Asha Sharma, the Principal of Indian Learners Own Academy (ILOA), received the National Award for Teachers from the President of India in 2008, and in 2014, she was the recipient of the coveted ‘CBSE National Best Mentor Award’ for her valuable contribution in the field of education.
A dynamic professional with a forward thinking mindset, she was chosen as a mentor of four schools in UAE, and was additionally granted four schools to mentor in Kuwait. Mrs. Sharma took a few moments from her busy schedule to discuss her illustrious career with The Times Kuwait.
How do you feel about receiving ‘CBSE National Best Mentor Award’?
It is a very nice feeling to receive the award, and it is a motivator and encouragement to keep up my performance. It also means that the CBSE Board has found my work satisfactory. The schools that I supervise as Principal appreciate me, and they have benefited from my visits. It gives me a great feeling to know that my ideas, experiences and the knowledge I have acquired in my career is benefiting other people. If I was asked to speak to an audience as the winner of the CBSE National Best Mentor Award, I would say, “When we share, we learn more”.
How have your experiences as a teacher helped you to be a good mentor?
I have been through the mill; worked in almost all of the available teaching positions, from KG teacher, middle-school teacher to Principal of three schools. I have been in administration for nearly 30 years, and in that position; you learn, meet people, understand the system and attend many seminars. Moreover, I am a PTC (Principals’ Training Center) graduate from America, in International School leadership, and it was an eye-opening experience. I believe when you share knowledge, you retain it better, and are able to utilize this information frequently in practice. It feels good that this long career has helped me to succeed.
What factors have led to you being recognized for the ‘CBSE National Best Mentor Award’?
First, I am a big risk taker, I was the first to open an entire school for CBSE I, and while others were reluctant, I created that demand in society. ILOA is the only school in the whole world that you can call a pure CBSE I school. I have been a pioneer in many things, and always choose to go forward with my innovative thinking.
Second, I take challenges. When I came to Kuwait; I became a member of the Gulf Council and hosted a conference with the participation of my fellow Principals. It was a real challenge, but I always take on different challenges, and as a result all the principals in Kuwait became members of the Gulf Council. Through my feats, you can say I am a pioneer in many fields. I have been involved in a number of workshops, inter-school competitions, the Kuwait Cluster meet, seminars and two conferences of the Council of CBSE Affiliated Schools in the Gulf. I get the ball rolling. As for the results of the school, I am very passionate and very particular about what is happening with my students. My office is always open and anybody can walk in. Popularity is another reason because I have gained a lot of respect for helping the community by organizing many seminars on career counseling and other topics. I try to spend my available time to help the Indian community.
How do you compare CBSE I with CBSE curriculum?
CBSE I offer a broader perspective, and provide an international based study that touches on topics from around world. It prepares students for success in the global village. With CBSE I, understanding is very important and easy, and children are constantly learning and showing results simultaneously. I would say that both curriculum are good, but the approach of CBSE I is more reasonable and better for the students.
How does the standard of education for ILOA students differ from students of Indian schools?
I think parents of ILOA students are in a better position to speak, and we at the school try our level best to ensure that students understand and grow.
They should not depend on parents or outside help. Teachers are very involved, and I personally advocate regular testing and assessments. We also get regular feedback from parents.
Who are the main influences in your career?
There are many people who are a source of inspiration, my mother impelled me to excel in education, and my grandfather was a professor in Mathematics and Physics in Hindu College. Most of my family members were excellent in studies, and I was surrounded by people who encouraged me to work hard. I had a lot of family support. Also for me, I had the zeal to excel, and I am a good planner. With my priorities in place, I divide my time and get things done.
What are some of your major achievements since winning the National Award for Teachers in 2008?
I have recently written a series of General Knowledge books that incorporate life skills and innovative thinking. Using examples from the book, I help my teachers create worksheets on life skills. There is the advisory column I started for the CBSE Board examinees, and participated in career counseling and Tele-counseling on behalf of CBSE. There is much more to be done, I have tried to use my free time to do outstanding deeds in my career. I want to give all to my school.
Would you consider writing a book about how your education model has worked for students?
I have organized a number of workshops that share the good practices of the school. Foremost, I want to become a trusted resource for various schools in India. My motivation is not the money, but sharing my knowledge and experience. I would like to travel to far reaching places in India where people require education guidance.
How does the CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation) system helped students learn?
It is a very good system, though it is possible for insincere teachers to misuse it. Then, it can be very damaging. It depends on the school and the teachers who implement this system. You teach and informally persistently test the children. The system tests every single skill that is taught to the students. If teachers are honest and do their work genuinely, it is an excellent system.
What is your opinion on the current education structure of Indian Schools in Kuwait?
All the systems are good, and they more or less have the same aim. The standard of education is contingent on the kind of implementation of the various systems in the education structure and how they are practiced. It falls on the Principal and no school can rise above the level of teachers.
- Christina Pinto