Exemplary Woman From Hassan Carves a New Path in Education by Minimizing Exam Stress and Punishments

Exemplary Woman From Hassan Carves a New Path in Education by Minimizing Exam Stress and Punishments

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Shabana Ali, Malnad English High School, Hassan, Karnataka

Background

Albert Einstein once said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” This timeless wisdom remains relevant for Shabana Ali, a certified ICWA Cost Accountant and now a qualified leader at Malnad English High School in Belur. She strongly believes that genuine education goes beyond rote memorization and exam scores.

She also believes that our current educational system falls short in providing a holistic learning environment.

She criticizes year-long lectures, rote memorization, and the stress that comes with exams. “Our system,” she observes, “often misses the essence of true learning.”

Emphasizing on this matter, she claims, “Effective learning occurs when students read, write, comprehend, and understand their lessons.” She challenges the system’s dependence on frequent tests, excessive homework, punishments and the sole focus on scores, arguing, “Such an approach hinders genuine learning.” Instead, she advocates for a simplified curriculum, one that assists students in understanding basics and establishes a strong foundation.

She further notes, “Education should prepare students for their life’s journey, setting them on a path of purpose and passion.” This conviction led her to engage in school management and to earn an MA in English and a B. Ed., cementing her role as both a qualified and inspired educator.

Also Read: Quality Education, Empowered Teachers, Engaged Parents: This School Leader’s Winning Formula

How the school started

Malnad English Medium School was established in 1985 by Shabana’s father to address the lack of English medium education in rural areas, a significant challenge in the 1980s. He observed that only wealthier people could afford to send their kids to cities for English-medium education.

Pursuing assembly approval to start such a school was a daunting task back then. He posed the question, “If city children can learn in English, why can’t our rural children?”

One of Shabana’s elder sisters manages a school in Mysore, while another sister, after moving to Bangalore for work, established a school there. Shabana took the reins of Malnad School in 1992, initially offering education up to the 7th grade. Thanks to her family’s dedication and hardwork, the school now extends to 10th grade. Shabana notes, “We even host some of our 10th-grade students in our own home.” Today, all 52 SSLC students have successfully passed their board exams, as she proudly announces.

Achievements

Students at Malnad School have excelled in both national and international sports, as Shabana brags about one of her students, Mohammed Farhan, who clinched the top spot in the 100-meter race in Nepal. Shabana enthusiastically shares, “We don’t solely focus on academics; we also nurture students’ interests in cultural activities.” Farhan’s medal-winning performance was a testament to his dedication and the school’s initiative to facilitate his practice sessions at Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore. Shabana fondly recalls, “We also secured 3rd place in long jump at the national level.”

She further adds, “In our rural area, students might not have all the same facilities as those in cities, but we do our best to provide quality education.”

“The entire village eagerly anticipates our school’s cultural events, and we excel in all aspects. This is possible because our family supports one another and members are deeply involved in every aspect of the school,” the school leader assures. Shabana is dedicated to ensuring that students not only strive for excellence but also achieve it.

She notes, “Now, we are well-prepared for the NEP policy, which introduces board exams for 5th and 8th-grade students.”

Redefining quality education

“Students should be encouraged to understand the concepts rather than writing tests or exams,” shares Shabana.

She believes that education should prepare students to become good human beings, instilling values, discipline, punctuality, and cultural appreciation. “Alongside academics, extracurricular activities should find a place in the curriculum. This approach might help reduce future crime rates.”

“Regardless of their understanding, students are pushed into tests, frequently falling back on rote memorization. This is an unfortunate reality. Yet, schools continue to follow the guidelines set by the department,” she states assertively.

She adds, “Now, taking tests all year and getting high marks is the main goal. The means by which students obtain these marks often goes unnoticed. It’s not uncommon for students to copy, and schools seem more concerned about fees than ensuring students truly understand the basics. With many young individuals opting for education abroad, we should provide an education that entices them to stay. Currently, we’re falling short. Our focus has been to meet parental expectations, resulting in sticking strictly to the prescribed syllabus. However, we do ensure quality education, and this resonates well with the parents.”

School and the pandemic

Before the pandemic, the school had around 1000 students. However, over the past two years, they have abstained from admitting students to LKG and UKG. Shabana clarifies, “While primary students struggle with online classes, it’s even more challenging for pre-primary students. She believes, ”Charging fees for them would be misleading– or should I say, cheating – parents. Nonetheless, having fewer admissions doesn’t concern us”. Currently, their enrollment stands at over 500 students, still the highest among schools in the region. With her brother helming the sports department, Shabana affirms, “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to support our students in facing the challenges.”

“As for attracting students back, quality education, smart classes, holistic learning, and 100 percent results will naturally drive admissions,” Shabana adds.

Varthana’s support

Shabana was aware that the school needed a better building, and thanks to Varthana, they were able to construct a new high school facility. Reflecting on this partnership with immense gratitude, Shabana expresses, “Varthana stepped in with support when no one else offered us a loan from 1985 until now.”

Also Read: A Farmer’s Son to Education Pioneer: One School Leader’s Inspiring Journey of Empowering Youth in Pratapgarh

Vision

Reflecting proudly on her accomplishments, Shabana says her vision is to revolutionize education by nurturing well-rounded individuals with deep-seated values, thereby reducing the need for students to seek education abroad. She emphasizes, “We aim to provide high-quality education that keeps them rooted in their homeland, without resorting to marketing tactics.”

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