An invite to all!

For over 8 years now Mentor has been consistently trying to add value to the educational leadership by its thought provoking articles and concepts. We have made a conscious effort to share best practices from across the world that could provide valuable learning to our readers. Today Mentor is respected tremendously in school circles and hailed as a benchmark for publications. The feedback we get from our readers and the fact that almost all principals ensure that the magazine is passed on to the teachers after they have read it is a testimony by itself. In fact most schools have a section in their libraries that house Mentor. We today have a tremendous responsibility as we set a benchmark for magazines in India.

Going forward we will be making two big changes in the manner in which we present Mentor Magazine to our readers. Firstly we will be launching an all-new online version of Mentor that will enable us to reach out to audiences globally. Secondly we have categories and classified both our online and print magazine into 4 segments – School Leadership, School Governance, Pedagogy and Innovation.

School Leadership: This is the most critical area that needs improvement in the Indian context. We will be making a genuine attempt to share best practices relevant to education from leaders of all industries. In addition to featuring thoughts and practices we will also be sharing new age challenges and experiments that various leaders are carrying out to address them.

School Governance: The challenges posed by regulatory authorities to parents to media to society are immense in schools today. Leaders take a brunt of that stress and handle issues on a daily basis. With this segment of Mentor we strive to unravel the various facets of governance and help our readers handle real life governance challenges better.

Pedagogy: The dramatically changing world is altering the expectations our society has on what children need to learn, the dynamics of this is reflected in the tremendous changes both psychologically and socially that our children are undergoing. Today the way children learn, the way we need to teach and what we need to teach is a big mystery the world is trying to solve. This question will become a bigger challenge tomorrow. We at Mentor will attempt to understand these changes and bring forth learning, experiences and experiments from schools and teachers.
Innovation: There is a lot that is changing around us; we need to make a conscious and constant effort to keep pace with these changes. Technology, infrastructure, industry et al are all in a constant state of change. Education needs to keep pace with these changes by learning and understanding the innovations that are taking place globally. This segment of Mentor will try to keep pace with these changes and share cutting edge ideas.
We have carefully chosen these four segments based on our experience and in future all articles will reflect these themes.

This year the Mentor Conclave is scheduled to take place on the 1st & 2nd of December in Bengaluru. The Conclave will feature School Leadership, School Governance, Pedagogy and Innovation as its theme. All the sessions, topics and speakers will revolve around this theme. It is time for you to book your seat in what promises to be a very exciting event that will bring together passionate people who want to make a difference to education in India.

Summer Internship

Summers are here again and it is very common to see parents scrambling to figure out options to keep their children engaged. There is a humungous pressure on parents these days to keep their children engaged in their holidays. A holiday outside their city can only fill up a small part of their vacation calendar. This attitude has given birth to a huge industry these days of summer camps and classes. When you have a close look at the agenda and faculty you realize that very few organizers of camps have any idea what they are doing. Summer camps are also good business for many schools, Infact a lot of them have realized that there is an opportunity to generate revenues during this lean period.

One option that is rarely considered by students and parents these days is Summer Internships.

I remember as a high school student I spent a lot of time during my holidays working at my uncles automobile store. During most of my engineering days I did a lot of part time jobs selling copier paper, computer consumables, audio-visual equipment, LCD projects. I have to admit that the learning’s that I got from these experiences at a very young age was tremendous. I learnt the value of money and people which I think has been one of my biggest lessons to date. When I look back I am not sure how I managed to juggle an engineering course and part time job, but what I remember is that I enjoyed doing both and it just did not seem difficult.

At EduMedia for over a decade now we have always had students interning with us and contributing immensely to some key projects. We have had interns from different parts of the world interning with us. Our interns at times have been students as young as class 9 and they get to work on some phenomenal projects. Infact this year every departmental at EduMedia has a mandate to have interns working on live projects. Having these interns in our office is a great learning experience for my team as well.

I really pity the kids these days – on one hand everyone around me seems to tell me that this generation is smarter on the other hand we treat the same children like idiots and send them to coaching classes, tutorials, online tutoring and loads. The unnecessary pressure of doing well in exams means that most schools land up giving so much holiday homework that kids have very little time to do anything else or their parents send them to special classes even during their holidays.

Student internships need not be focused or specific to what the children want to do in future. Any job in any form in any organisation will teach them lessons for life. We as adults need to have the conviction to allow children to experience lessons rather than buy them books to read from. Encourage your students and parents look beyond summer camps and summer classes this year, internships are a great option as it teaches children invaluable life lessons which no camp or book can teach.


