Ms Sapna Sukul is the founder of Edustart Solutions. She is also a British Council as well as AFS Global Trainer.
In a career spanning 25 years in the field of education, Ms Sapna Sukul has explored many areas which have added immense value to all the institutions that she has served. Her innovative learning methods and teaching techniques too are often recalled by many of her students. While working at schools she has focused on giving more exposure to children.
Ms Sapna has worked closely with education correspondents of various news publications for matters of news, comments and ratings of schools. She has organised exchange programs with schools abroad, conducted visits to foreign embassies. She has also worked with NGOs such as TERI, Goonj, Earth Saviours Foundation and Routes to Roots. Her contributions have been recognised in terms of various awards for work in environmental protection under Project Search (conducted under the aegis of Tetrapak and TERI).
Following are the excerpts from the interview Wonderpublish recently conducted with Ms Sapna Sukul:
Q. 1: You regularly attend educational conferences and panel discussions. In a way, you have your finger on the pulse of the education sector in India. Tell us what’s the most immediate concerns of the stakeholders in the aftermath of this prolonged pandemic?
Ans. The most crucial of all stakeholders are the students. We can only imagine the huge number of students for whom classroom instructions are essential. This is right from pre-school to postgraduates. We must also include polytechnics and ITIs as well. This is an age bandwidth of 4 to 26 and as of now, two years are already gone. The policies have been flip-flopping for which we can’t completely blame the government since the pandemic has been very unpredictable. Admission to college and the transition to college life could be massive problems in the making.
The next in line are teachers. One category is of those who have lost their jobs and the other one is of those who have had to very rapidly change their methods of conducting class, assessments, tests and examinations. The onus is now heavily upon them to improvise and innovate.
Then we have the parents who now have to share the burden of the teachers.
Finally, we have the management. So far as private schools go, they have had a very rough ride indeed with policies, norms and finances. During the pandemic, a lot of staff has been laid off or not paid. So, the management will have to take things as they come and solve one problem at a time.
Parents also have to understand that education and school are as important as any of their needs.Sapna Sukul
Q. 2: You started your journey as an educator back in 1997, then in 2015 you switched to leadership roles. Please tell us about your journey, and most importantly this transition.
Ans. I have to thank Bloom Public School for helping me transition to a leadership role. This was because I started going beyond the classroom. I leveraged my friendship with journalists for highlighting the school’s image. Then I interacted with NGOs, embassies and cultural institutions for giving wider exposure to students. I also involved myself with environmental projects for which I started interacting with the Government. All these experiences gave me the capabilities and necessary confidence to plan events, handle teams and supervise. My transition was therefore very smooth. Then with the Mother’s Pride Group, I was given the opportunity to independently head Sparsh NGO. I welcomed the opportunity with open arms and then there was no looking back.
Q. 3: How fulfilling has your association with Sparsh NGO been in your life? Tell us about the programs you undertook there?
Ans. At Sparsh, I knew that at the end of each day I was doing something good. You cannot imagine the weight on the shoulders of parents with special needs children. Just sharing their burden and occasionally being their friend, philosopher and guide change the expression on their faces from a defeated look to something more hopeful and cheerful. It was a drop in the ocean but a significant one for me.
Q. 4: How would you rate the performance of technology regarding school education during the pandemic?
Ans. Technology is an enabler, that has kept us going. I can only imagine how bad things would have been during earlier pandemics in the early twentieth century. It may not have solved all our problems but for starters, we could at least create a classroom. Then we could create a staff room. Then we could have workshops. Then we made databases like never before. We brought in apps for both teachers and students. Students are more self-taught now. I can go on and on. But we are still evolving.
Q. 5: In what ways technology is still not able to support school education fully? What new technological tools would you like to see implemented?
Ans. The board exams general discussion is sadly one of the major shortcomings. Maybe we will need to bring in a GMAT kind of format for online tests. Then of course are other crucial educational activities where I can say that I have always been very closely involved such as excursions, treks, boding among peers, team building activities, leadership opportunities and sports. Once again, I can go on and on with examples. Sadly any solution for these activities would be very incomplete.
Q. 6: Speaking about your role as a trainer. You have been with British Council for over a decade now. And you also conduct workshops for teachers all across India. What do these workshops entail and what do the teachers get from them?
Ans. To put it across in one word, it is exposure. To elaborate upon this one word, I would need to conduct another workshop. Workshops on 21st Century skills, Global Collaboration, Empathy, Online teaching tools and many more.
Q. 7: Do you think it’s a good idea to promote kids without taking any exams?
Ans. It may not be a good enough idea, but life has to go on. We cannot stop just because it is not perfect. New assessment techniques are on the anvil. So many IT-enabled tools are being implemented in Fast Forward. We will continue to adapt as time goes by.
Q. 8: Also, what do you think of the latest ruling by the Supreme Court regarding assessment schemes of a 30:30:40 formula for evaluation of marks for students based on results of classes 10, 11 and 12, respectively?
Ans, To be honest, it is unfair. Students were not accustomed to performing consistently and were habitual of leaving it all for the big event which is the Board Exam. Then there were so many who were focused on JEE or NEET and gave little attention to school performance. Can we blame them for not being pessimistic about Covid going on and on? Now, these children are staring at so much uncertainty. Maybe the weightage can be shifted more heavily towards the pre-board exam.