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Interview with the Principal of Ridge Valley School, Gurgaon
There were schools who rigorously followed CBSE and ICSE curriculum and strongly believed that bookish knowledge is what students need. There were plethora of schools who were racing with their contemporaries in terms of school academic results with an aim to grab the coveted position of a top school. As we all know, change is the constant parameter in education sector and then came world and international schools, which completely changed the definition of school education.

Some adopted the trend of world school and some adapted to the norms of international school. However, there were some schools who coined a new term known as Progressive schools. You must be scratching your head and wondering what is exactly a progressive school? Progressive schools are those who stick to CBSE/ ICSE curriculum and also throw light on co-curricular activities to balance the education of students and make them an all- rounder. I wanted to dig out how these schools behave academically and what plans do they have for the kids in addition to the scenario of education in Gurgaon.

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I fixed an appointment with Mrs. Guneet Ohri, the principal of Ridge Valley School, one of the prominent progressive schools of Gurgaon. Ms. Guneet Ohri took over the role of principal from mid-July of 2013 after serving the role of headmistress of Delhi Public School, sector- 45, Gurgaon. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. How do you classify Ridge Valley School? Is it a World School or an International School?

Ms. Guneet Ohri (GO) - Ours is neither a World School nor an International School. I would call it as a progressive school. See, adjoining terms such as, 'World School' or 'International School' with the name is not a cakewalk. They need to follow International Business (IB) curriculum and need to conform with lots of standards and regulations. Though, progressive schools are identical with the world schools as well. You name it and we have adopted almost all the co- curricular activities such as music, drama or dance and many more. We cannot name our school as 'International' since we are following the CBSE curriculum however, we are open to foreign kids for admission.

Q. How different is it from any other progressive school in Gurgaon?

GO- We are an off shoot of Vasant Valley School in Delhi, which has been adjudged as “The Best School in the Country” for the last two years. It is a twenty- four year old school and it has certain strategies of imparting education of which I am sure they have stood the test of times. Thus, it is palpable that Ridge Valley will also be able to score high in the education sector.

Q. The so called 'holistic education' and schools supporting the theory are many. What is the one factor, which you put out to attract the parents?

GO - When we say progressive, it simply means we are open to innovation and rubbing shoulders with the changing times and the requirements of the students. Our school has fixed ratio when it comes to seeking admission in our school. We do not entertain more then 25 students in a class i.e in a particular section regardless of the number of admissions we are offered.The school guidelines are followed faithfully. Another advantage our school is that, it is located in a vicinity accessible to all.

Ridge Valley School is spread in 6.75 acres where the majority of the area is green. Students are allowed to work with the soil, create their own gardens because it is imperative for the kids to know the difference between maison and an architect. Kids actually implement the plan. So, in a nutshell we don't teach, we facilitate teaching.

Q. There is always an argument that in a holistic education scenario, a child fails to adapt to the final board examination. Hence, they fail to perform well. What's your take on it and how do you handle this?

GO - It is true that we can't turn our head away from board examinations and keeping this in mind,we introduce students to formal teaching in eighth standard and from sixth standard the school curriculum takes longer reviews of students into spotlight. The school is not adhered to a particular time table of examinations unlike other schools. The curriculum is devoted to reviews which are implemented after the completion of a concept. Regular assessments, project work are a regular thing here which are aimed at the learning of a child.

I feel students will be able to adapt themselves and balance their routine till the time they sit for board examinations. Even CBSE has modified and moderated their course over the time, which ultimately lowers down the pressure on students. The stress on pen and paper has substantially declined over the years. Students need to balance their education and interests after eight standard because somewhere down the line taking examinations is part and parcel of the game.

Q. In Delhi, finding admission is a bit difficult process. In Gurgaon, whoever has the money, get the better school. Don't you feel you are creating a segregated society right from education which should rather be an equalizing factor?

GO - Firstly, it depends on the parents where do they want their kid to study and that's where myriad of schools comes into role play. I would like to segregate schools in three brackets in Gurgaon. There exist one set of school known as world schools, which charge a bomb and parents who can afford, seek admission for their kid without any trouble. The number of students are restricted to a particular number and they never cross that line.

The second category of schools which are CBSE affiliated however, they are air conditioned and other innumerable facilities. There is a community of parents who somewhere down the line feel these schools make a difference to their children education. The last category in the umbrella would be those who are devoted to hands-on learning and lot of practical exposure for the students and that's where school like ours steps in. Every school has a standard parameters and as I said earlier it's parents, who take the last call.

Q. Since holistic education is about teaching the kid , what is important in life rather then bookish knowledge. Do you have special classes, teaching them about how to deal with social media, how to handle emotional changes puberty and how to handle gadgets?

GO - Yes, our school has taken life skills programmes into loop, which I feel is imperative for every single child. Reading programmes, circle- time programmes and other interesting activities have been included into the school programme with an intention to awaken the interest of children in learning new things. I believe bookish knowledge can only assist you to score good marks and can make you graduate but they won't teach children the importance of life skills.

Kids need to move out of their comfort zone , excel in handling the peer pressure and should learn to say 'NO' to certain temptations. Hence, these are some of the things, which our school throws light on. Progressive schools take best of both the worlds i.e.- traditional approach with international methodologies.

We also have incorporated extensive report cards of children and we call parents every 45 days to discuss about their kids. The main motive is to keep kids and their parents on the same page. The school programme is designed in a way that enables children to churn out their thoughts.

Q. School buses are a big concern among parents as drivers don't drive well or kids are not treated well. What are the safety measures that you undertake to ensure that these kinds of things do not happen?

GO - Yes, this is one issue, which cannot be avoided. Our school has taken safety measures into consideration. All the buses are GPS enabled, plus the drivers are not on the contractual basis. They have been hired by the school authorities and they are on our regular pay rolls.We also have support staff, traveling along with the children. All school buses are air- conditioned and I am telling you this not because I want to proclaim this but there are times when it's hot in the summers, it helps children to stay calm and composed during summers and also they take their heads out of the bus windows. Therefore, windows are remained closed most of the time.

Q. Where do you see Ridge Valley School ten years down the line?

GO - (Laughs....) It is very palpable that I want my school to be counted in one of the best schools in the country and I hope children passing out from this school would excel in their field.

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