Living or Livelihood?

A colleague of mine recently narrated a very interesting experience he encountered. As part of our School Cinema team he and his tribe go to various schools and evangelize the concept of using Cinema to teach Life Skills. He was trying to get in touch with a techno group school that focuses or rather fiercely focuses on academics and entrance exams as their core objective.

Having heard several stories of the way they run their schools he took it upon himself personally to ensure that he brings about a change. After persisting for over a year he finally got a meeting with a senior functionary of the group. The outcome of the meeting was simple, the academic head was very clear that the children’s attention will waver if they start focusing on anything apart from studies and my colleague was politely asked to leave.

Over the years I have observed this trend of starting schools that focus on academics and academics alone. Children spend 12-15 hours every day in these schools, only studying and with no extracurricular activities, no sports, no life skills, only academics. It almost resembles a concentration camp, most kids hate their school, yet their parents love them. The ground reality shows that they are doing very well, their demand is increasing by the day and parents are thronging to enroll their children in these schools.

As a researcher and a keen student of a child’s behaviour, I am very worried of the impact these schools will have on our children and society at large. Enough and more research has shown that the more the children are exposed to activities, experiences, sports, competitions, excursions during their school days the more they grow to be contributing members of society. The lesser exposure they get while growing up; the more they find it difficult to contribute to society or to elevate their standards of life.

According to me there are two distinct aspects of schooling – one that teaches us ‘Living’ and the other that teaches us ‘Livelihood’. Schools today are clearly gearing up our children to get a livelihood for themselves. Schools exist today because of a belief that what they teach can get a livelihood in future. Most of the innovation in education in the past few decades has happened in the area of livelihood. Almost every other product or service these days seems to focus on how we could make our children get more marks and hopefully someday a good job.

We are clearly not teaching our children ‘how to live’. I think it is time for us to hold back our horses of achievements and ask ourselves this question – “What are we doing in our schools to teach our children to Live?” Answers to this question will take us in a journey that will make our schools more meaningful and effective. Let us focus on living and livelihood will take care of itself.




I, We & You

It is strange how life teaches us as years pass by. While I was growing up and as a student the biggest objective in life was to become independent. Everyone around me seemed to propel me in the direction of independence. Life was all about personal achievement, the more I achieved for myself the more I felt accomplished. What started of as my studies, my assignments, my exams, my grades led to my profession, my income, my possessions. When the ‘I’ was satisfied I guess I realized that I was kind of incomplete. Thankfully I achieved success financially and socially pretty early in life. It was around this time that I realized that in my effort to satisfy the ‘I’ what I had left behind were my family and friends.

Being an entrepreneur organizational success mattered a lot more than personal achievements, it was during this journey that I learned at work that ‘I’ takes you only a certain distance; ‘We’ goes a long way ahead. The more I left behind the ‘I’ and embraced the ‘We’ the more I seemed to propel ahead in life. From then on life was all about ‘We’.

I have spent the last decade trying to focus on the ‘We’ but funnily enough the biggest challenge to being ‘We’ comes from the ‘I’. I get into a lot of issues whenever the ‘I’ crops up and tries to supersede the ‘We’. Its hard work, guess from childhood I was taught to give a lot more importance to the ‘I’ and it kind of comes naturally. It is very difficult to unlearn what I had learnt in school and college and home, somehow when I look back everyone around me taught me to become selfish and I have lived up to their expectations I guess.

We is about you and me, what it actually means is that even in the ‘We’ there is 50% ‘I’. So strictly speaking the ‘We’ keeps the ‘I’ alive, complicating matters in various funny ways.

It is very recently that I realized that life gets a completely different meaning when the ‘I’ and the ‘We’ is replaced by ‘You’. The moment we put the other person in focus, ahead of us everything changes. We become more empathetic, more aware, more sensitive and I guess a lot more human.

Education is all about being a better human and a better citizen. There is no simpler way to teach children to be better humans – all we need to do is to teach them to be mindful and focus on the ‘You’ in their lives. The ‘You’ can be humans or the animals or the environment or the nation. Focusing on ‘You’ can certainly make this world a better place.

Teacher, Discipline and Value

I am dead sure that this is going to be one of the best years ever for all of us. I see a lot of signs around that suggest that our country is in for some good times economically and socially. School education in particular will see a consolidation in the coming year. I am glad educators have come to realize that there is no short cut creating an institution of high standards. Infrastructure and technology are basics that schools need. It is high time schools stopped boasting of these basics and focused on the real issues they have on hand – school systems and processes, teacher empowerment and school environment.

