to perform, pressures related to body image, pressure from parents, pressure from society – and it’s not easy. These sessions gets them to reflect, introspect, become self-aware and also talk with confidence about issues promoting or impeding their personality development and progress!
Nischala: This is very interesting and exciting to hear! I think exposure to such aspects at the school level is a great opportunity for students. So moving on, I’d like to ask you a very basic question – What does education really mean? And how is an “educated mind” different from a “literate mind”?
Dr. Bindu: It is an interesting question. So in my view, there are many kinds of literacy – academic, entrepreneurial, civic, environmental, health, information (In the context of whether the available information is authentic and accurate or not), media (In the context do you accept all that you see in media or is discernment and analysis a part of your thinking process), social, cross cultural, etc
However, the meaning of education is far broader than mere skills acquisition. Ideally, the aim of education is to make an individual a meaningful contributor to the community and society at large. And the values that a school imparts as part of informal learning makes an ocean of a difference – attributes such as self discipline, self regulation, work ethics, basic honesty, integrity, generosity, kindness, sharing, respect for the aged and disadvantaged, support of others in times of need etc. contribute in an intangible but important way to the refinement of a society. These may be old world, old fashioned values but these values are the glue that holds a society together. Societies that neglect to infuse and disregard these values are likely to disintegrate or implode sooner rather than later. Children must absorb this message from parents, school and society as a whole!
So an educated mind blends skills with knowledge and values for the betterment of both self and society.
Nischala: OK.. Moving on, Another aspect which I hear or read a lot about in the new generation of kids is related to health issues / lifestyle problems – primarily due to lack of exercise and incorrect food habits. What are your observations and experience here?
Dr. Bindu: You are so right! Many parents use laptops as baby sitters (as opposed to TV two decades ago). The greatest concerns are violent computer games desensitizing our children and the ease of access to pornography which parents are unaware of.
We are creating a generation of couch potatoes who eat vast amounts of processed, high calorie, nutritionally poor junk food. In addition, children are no longer physically active or as involved in games or exercise outdoors as the generation before – These are concerns. This is leading to a significant increase in the percentage of lifestyle related health issues like obesity, Type 2 diabetis, etc and concerns such as the lack of concentration, distractedness, restlessness and the lack of social skills etc.
As a school, we have incorporated health literacy into our curriculum. However it is parents and students who have to make the final healthy choices. There is a vast difference between knowing and putting the knowledge into practice.
Nischala: Hmmm…So 10 years from now, what do you think will make a difference in the education system?
Dr. Bindu: As I see it there is a movement across the world in the education sector and technology is a very big part of this movement primarily due to ease of access to information at a low cost!
Hence the role of a teacher is gradually evolving into a facilitator of learning. There is debate and discussion about whether teachers will be required in future or not and whether technology will replace the classroom teacher? And my answer is that teachers CANNOT be dispensed with- EVER! They will always have the power to mould, groom and influence development in the intellectual, emotional, social, and psychological domains. As long as schools exist, teachers will be required and will always have a key role in education!
Nischala: Moving on,What really keeps you going as an educator?
Dr. Bindu: It is one of the most enjoyable journeys in my life. Walking into school every morning is a wonderful feeling. The environment is lively and animated – You have to experience it to truly understand what I mean. Each day presents a different set of challenges and changes to deal with continuously.
Each of us at school makes an emotional investment in the lives of our students every minute of the day at every single instance we interact with our students. The underpinning of every interaction is to make a child feel secure and safe before he or she embarks on learning through exploration. It is unique to a school and the profession of teaching. It is truly a calling.
Being around children is a joyous experience. The young are idealistic, they have ideals and idols. You have to engage in conversation with a 10 year old to understand how analytical and intelligent they are, you have to talk to them and prepare to be surprised by their dreams and thoughts without limits and boundaries. These refreshing interactions keep us adults flexible and adaptable.
A few days ago, I was talking to one of my young students who has juvenile diabetes. To be honest, I was impressed with his temperance, humility and knowledge. He is so widely read, so mature and well rooted for his age! We derive joy, energy and hope from these interactions with children which give us strength to forge ahead!
I believe a teacher has to be an eternal optimist, one can’t be a teacher and not be optimistic – You NEVER EVER give up on your kids!
Nischala: So looking back, what are the unforgettable moments in your journey as an educator?
Dr. Bindu: At the school, we believe that incremental progress and every tiny step in the right direction for each and every child is worth celebrating. Acknowledgement, recognition, appreciation and praise is woven into fabric of the school to make it an affirming environment for a child.
While we value the best in ability, talent and skills, we celebrate the success of those who struggle to conquer the smallest developmental milestone. So there are really many rewarding moments of happiness in the life of an educator.
But if I had to recall a recent episode it is this… It was extremely fulfilling to see an NPS Alumnus present the welcome address to a 5000 member audience in the presence of the former President of India Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam at a graduation ceremony of an engineering college. She stood at the podium and delivered the perfect welcome address – I had goose bumps and I still have them as I recall the speech. I’ve seen her as a shy 7-year-old child at my school and there she was delivering a speech with assured confidence which many will remember for a lifetime! William Wordsworth said “Child is the father of man”.. And that’s so true. What a child is today is there for all to see. And what they are likely to achieve tomorrow? – No one can predict.
It is hard to explain the bond between a teacher and student – you can’t capture it all and express it in words. Every teacher has emotionally invested in the child and the intangibles including affection, compassion and empathy play a big role. As a result, an educator is constantly evolving and developing while demonstrating and role modeling with every interaction and this is an extraordinary experience for any educator and a very fulfilling one. It’s really hard to express, explain, comprehend or measure – But if you’ve ever taught a child and seen them blossom in life, you feel happy and proud!
Nischala: I’d like to end with any other key message to students and parents.
Dr. Bindu: To the students I say “Believe in yourself always”. And what every teacher and parent should do is create a climate of positive expectation and express an affirming message so the children live up to these expectations. Having faith in our children is critical for education and life!
Nischala: Thank You so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure.
Dr. Bindu: Thank You!
As I did my research on Dr. Bindu, I came across an insightful article Bindu Hari’s Six lessons for parents. In my view, a Must Read for every parent!
How did you like this rendezvous? Leave a comment to let us know..