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‘I Believe that Students should be the Centre of the School’s Universe’ – Shweta Sastri

Shweta Sastri, one of the youngest education-entrepreneurs in the country, is the Executive Director and Board Member of Canadian International School (CIS), Bangalore – a Sterling Developers group venture. Shweta joined CIS in 2006 to further accelerate academic and business performance, leading to significant infrastructural expansion and multiple awards including being rated the 5th best international school in the country.

Shweta primarily focuses on visioning and performance across all academic and business
aspects of the school including inorganic expansion. Her expertise lies in education
management, finance, strategy, leadership, and governance.

Shweta Sastri in an Exclusive Interview with Suman Prasad spoke on different aspects of her career, about CIS and how it is making a positive difference in the education of students.

Excerpts from the interview:

On her journey

What a journey! It has been blood, sweat and tears from day one and literally, not even figuratively. When I joined the school, it was much different from the school it is today, in so many ways. For me, it was like changing the course of a large ship that was already in motion – an incredibly tough task.

On Changing the perception of CIS

CIS was perceived as a school exclusively for expat students and being an Indian, I wanted the school to appeal to Indians and expats alike. So it was a perception issue I was dealing with and people’s perception is their reality – very difficult to change – nonetheless, I believe we have managed to change that perception.

Next, we had just moved to our current campus and parent/teacher emotions associated with the move and expectations from the new campus were a challenge to manage. We had a PTA that wanted to take over the running of the school and it was no easy feat to deal with that.

Third, the school was very free on policies, very laissez fare, so I had to set the school on the path of having policies and procedures in place and today we have policies and procedures for everything, absolutely everything.

Fourth, being the Canadian school, set up by 2 Canadian entrepreneurs, the school offered the Canadian Ontario curriculum which was not a popularly recognised curriculum by the global community, let alone India. So I became the agent for change and we introduced the Cambridge curriculum first at grade 9 and 10, then moved it down to middle school grades 6, 7 and 8 and then trickled it down to elementary school over the years.

These are just the top 4 challenges that I converted into achievements that immediately come to mind. But believe me there were a lot more that have caused immense personal pain, sweat and tears in this journey. Absolutely no regrets though!

In 2011, our current Head of School, Shane Kells and our Dean of Studies, Melanie Kells joined CIS, and they were big on technology. With their efforts, cooperation from our teachers and support from our Board of Directors, today, CIS is one of the leading schools in India in terms of integration of technology in education – one of our greatest achievements.

20 Years of Canadian International School

The Canadian International School (CIS), Bangalore, is celebrating 20 years this year! It is a truly international school in that we have the 5 essential characteristics of an international school, namely

  • International Mindset
  • International Administration
  • International Students
  • International Teachers
  • International Curricula

To celebrate 20 years of excellence in imparting international education, we had 3 marquee events this year. In January 2016, we inaugurated our 470 seat state-of-the-art performance theatre, The Odeum. In March 2016, on the exact date of incorporation of the school 20 years ago, we went live with our solar project.

All roof tops of the school have solar panels generating enough electricity to power our school and more! Excess solar energy is exported to villages and surrounding homes. That same day we had the CIS Carnival for students, teachers and our community with activities, attractions and fun for all ages.

In August 2016, we had our 1st exclusive alumni event during which we recognised teachers who had been with the school for many years and speeches from alums who had interesting anecdotes about the school to share.

‘Schools and Colleges today are mere a business organisation, imparting knowledge is secondary’. Sastri’s views on this statement

I completely and vehemently disagree with this statement. As an education entrepreneur, I believe that students should be the centre of the school’s universe. We create an ecosystem of teachers, facilities, technology etc. within the school only for the benefit of students. As stakeholders in our students’ future, it is our duty to leave no stone unturned in ensuring they receive the best education.

However, the belief that educational institutions should be not-for-profit entities, is archaic. Private schools exist all over the world and they provide the best possible platform for students to excel. The financial format of the school is irrelevant as long as there are no compromises on quality of education, co-curricular and extra curricular opportunities being offered.

Implementing technology at CIS

CIS was the first school in Bangalore to implement the 1:1 iPad integrated teaching and learning program in 2011. We are at the forefront of technology in education. Our campus is fully equipped to support this. Our teachers are highly trained in the delivery of education with the use of technology. We have even pioneered a technology related event, TechConX, that we conduct on campus. This is a learning event for teachers across India and the South Asia region to come, share and gain from the best techniques for using technology in education.

Different activities to engage the students

We have an array of co and extra curricular activities for students:

  • Michael Phelps academy for swim coaching
  • Paris Saint Germain academy for soccer training
  • Rohan Bopanna academy for tennis training
  • Indian Shourin Ryu Karate training
  • BYFL Cricket
  • Basket Ball training
  • Yoga classes
  • Gymnasium
  • Music programs – vocal, instrumental and band program
  • Drama programs – performance, stage presence, gestures, voice modulation, spatial awareness
  • Visual art – drawing, painting, sculpture, print making, photography, architecture

Contextual learning and the IB CAS program at CIS

Contextual Learning (CL) is a hands-on learning experience that takes place away from the classroom. It provides a live education opportunity that furthers our core values of joy, integrity,
inspiration, respect and caring. Students explore global and local issues as they search for solutions, meet new people, discover new places, and discuss ideas they would otherwise not be exposed to.

Ongoing CL Projects

  • Beekeeping and harvesting of honey
  • Composting food from our cafeteria
  • Growing vegetables in the CIS garden
  • Keeping a butterfly garden
  • Maintaining an herb wall with medicinal plants
How can students get the most out of CL
  • Carry sunscreen, hat and water when away from campus
  • Develop digital literacy by contributing to a CL blog
  • Engage in critical thinking about CL’s essential questions
  • Keep a journal to reflect in at the end of each day
  • Read about current events & social issues
  • Represent CIS to visitors as respectful, caring and attentive hosts
  • Represent CIS on field trips as respectful, mindful and thoughtful guests
  • Thoughtfully plan & present learnings on CL Share Days
  • Wear CL field trip uniform

CAS represents our commitment to helping students become responsible local and global citizens through Creativity, Activity and Service. As the International Baccalaureate (DP) Program’s mission in action, CAS:

  • Developscommitment &perseverance to achieve challenging goals
  • Offers sophisticated opportunities to analyse thought, effort & performance
  • Teaches how to set aspirational goals
  • Tests students’ability to engage in critical reflection

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