Mentor Conclave 2014 that was held in 5 cities in the month of December was a resounding success. We tried a new format this year and travelled to different locations for a one-day event instead of a 3-day mega event in Bengaluru. The response from the educators was phenomenal.

The highlight of the conclave according to me was the presentation that Dr. Vidya Shetty made on School Improvement. She has put together years of her experiences of starting and running several odd schools into an amazing system that helps in understanding, documenting and improving Performance Standards in schools. It was very heartening to note that several schools have already started implementing her recommendations and I am very excited to see the outcomes in the coming years.

I made an interesting research based presentation put together by my team at EduMedia Research titled – What is working in Indian Schools? In an era where everyone seems to be talking about ‘Change’ in the context of education we at EduMedia felt that it is imperative to hold back and see if there is anything good happening in Indian Schools? The objective of this survey was to highlight the good that already exists, so that schools can be mindful of it before they change.

The top 3 reasons that make Indian Schools successful are – Teachers, Discipline and Value based learning.

Teachers: what we gathered from the research was that you can never have all good teachers, what is important is that every child should get an exposure to at least one good teacher. This one teacher impact can make a huge difference to the way the life of a child shapes up. Discipline: we are talking about good old discipline that is reflected in punctuality, attention to detail, planning etc.

My inference from this research was simple yet very important – what makes our students successful in future is not the grades they get in school, it is the experiences they go through while in school. So the message that stands out loud and clear is that your role as an educator is to create experiences for children, stop worrying about their grades. It is these experiences that give them the necessary lessons for life.

Here’s wishing you an experiential year 2015. I hope and pray that you create the best experiences for your children to learn and grow.

Lost Values

Every year from 1997, I have been travelling across the Indian Subcontinent organizing Horlicks Wizkids. The event draws unparalleled talent and enthusiasm across five countries and over the years I have seen the levels of talent and competition grow immensely. It is heartening to note how very young boys find it very cool to participate in cooking, hair styling and mehendi design competitions. As part of the event we had introduced some very interesting team competitions like Best Dressed and Best Disciplined School. These were awards that I remember schools took pride in winning; students and teachers alike would go out of their way to compete for these awards.

I can distinctly recollect an incident from a prominent city up north about eight years ago. During the Horlicks Wizkids event I got a frantic call from a colleague who was handling the reception. I reached her within no time just to see that she had held back a high school boy for having ‘gutka’ in his mouth. For her this was unacceptable, how could a school student in uniform representing his school do something like that? My thought process was that it is wise to leave that matter to the school so I asked the boy to fetch his teacher coordinator. In a few minutes the boy promptly brought a ‘gentleman’ who was supposedly the school coordinator. He came up to me and asked me ‘Ka hua Sir’, his mouth was reeking of ‘gutka’ and I was at the receiving end of a ‘red fountain’. I could only smile at him and said nothing and asked them to move on. How could I expect the boy to be any better than the teacher? This incident is a favourite of mine and I have narrated this on many an occasion over the years. But sadly with every passing year I realize I see more ‘gentlemen and lady’ teachers in schools who have no idea of how to carry themselves.

Another aspect that needs focus and attention is the manner in which parents behave and carry themselves. In an era of brands and social media pressure, parents go out of their way to provide the best to their children. Discipline and manners seem very low on their priority these days. Like everything around us things are changing dramatically over the years. The enthusiasm levels and the desire to win at any cost has gone up multifold; but sadly what has come down is the discipline and grooming of students. It is appalling to see the manner in which students carry themselves and their uniforms. It seems like most schools do not even remotely consider grooming and etiquette as part of their curriculum. The way students from so-called reputed schools walk and talk is deplorable.

Education is futile if children do not learn etiquette, manners and grooming. You do not teach this in high school, it is not a subject, it has to be part of a system and we teach these by setting an example at home and in school from a very young age. It is not about ‘Finishing School’; it is a process that runs right through school.

Feb 2014 – Teaching to make mistakes!

Having worked in the corporate world for over a decade I am constantly found lamenting about the lack of creativity and originality in the people who work with us. I long to see a young soul who has the ability to think differently and the ability to come up with new thoughts. I realize that one the biggest reason for that is our schooling. For 16 to 18 years we condition our children and train them to do what is right, infact all their lives are spent in pursuit of doing the right things. We reward them and acknowledge them when they are right. The problem is the manner in which we treat them when we make mistakes. Right from a very early age we families instill in children the fear of making mistakes and failure. This is further strengthened once they reach school and from then on it is a constant and consistent dosage of fear that is fed to them and they all grow up with a mortal fear of making mistakes.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”- These words of Albert Einstein are so true. The only ones that seem to make mistakes in our society are the rebels who choose to look the other way when the whole world around shows them the ‘Right’ path.

