“To The Principal” by Shankar Musafir is an eye opener to all Indian educationists. The author being an educationist has experienced the setbacks in our education system and therefore is able to provide valuable insights that will revolutionize the teaching-learning process. All the suggestions may not be feasible but I found it worthwhile going through the book as it provides a lot of food for thought. In his chatty style, Musafir addresses the principal, who is at the helm of all affairs related to the school and firmly believes that there has to be a paradigm shift, and who better than the principal to bring this about. It is said that “A school is as good as the principal“. There is a lot of truth in this statement as the principal leads by example and needs to focus on what is best for the child. No wonder the author has addressed this book to the principal. However, this does not mean that the book is meant only for heads of schools, it makes a good read for all connected with education – be they parents, teachers or those managing a school.
Shankar Musafir explores all aspects of school life in a very down to earth manner and judiciously blends humour with facts and keeps the reader’s interest alive. He touches upon all areas right from academics to the playground and suggests innovations in teaching methodology that will help the child face the world confidently. He feels that education needs to be viewed from the child’s perspective and we need to cater to that rather than engage in irrelevant pedagogy. We must be able to translate all learning to real life situations so that children learn to analyze and synthesize effectively and become good decision-makers. At the same time, we need to also make sure that children imbibe the right values and we do not churn out “literate barbarians!”
The author takes the reader on a virtual tour of the school, exploring every little nook and corner while giving suggestions on how every aspect of school life can be enhanced and changed. What can be done to change the examination patterns? Should we test the child on what he knows or what he doesn’t? Why are math and science given more importance than other subjects? Why is art premeditated rather than spontaneous? Why are only those experiments in the textbook conducted? Why not view parents as a resource rather than as hindrance in the functioning of the school? A number of such pertinent questions are raised and suggestions and solutions are given by the author. Some of them, like making the kabadiwala the chief guest, seem farfetched, but most of the other innovative ideas seem sensible.
The part that appealed most to me was the chapter on ESD or Education for Sustainable Development. He says, “Generations of chief guests and keynote speakers have spoken at school events and said that children are the future of this country…. They speak about children changing India……” This can only happen when “schools connect children to the country’s problems and let them form their own meaning of sustainable development.” If we need to become a thinking nation, the foundations need to be laid at the school level and we need to eschew mere rote learning and reproducing verbatim what is given in the textbooks without understanding the basic concepts.
On the whole, this book makes enjoyable reading and definitely makes the educationist think. Do winning laurels in quiz competitions and other inter-school competitions provide benchmarks? Or is creating a more dynamic learning environment more important? Should a school be called successful if it produces the best academic results or one that produces children who can think on their feet? Should textbook knowledge take precedence, over real life exercises such as finding out the total water consumption of a school and how best to utilize it? These and other such questions certainly make the reader wonder and ask the educationist “Quo vadis?”
I enjoyed every chapter of the book and definitely recommend it to all connected with education, especially the principal. One may not be able to put all the suggestions into practice, but one can definitely think about it and find ways and means to incorporate some of the best practices suggested, into the school system. Most of the suggestions are very practical and doable!
The reviewer is an Educational Consultant at St. Michael’s School, Secunderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.