By Neeraj Kumar Bedhotiya
Principal of Daly College
Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
This week’s voice belongs to Neeraj Kumar Bedhotiya, Principal of Daly College in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Those Who Can Accept Change
Daly College is one of the oldest schools in India, founded in 1870 under British rule to educate the sons of chiefs. The school is public and coed today, but we are very old. Suddenly, our teachers were thrown into a situation where they had to teach online, and they covered about 10 years in two weeks! That is the kind of flexibility the human mind has.
Change is something I think all humans resist, but those who can accept change and turn this crisis into an opportunity will move forward. Now we have a flipped classroom where we post videos, presentations, and other learning materials online for the students. Now they learn first, and then they question. Their teachers worked hard before now, but perhaps the students were spoon-fed.
If our children can become independent learners, this crisis will have given them the greatest benefit I can imagine. When you take responsibility for your learning, then learning becomes very different. It becomes permanent.
Marks Matter, But Rigor is Not Enough
In India, we have tiger moms, tiger dads, and tiger grandparents. We also produce tiger teachers. We don’t know any other way. Marks matter.
At Daly, academic rigor is not enough. We want to produce well-rounded, confident, independent thinkers who have leadership and communication skills befitting the 21st century. They must be socially, emotionally, and spiritually balanced global citizens with strong values.
We want Dalians to stand out in a crowd, be innovative, and communicate well. But above all that, we want good human beings.
Sustainability and Service
We teach our students to live harmoniously with the environment. For example, our students have dug up a number of recharge pits to harvest rainwater. We receive 32 inches of rainfall (almost a meter) each year. If we can use even one-fifth of that, then we can replenish what we use over the year and have enough water to sustain ourselves.
We are also planning to grow our own food and teach the children agriculture. We will buy a piece of farmland on the outskirts of the city of Indore, where we will grow our own organic vegetables and raise 100 cows to give us organic milk.
Our students volunteer to work on such projects. For example, we make two or three girls’ washrooms every year, which is a very important issue in India for girls attending government schools. We also have an eye health initiative: To date, we have done 53,000 eye exams, distributed 75,000 sets of spectacles, and connected people to more than 2,000 cataract operations working in partnership with an eye hospital that provides this free service.
Connecting World Youth
Our young people must have a common agenda around peace, diversity, acceptance of democratic values, and acceptance that all human beings are equal. And it cannot happen in islands that we create: it cannot happen only at Harvard, or only at Hotchkiss, or Eton, or Daly College. It has to happen in small communities, in schools that are not well-to-do. It has to happen in communities that are poor.
So it’s very, very important for students like ours to learn and practice democratic values. They have to connect very differently. That will happen when you provide them the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the youth around the world. Therefore, we need international linkages through organizations like RoundSquare, G30, Knovva Academy, and AFS intercultural exchanges.
Imagine No Boundaries
It’s like that John Lennon song, Imagine. I’ve thought of this song a lot during the pandemic. Imagine no boundaries, no countries, no race, no religion. In India, we say, “The world is a family.” Despite our undercurrents, you will see that we accept diversity from Hinduism to Buddhism to Sikhism to Islam. People have been dividing over religion forever, but somehow we continue to march forward, because we know in our hearts that everyone is part of our family. It’s in our DNA.