I have a piece of land and want to set up a school?

Many people who own a piece of land want to set up a school! Is owning the land the criteria for considering setting up a school? Some say, 'We are promoting a township and must set up a school'. Yet others have real estate and find running a  school is a great business! 
"The Fabindia School is a piece of land brought to life." William N Bissell,  CoFounder The Fabindia School and Chairman of Fabindia
Is the School an excellent way to earn social acceptance, a way to Ã©pouse philanthropy? The challenge is not in owning or setting up but in operating and delivering quality education; this is a far cry today.  We need to understand the school's purpose before we set out to build with brick and mortar.

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school is an institution designed for the teaching of students (or "pupils") under teachers' direction. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools. These schools' names vary by country but generally include primary school for young children and secondary school for teenagers who have completed primary education. An institution where higher education is taught is commonly called a university college or university. ~ Wikipedia

The term education encompasses a whole gamut of experimental learning that is given through teachers in the classroom and often, more importantly, outside. The nature of the experience and how it is designed to be imparted makes the difference between a good school and an ordinary school. How are the academic subjects taught, and what is it a school should teach? There are three important functions, among others, of the educational process in the classroom apart from mere learning:
  • To develop problem-solving abilities.
  • To develop creative abilities, and
  • To develop curiosity and an inquisitive spirit.
Does the school have systems of teaching and learning that encourage the development of the above? For instance, through assignments, seminars and project work? What place does the library have in the learning process? In the assessment systems used by the school, how much emphasis is given to marks?

Often the opportunities for learning outside the classroom are greater, through sports and games and other activities like adventure sports, dramatics and community service. All play an important role in developing character and citizenship. A good school will provide a balance of opportunities in its curriculum to allow students to develop their special interests and talents.

We must take great care before we set out to build a school, it is imperative first to understand that we will be playing with the lives of young children and will have a hand in moulding their lives.

When a potter starts his work with clay, he has his mind and body in unison and strives to build a piece of art and utility with empathy, care and devotion. He does not make the pot simply because there is mud with properties of quality clay, and further, the pot will sell to give him his livelihood! The potter's labour of love is what really will create a masterpiece. Likewise, many an artist has a canvas to paint, few, however, can imbibe the thought and emotion to create the depth that will be endless.

Our advice to all owners of real estate and property developers is 'once you start to work on a school project, you will need to forget all other work in your life, put your heart and soul in this very project and then alone you can create a school to offer quality education'.

Please do not simply consider investing in setting up a school, as a business decision. The challenge lies in the operations, the effort involved to ensure the personal and social development is humongous. Training people to deliver the promised quality is never an easy task.

Quality in education consists of happy teachers, a good student-teacher ratio, modern equipment and adequate space and classroom facilities. A good school should offer facilities for retraining teachers and good salaries on par with related spheres. A well-designed school should have modern aids and teaching devices. A school should be a centre for excellence. It should employ good teachers and pay them well. It should encourage a concern for the environment and cleanliness. Above all, it should be managed by a dynamic Principal and competent, humane teachers.

Schools should not be commercial shops or teaching shops. Teachers should be well-read and inspired people. They should read about education, love the children they teach and have all-around personalities. They should acquaint themselves with the Montessori methods, Swami Vivekanand's philosophy, and read John Dewey, Rabindranath Tagore and Jean Jaques Rousseau. Quality in education leads to quality in our lives, and that is what we are all striving for.
~ Ramchandani Education Consultants

Successful people are punctual and ensure that they deliver the quality they promise. If you have land, you have a long way ahead, putting up a school with quality commitment is not going to be an easy task. Many buildings exist with no students, we have dilapidated campuses with no young people playing, many dreams turn sour, simply because the schools do not have the right leadership. 

The school must be in the best hands, and often it is the Principal who makes the difference. The principal's role covers many different areas, including leadership, teacher evaluation, student discipline, and several others. Being an effective principal is hard work and is time-consuming. A good principal is a balance within all their roles and works hard to ensure that they are doing what they feel is best for all constituents involved.

So if you have land, you need the best Principal, and in principle, you are often not the best Principal for the dream school! The owner must simply be a mere resource provider as many a time he is, the school must have the right people with the freedom to lead and make it an institution. People make the place, and they alone can shape lives. Children are tender not only in body but more so in heart and mind.

Mr A N Dar, former Principal Scindia School and Mentor Genesis Global states, "The challenge with promoters, they need to give space to people they entrust the school to...teachers are there, but they need to be respected - and trusted - and given time, recognition and encouragement. Many well-known schools are floundering because the school is not giving them the space required by them. There are appraisals and increments and even sacking, but the quality of staff is not growing..."

Teachers and the system must show a balance so that the soul of the school is retained. 

The most important part of the school is how the place can offer the heart and the mind the best place to be in. Yes, land and open space is needed as infrastructure but does not necessarily make a good school. The open sky, the stars above, the trees and the shade below are even better locales for teaching than the closed box-like rooms with stale air and blank spaces! 

An empty mind is a devil's workshop. 

Thimmappa M.S. explains "Mind and the thoughts contained in it is meant for functionality only, that is, utility application, to execute the purpose-oriented activity. An empty mind gets filled with non-utilitarian thoughts and is cut off from reality and can cause havoc! ..."

A campus alone is not a school, people with compassion and values who help deliver quality education will help the entrepreneur keep the promise of quality. If you want to make a good school, please first find the best people, then alone will your land become the ideal place for fertile minds. The innovation lies in building and growing and not simply in sowing and forgetting. If you have a piece of land and other infrastructure, you will need to partner with the community, the people and the society to help build the good school.

Best of luck, go and find the best people to help you make your dream come true!

Extract from the book My Good School - Where Passion Meets Education, published by Rupa Publications.

The author of the article Sandeep Dutt takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on sd@ebd.in for comments if any. Sandeep is the former National Director of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award ( IAYP in India).
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1. Good Schools of India - www.goodschoolsofindia.com
2. Personal and Social Development - vision document of The Fabindia School
3. Wikipedia
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