The Shishu Mandir school began in 1993 as a response to the needs of the children, who were first-generation learners. It was an experimental school that catered to the children living in Shishu Home. When the experiment proved successful, the school was opened to children in the nearby slums. With its expansion came a need to house the school in a building of its own. Land was bought in KR Puram and a school was built that could accommodate about 100 children from classes Prep A to 10. The Shishu Mandir Education Centre moved into its own school building on 16th December, 2000.
Over the years we have adapted a curriculum and pedagogy that fulfils the needs of the children while drawing inputs from experts. In the beginning, we followed a curriculum that allowed children to learn at their own pace. We chose to register under the State Board in 2010 so that students obtain a school-leaving certificate. Today we have a formal curriculum, but we maintain our founder’s philosophy to allow each child to learn at their own pace. We also collaborate regularly with pedagogical experts from Germany and India, who have worked closely with us over the years to refine, upgrade and update our teaching system.
Our staff are trained regularly to stay relevant. We also enjoy a lot of support from our corporate sponsors. Our labs are constantly updated, and technology is employed to ensure that our students are aware of the changing world.
The model works because of the small numbers we focus on. The teachers are able to assess every student’s strength and weakness. Any kind of help is extended, where needed, whether in academics or in their personal lives.
We also work closely with the families of our children so that they are able to understand the need for education.
We are fortunate to have many volunteers from India and abroad. Saturdays are spent in activities that are almost entirely coordinated by volunteers. These interactions are important, as they offer our children an exposure to the world, teach them how interact with different people, learn to articulate and listen well, and build confidence.
Our children now compete on the same avenues that are available to children in mainstream schools. We have students who excel in STEM, participating in and winning accolades for robotics and coding. In the arts, we have several talented dancers, who have pursued it over many years. And in sports our basketball, football and karate teams have done very well. Our students also learn swimming and unicycling.
Children are admitted to the school at the age of 4. Till class 2, we have two sections with 10 children in a class. From class 3 to class 10 the two sections are merged, and the ratio of girls to boys is 7:3.
The school operates from 7am to 5pm. Children have breakfast, lunch and an evening snack at school.
We provide two sets of uniform, sports wear, sweater, shoes, bag and stationery to every child.
Between 8.30am and 2.30pm we focus on academics. From 7am to 8.30am and again from 2.30pm to 5pm we focus on arts, sports, and skill building. Every child has the opportunity to find their interest, identify their natural aptitude, and is encouraged to pursue it.
Our children are actively encouraged to participate in sports and the arts. Every year our students reach the state and even national levels in basketball, football and karate. Every child is taught to swim and to ride a cycle. We have vibrant dramatics, performing arts, folk dance, unicycling and bharatanatyam troupes. We also participate in the Rotary Youth Leadership Award. Children of all classes are taken on school trips.
We regularly interact and collaborate with experts from within India and abroad. Twice we were part of the International School Award programme, hosted by the British Council. This offered us an opportunity to adopt new strategies in teaching, but also brought internationalism to our curriculum. As part of the British Council UK Assistant Teachers’ Programme, we hosted teaching assistants from the UK for periods up to six months at our school. They worked with our teachers and students. Other collaborations have been exchange programmes with teachers in Germany and school visits.
Admission to the school is based on recommendations made by the School Admission Committee and our teachers. This comes from house visits to understand their home circumstances. Those from the poorest families are given preference, and we admit only one child per family. Our focus is to support as many families as we can and still maintain our small teacher to student ratio. However, we realised that this could create a very wide disparity between children of the same family. To reduce this, we have a sibling education programme that ensures financial support for our students’ siblings to be enrolled in other English-medium schools. We supplement their learning with weekly tutoring at Shishu Mandir.
Each child who joins the school spends 12 years with us. In the years they spend with us, we educate them, support their families, offer emotional, psychological and economic support, help them recognise their strengths and interests, and see them through as confident young adults. Usually 90% of them are supported for another 2 years, until they finish their PUC, and another 40% get support from Shishu Mandir until they graduate from college. About 25% are supported in a Masters programme. We ensure that every child, who graduates from our school, is employable. The education they receive enables them to speak English fluently, have had a wide exposure to many people and places, a wide exposure to various skills, all of which helps them find employment or become self-employed. But perhaps the greatest impact is in ensuring that every child obtains the SSLC certificate and progresses to higher studies. In the past 5 years, we have achieved 100% first class results with several securing distinction.