Interview with Ms. Aishwarya Rao, Director, The Vivekalaya Group of Institutions
At Sugermint Media, our aim is to bring to our women entrepreneurs community some of the inspiring and motivational stories from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate women entrepreneur Ms. Aishwarya Rao, Director, The Vivekalaya Group of Institutions for an exclusive interview with us.
Please tell us a little about Vivekalaya’s Journey and how they cater to the needs of specially abled children?
Ms. Aishwarya Rao: Vivekalaya was started in 1989 with the objective to change the existing educational paradigm in Coimbatore.
Our founder Mrs Prema Rao was looking for a school for her son and she realised that there was no school that could cater to his specific needs in a positive inclusive environment.
What started as a search for the right School quickly became an idea to create the right place for not only her son but other children who are seeking similar educational systems.
Vivekalaya’s journey has been illustrated and rewarding, one we started with the school of about three students in 1989 and today has given Wings thousands of young Minds who have been positively impacted by its existence.
Vivekalaya continues to be the only inclusive school in the city that caters to children with additional learning needs.
We have children from all walks of life, across different paths from different cultures and with different academic capabilities, all housed under a roof of acceptance, respect and acknowledgement of each one’s individuality.
Vivekalaya has been supporting children with additional learning needs through customised programs. The programs are designed to meet the child at their level and help them develop the skills required to be able to take up the necessary exams and complete their education.
The children who are enrolled in the special needs program have the opportunity to share their space and cocurricular activities with students from the regular stream, they share art classes, music period, dance, Karate, play to highlight a few.
It is truly an inclusive setting because we have learners with different capabilities sharing a common space while each has their needs met.
What do you view as your most important contribution in Vivekalaya Group journey to where they are today?
Ms. Aishwarya Rao: My role in Vivekalaya has been to take forward the vision of my mother and highlight a modern outlook towards traditional education.
I have created and conducted many workshops in programs for teachers, students and parents. I also spend equal time in redesigning and revamping our syllabus to ensure that we provide a multifaceted and a multidimensional learning experience.
I’ve also played an active role in our brand building and in how the new generation Indian perceives our educational institutions.
My work today has become second nature and is a large part of my life. My work has helped how I look at modern Indian and education today.
It provided me with a great platform to do many wonderful things for the youth of our country. I look forward to taking my work and my mother’s vision forward and contribute to the development of our country by educating and raising the future torch bearers of our nation.
India’s prolonged school closure has set children back by years academically, what are your thoughts on this?
Ms. Aishwarya Rao: The pandemic has certainly affected the schooling sector and altered it in ways that would have never been imagined.
There have been setbacks that have been quite major in a lot of villages, cities and countries ( including our own) where students did not have access to either online portals or any kind of formal system of education that did not involve them being physically present.
Because of this many students were forced to discontinue their studies. This also caused a great amount of speculation and worry amongst parents regarding the future of their children.
Students were also left in the lurch during the beginning of the pandemic as there was disparity and delay in formatting a functional system.
It is also true that a number of students exited the educational sector during the two years the pandemic and the damage that has been done is irrevocable in some areas.
Students have left formal schooling at different grades due to the lack of certainty and the inability to continue their education.
The pandemic also highlighted how the world never sought to ensure there was no disruption in education in times of calamity.
If we are asking ourselves if we have failed to support our students during the pandemic? Yes, in many ways we have.
We have failed to plan and foresee the future. Our biggest failure has been the delay in developing the means to support our communities and our students.
While I do believe that children have been held back academically over the last two years there is certainly scope for change in the future.
With a cooperative effort of parents, students and institutions, I am certain that some lacunae that have been created due to the pandemic surely can be closed. This however will take time, energy, ingenuity and collective effort.
It is believed that online learning failed special needs students during the Covid-19 pandemic. How did your schools help fill this gap?
Ms. Aishwarya Rao: While online learning did have a lot of positives and contributed towards a seeming continuity in education.
There was a sector that could not wholly benefit from this move to the virtual stream, this sector was children with additional learning needs. In many ways children with specific learning needs require a one to one, first hand help and support for them to engage and for their learning to be long lasting and conducive.
So the understanding from ourselves as educators has been to create and develop systems that are inclusive and cater to all types of learners while also ensuring that individual attention is possible for students with specific learning needs.
We need to develop a digital program that is specifically designed for children with these additional needs that is personalized and customisable to suit each one’s need, strength and area where support is required.
How are your schools aligned with the Government’s NEP 2020 policy?
Ms. Aishwarya Rao: At Vivekalaya to safeguard our children with additional learning needs were supported adequately we ensured that classes were conducted on a one-to-one basis although virtually.
Google meet, Zoom and other Virtually developed platforms were used. We made certain that all work attempted by the student was scanned or a photograph taken was sent to the teacher for correction.
We also revamped our online classes to be shorter to suit attention spans while ensuring subject content was repetitive to foster familiarity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever, with the distinctive rise of e-learning. How do you reimagine education in the post-pandemic world?
Ms. Aishwarya Rao: It is often said that a mind that has been pulled to new expenses can never go back to its old dimensions in the same way we have all moved forward in our idea and expectations of education.
We have witnessed how change and development is possible in short spans of time when there is desperate need.
Today Technology has entered our homes and our classrooms. It is not going away anytime soon. We are only going to see created developments in our education system getting more digitised and it is just the beginning of how the future is going to view primary and secondary school education.
I look forward to the great progress that we are going to witness in the educational sector. As I am certain with the lessons that have been learnt over the last two years that the future of our children is in better prepared hands.
The greatest outcome of this pandemic is that it has reminded parents, students and institutions alike that learning is limitless and the possibilities for humanity to create systems to support distance education are only now beginning to reveal themselves.
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Official Website: https://vivekalaya.org