One of the safest places for a child to make mistakes should have been the school environment, unfortunately schools literally function like courts doling out different levels of corrective measures and punitive actions for any mistake children do.

Interestingly teachers of the co-scholastic subjects seem to score a lot better with regards to the mistakes that children make. Be it the PT masters or the sports instructors or the hobby facilitators or art guides, they all seem to understand the importance of making mistakes in learning the skills and nuances of their field. The predominant problem lies with the subject teachers and their single minded obsession to ensure that all children get it ‘Right’.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one” – Elbert Hubbard

One of the biggest lessons that we could teach in schools is to give the courage to our children to make mistakes. This will give them the confidence to explore themselves, the world around them and lead them to a path of fresh thinking and innovation. The world we live in today has so many social, environmental, political, economic problems for which the present generation has no solutions. The future generation has the onus of finding solutions to the problems we are creating today, if we do not equip them with the confidence to try new things and make new mistakes it will be a very grey future.

As heads of schools if we do not have the ability to encourage our teachers to make mistakes, we will never create learning institutions that teach the magic of making mistakes to our future generations.

AN OPEN LETTER to Anna Hazare

Dear Anna Hazare, I have known you through the media from the past few months. I have been told that you are an practical and reasonable man. I would like to believe this, but there a few questions in my mind…

Your fight is against corruption and your solution to eradicating all corruption related problems is The Lokpal Bill. I am sure you are aware that we passed a historic Right to Education Bill almost 2 years ago nothing has changed on the ground. Are you serious that you want me to believe that by passing the Lokpal bill all my corruption related problems will be solved?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

We have innumerable laws and several bodies like the police, cvc, cbi etc. that are meant to keep the society in check. These agencies and existing laws have not worked well, is it the problem with the law or its implementation? Comman sense tells me that implementation and effectiveness needs to improve. But you are telling me that we should create another body and a new law?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

You keep telling me that all politicians are corrupt, all government servants are corrupt. Agreed our society is corrupt. Then where on earth are you going to land up getting thousands of spotless people to be the ‘Lokpals’ and if I may ask what will happen if the Lokpals themselves are corrupt?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I live in Karnataka and my state is struggling to find its Lokayukta. Do you have anyone in mind who has such a spotless character that can be the next Lokayukta, or do you suggest we get someone imported? Finding one in a state with several crores is a challenge where will we find thousands to fulfill the Lokpal requirement?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I always thought your fight was against corruption, then why does it sound like your fight is against Congress. I am a citizen of UP, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, I have to caste my vote next month. You tell me not to vote Congress, can you please enlighten me as to who I should caste my vote? Or you are telling me that all parties excluding Congress are not corrupt? I am confused kindly clarify?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

You have been telling the world that you are the voice of the people of India? I am an Indian citizen, I do not remember giving you my voice, then how come you are claiming you are my voice? You are representing me without my permission and you are fighting what? Oh yes corruption… Kindly clarify?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

Whenever I watch you on TV you keep telling me that you know the solutions to my problem of corruption. You sound too over confident, actually I think the right word is arrogant, not sure…
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

Whenever I watch you making your demands you sound like a five year old kid that threatens to cry if he does not get his candy. I know you are quite old, but when will you grow up?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

My value education book told me that education is the solution to all the ailments of society. I was wondering why you have not been telling people to give the right values to children at home and in schools. Why is education not a part of your agenda?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

According to the Lokpal Bill all the corrupt will be punished. Let me share a secret of my school days, whenever my teacher punished me I did not stop what I wanted to do, I just found another way to do the same thing. You want me to believe that punishment and fear will stop corruption, when that does not even work in schools?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

We have over 2 million NGO’s in India, yet we still have millions of problems in India. We all know how corrupt NGO’s and corporates can be, how come you do not want them to be covered under the Lokpal?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I watched you on TV when you said that you will be the first one to take a gun and fight against Pakistan. Can you please enlighten me as to which problem of this world was solved by war? And by the way you have been compared to the Mahatma Gandhi, you call your movement non-violent, and you nurture thoughts like these?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I believe that corruption is not the biggest problem, it is the manner in which we have educated our children over the years that is the key issue. The most corrupt people in our country are the educated ones that went to school and studied maths and science but their schools and teachers did not teach them the right values. Parents told them to grow up get a good job and a good life, but forgot to tell them the importance of virtues and values. It is EDUCATION Dear Anna and not LEGISLATION that can rid societies of corruption…     Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

– Syed Sultan Ahmed

Aug 2011 – Where are the boys?

