Do marks really matter? What is learning? What should be your motivation while choosing your career?

StartupEd had an exclusive interview with Deepika Sharma, principal of the Grand Columbus International School. Here is how it went:-

You have been in the Education industry for quite a long time. Please tell us about your journey to becoming the principal of such a huge institution like Grand Columbus International School. Also, please brief us about your academic background.

Well, some people are able to figure out from an early stage what they are good at and eventually what they wish to pursue. I was one of those people because I always knew from my early days that I had a knack for teaching. I started my career at DPS Mathura road as a teacher. I have also worked in the aviation and hospitality industry for some time. What helped me grow as a professional were my soft skills and command over the language.
I graduated in Political Science and English from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. Along with that, I did diploma courses in Journalism and Tourism. I did my post-graduation from the University of Delhi along with graduation in German.
Further, I plan to pursue Law and IB certification.

Did you opt for these courses thinking of a long term career plan in mind or was there any other reason?

I was pursuing these courses just because I wanted to. As you can probably notice, my academic background suggests that I am a learner by heart. When you indulge yourself in a diverse set of fields, it gives you a very holistic and in-depth understanding of each of them. It was my love for learning that made me pursue these courses. Like a lot of other parents, my parents were also sceptical about my choices. They wondered where I was going with all the things that I was doing. Even then, they did not stop me from doing what I wanted. I am still learning as an individual.

I believe that if you like what you do, you don’t struggle at all.

That’s fair but a part of our young generation is still struggling with it and the difficulty they face in choosing career options can substantiate the point. There are so many students who are going to places like Kota to prepare for IITs, NITs, etc. A lot of them are losing themselves along the way and eventually getting disappointed with their choice. What is your opinion on this?

I believe that this situation has proven to be malice for a lot of students out there who had a hard time getting into these colleges. Self-doubt, self-criticism, and stress are natural after someone goes through such a tough time. What concern me are the incentives that attract these students. Kota is a place that has a very unstructured environment and the success rate is extremely low. Students who go there have a very delicate impression about their future and the picture that colleges like IITs or NITs paint for them is really problematic. A high-paying job and a settled life as the primary, long-term objective drives students to make these choices. The problem lies in the reasons behind these choices.

I agree with what you just said. Where do you think we should start fixing this problem?

I believe that students should be counselled responsibly about these situations and so that one can help them improve in visualising the bigger picture. Examination and marks as the bigger picture is a problem. At the end of the day, everyone pursues happiness.

I believe that happiness lies in being your own master.

Parents need to be counselled as well, as a lot of times the pressure to make these choices comes from them. The mental health of a student needs to be taken seriously now more than ever.

You’re right. The bigger picture needs to change and it should not be about examination and marks. This brings me to another important question. How successful are marked as an assessment system in justifying the learning level and capacity of an individual?

I believe that there is a basic amount of content that needs to be understood and memorised for which marks as an assessment system don’t do a bad job, but when it comes to the learning capacity of an individual, marks are not a good evaluation system. On any given day, one can score higher but lower on another day on the same test. I don’t think that justifies the learning level of an individual. The marking system is far from being a comprehensive evaluation of learning.

Thank you for all the insight. I really appreciate your thoughts on this matter and l hope that people would too. Let’s talk about Grand Columbus International School. Its new session with new faces. What else is new?

There are so many things that Grand Columbus is going to witness this year. Recently, we inaugurated the Global Institute of Table Tennis in the school premises. For the inauguration, we invited some of the best athletes of India, that includes 20 state players, 8 national players and 4 Olympians along with some of the most prominent national coaches. It’s a world-class Table tennis Facility based in the school premises and has facilities like a robotic machine, physiotherapy etc. We really look forward to taking full advantage of this facility and extract the talent of students in the best way possible.
This year, we are planning to introduce some key vocational courses like retail, Entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence and early childhood education. Like I mentioned, learning is not only about how much marks you score but how much you are willing to understand things. We are also planning to organise a TED Talk in the school where we will be inviting the alumni to deliver their lessons on how to survive and the best skills to add for the journey after school.

That’s very impressive. Schools like Grand Columbus are really transcending the boundaries of conventional education in a progressive way. What are your thoughts for the youth of today?

I think that it is a great time to be alive and there are so many avenues available for the youth to create an impact. There are some very important lessons that are needed to be delivered so that the right course can be set for them to walk on. For example, our school is teaching the students to grow their own food and do plantations. These type of initiatives teach young minds to be their own masters. I believe that India is a very young country and the youth needs to be empowered.