GoaChronicle.com: How has been your journey as an educationalist so far?
Fatema Agarkar: Closing in on two decades, I can safely say that it has been an incredibly fulfilling experience over the years as a Managing Trustee, Edupreneur, Consultant– setting up pre-schools, high schools (national and international), a school for special needs to a teacher training institute and a curriculum design and academic audit centre; after school hours sports academies to in-school sports integration, parent counselling, and student engagement. The journey has ensured that I have evolved as a person, as an entrepreneur and developed expertise that comes with hands-on experience and learning it on the job.
GoaChronicle.com: Why did you choose to hold an MBA degree from the UK, when India has some of the most prestigious colleges that provide MBA schooling?
Fatema Agarkar: Like my peers, the US was my priority but twenty-odd years ago, the folks were a bit vary for the duration of time that I would spend away, while in the UK the Executive MBA was an option (Masters can be completed in two years as opposed to 3 to 4 years in the US). You weigh the pros and cons, and during the Uni fairs organised by the British Council, I found a University that ticked all the right boxes including scholarship options, and I made a decision. India offers fantastic options, even back then and certainly the landscape has changed in the past decade or so, but I wanted to engage with a more international community, experience living away from home in a land unfamiliar, and pick-up life skills that tend to be very sheltered in a South Mumbai household.
GoaChronicle.com: Why do you want to be an Educationalist?
Fatema Agarkar: Actually, I am a commerce student, completed my masters and worked a few years in the corporate world – interned with a European bank, gained experience with the Media House- Times of India and then part of a consultancy – Swiss-based Egon Zehnder International before I realised the ‘gaps’ in learning that I faced when growing up in India which continued to dominate the Indian educational landscape and that fascinated me. The skills I needed to succeed in the corporate world continued to be ignored in schools, and this meant there were opportunities if I oriented myself with the industry which is why I completed educational qualifications. It was when pursuing these degrees that I realised, I would love to contribute to the industry that could so benefit from the corporate world and students definitely deserved to be taught differently than we need. Their world was different and I found partners who believed in the model too. I think over the years, my love for research, best practices, and collaboration meant, we were able to bring some relevant changes to the schools that I was associated with.
GoaChronicle.com: What future do you see for the students of India?
Fatema Agarkar: India has the youngest population statistic honour as a country in the next 30/40 years, and also the opportunity to provide exposure to a range of multi-disciplinary learning and activities so that the students can excel at their own pace, and in the area of their skill. Students must be life-ready and hone life skills, become more adaptable, develop analytical thinking, and also remain creative when problem-solving. More and more I think about it, students need to think like entrepreneurs – identify potential, create solutions and generate ideas to solve problems to be able to monetise. Alternative careers will become a mainstay which is why performing arts, creative arts, and sports provide that much-needed ‘stimulus’ for students when growing up that will come in handy irrespective of the careers pursued. DQ will be as important as IQ and EQ and more importantly, the ability to transition and balance lifestyle choices will be dictated by how the students approach learning – ownership, accountability, and creativity. Students of tomorrow, have it much tougher than we did, as our era was relatively easier to navigate. The sheer variety of platforms and opportunities today means there is tremendous pressure and with a land of 1.3 billion, the pressure on ‘optimising’ opportunities will always be compounded by the rapidly changing variables around us. But students need to strike that balance and that’s why the foundational, middle, and high school years are important learning platforms.
GoaChronicle.com: What are your thoughts about Education being treated as a business in current times?
Fatema Agarkar: The whole public-private debate in this country needs to be rested. Case to the point – look at the countries that have a healthy mix of public and private schools. Funding for the private players does come in through investment by professional organisations who expect a return after the gestation period is over. Even if the funding is self-financed, it must be accepted that for better systems, processes, infrastructure, quality of training and teaching, resources, etc, investment has to be made over a period of time and there is an opportunity cost to this. The current scenario is that over 50% of students enrolled currently are in some form of private schooling in this country, indicating clearly that for those who can afford it, the option is only private for better quality. I would like to compare this to private and government hospitals as well. Private hospitals have a business proposition to them, so why do schools always come under scrutiny? Progressive countries recognise the importance of private player participation and with the correct regulations and governance in place, I do believe this will be a healthy participative aspect that upgrades the current challenges. That’s why there are laws put in place to safeguard the interests of the families as well.
GoaChronicle.com: Do you think children of India have more potential than what is being taught to them?
Fatema Agarkar: Most definitely. Also, the next decade is an era of customisation and personalisation. We need to recognise the sheer exposure and innate that these children have needs that should be nurtured as per their aptitude, interest, and also desire. We cannot think of students as excelling in every domain but rather work on their limitations and help them pursue their areas of excellence. One size does not fit all, and our approach to teaching must recognise the child’s individual talents as well and not standardize as we have been doing over a period of time. It’s time to make them creators, problem solvers, more confident & communicative. It’s time to get these children to be independent learners!
GoaChronicle.com: How are you different from other Educationalists?
Fatema Agarkar: I have no idea if I am similar or different, but I do know that I enjoy what I do and for me, bringing in strategies and ideas, skilling teachers to identify potential in every child, years and years of experience amassed setting up close to 40 schools pan India, working with so many parents and students and understanding their aspirations gives me a deeper understanding when I work with managements and school leaders. I also simply adore children and find that I am able to connect with them irrespective of their age group, and also with an eye on the future, I love to create opportunities with some calculative risks. My own personal journey as a student (in India and overseas), as a mother watching my son navigate his way also helps fine-tune a lot of the solutions that I am able to generate, and above all, I never stop learning myself and connecting with fellow educators whom I can learn from and be inspired by. As a community, I think educators are all after one goal – to make things easier for the generations to follow by changing the rules of the game, and I simply strive harder each day to make it happen.
About the Author
Fatema Agarkar is an Educationist, State and University topper. She holds a degree of Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Birmingham (UK), apart from her B. ED and ECCE degrees. As a profound educationist, she has come a long way to intertwine modern methods of learning, teaching, and customizing education as per the student’s intellectual requisites. She was adjudged as Education World’s top 50 young educators in the year 2014. Fatema has been awarded by Giants Group for her outstanding contribution to the field of education, the Young Achiever’s Award in the year 2017, Singapore based, Best of Asia’s, ‘Enterprising Educator in the year 2018 and as an entrepreneur ‘Best Edupreneur 2019 and Best Leadership’ by Progressive Academic Excellence India (Maharashtra 2019) and one of the 10th finest inspirational educators in 2019 by TKR, India.
About ACE (Agarkar Centre of Excellence)
ACE (Agarkar Centre of Excellence) is an initiative to combine sports and education with its two distinct verticals, bringing years of experience of the Founders, and the passion and dream to empower next generation. It consists of an experienced and dynamic team that provide customised solutions to all stake-holders in the education space – teachers, parents and students by an “end-to-end solution portfolio be it consulting services to new or established schools, teacher training, parent counselling and workshops, student engagement, curriculum design and school audits. This takes care of its Education vertical. With sports, the company offers in school multi-sports curriculum, after school hours training academies and a specialised sports division with a school for those who wish to pursue sports and not want to compromise on their academics.