I am in the midst of my annual ‘South Asia Yatra’ as I call it, travelling almost 20 cities  in 4 countries. It is something that I look forward to very keenly as it gives me an opportunity to closely interact with over 100,000 students and get a firsthand understanding of the trends and patterns of the youth today. One common question that is asked by the press to me is ‘what are the changes you notice in children these days compared to when you started off?’ I take this opportunity to share my observations on this question.

–          The Rise & Rise of girl power: Yes this is not a trend it is a phenomenon according to me. 12 years ago when I visited Hyderabad I found a big difference in the standard of girls and boys. The girls were far more smarter, intelligent, well spoken and overall better than boys in Hyderabad. I found that strange as in cities like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai etc. you found the standard to be quite equal, not a stark difference. Over the last 10 years many things have changed in our society, but if I have to pick up one that stands out for me it is the fact that girls are far more smarter than boys these days. This trend I notice not only in Hyderabad but in cities across India, Pakistan, Nepal & Sri Lanka. This phenomenon will have great implications as we move forward. So if I were to put on a soothsayers hat I would comment ‘brace yourself for a world led by and ruled by women in a couple of decades to come’


–          I need to necessarily follow this up with my assessment of boys these days. They are either becoming too feminine and soft or they are becoming too aggressive and violent. In the words of Naina my colleague ‘there are not normal boys these days, either they are sissies or they are mad-caps’


–          If I have to pick up one area where there has been a remarkable improvement in our children it has to be their overall confidence. Every kid seems to be supremely confident of everything they do, but do they have the necessary depth to back up their confidence? Now that is a completely different story all together and in my opinion ‘NO’


–          There are two kinds of kids who take part in competitions like Horlicks Wizkids; one kind who love to be there and the other kind who were told to go there by their parents. Infact I notice a very strong urge in parents to push children to do things which they never got an opportunity to do. This is irrespective of the fact that the child is interested in it or not. This phenomenon creates another challenge for event organisers like me – Every School Wants to Win in All Competitions!

Well these are some of the noticeable findings of mine as I am travelling across doing what I do best, providing the young talent in India to express themselves.

March 2011 – A Draconian menace

A recent EduMedia survey that collated facts from across the country indicates that 16 students commit suicide in India every day.  Alarming isn’t that?

I decided to share these statistics with a group of educators recently during the Horlicks Mission Exams workshop and the instant response to this from teachers was – ‘in over 2 decades of my experience not a single kid has committed suicide in my school.’ I was appalled to hear such comments from educators. It is a misnomer that if it does not happen to me it does not happen anywhere. Here is another scary statistic, ‘for every one kid that committed suicide there were at least 10 who contemplated it’.  This number shoots up dramatically post exams around results time.  Suicide is an extreme reaction.  In most children stress and peer pressure leads them into many undesirable habits. The survey also revealed that many children take to habits like smoking, drinking, aggression or slip into depression.

Educators across India completely refuse to believe these statistics as they believe such issues don’t occur in ‘their schools’. They live far away from the realities of the world.  It reminds me of my school days, almost 20 years ago when I was in class 7.    Few of my classmates got the greatest thrill of their lives by hiding away from the world and having a smoke or a drink. Even today two decades later when such issues are brought to light in the form of statistics schools choose to look the other way instead of addressing them effectively. Living in ignorance and denial of ground realities is something that a lot of schools have been guilty of from a long time.

All of us are responsible for the mess that we have created for the kids who go to school today.  The pressures to perform well are so high that most kids are wilting under this pressure. Schools and parents need to ensure that they support the children with necessary skills to cope with this draconian menace. Accepting and an understanding of the gravity of the situation is the key first step, schools can work towards creating systems and processes that make life simpler for children.

Over the past month I have come across some very simple yet remarkable solutions to make this happen

–          Eating well, sleeping well and drinking good amount of water

–          Play and more play

–          Increasing the number of co-curricular activities

–          Playing music in school

–          Ensuring Zero periods have zero academics

–          Encouraging children to talk about their issues by creating Circle Time opportunities

–          Having laughter clubs/sessions in schools

–          Having organized entertainment in schools like School Cinema

–          Having a team of student counsellors

–          Empowering teachers by giving them counselling, graphology skills ….

–          Including parents as part of organized learning


It is a Herculean task to reduce the stress that is being put on our children, it requires a combined effort from the society at large and the media can play a critical role in it. Let us all do our bit to see more Happy faces in our schools!