From All Facades of Indian Education - B. Mahender Reddy talks with You & I

M ahender Reddy is known for his commendable dynamic leadership which started at the age of 23, as the Principal of St. Mary’s College, Yousufguda. Today, he spearheads the St. Mary’s Educational Society as the Group Director, providing leadership, a progressive vision and is also a knowledge partner of the amicable Navaneeta Public School. A graduate in Mechanical Engineering and a Post-Graduate in Business Administration, Reddy has made education his life’s calling.

You did your Bachelors in India and your Masters from the University of Hull, England. How was the system of education different and which would you consider better for a higher learning curve?
Yes, I did my Mechanical Engineering in India and my Masters in Business Administration in the UK. A major difference I found was in the student-teacher relationship. In India, the teacher is always ‘a sage on the stage’ and the teaching process is ‘one to many’. Whereas in the UK, the teacher was not on a pedestal and was never considered the only source of wisdom. The students were encouraged to debate, discuss and even challenge the teacher’s viewpoint. The other major difference was the diversity in the student population. In the UK, the diversity on my campus was not just in terms of nationalities but also in terms of age and experience. My life on such a multi-cultural campus broadened my entire perspective. More importantly, every student in the University of Hull was there because they chose to be and worked hard to get there for a course that they wanted to pursue. There was a sense of ownership in each student.

You took on the position of the Principal of St. Mary’s College at the early age of 23. What were the challenges you had to face as a young person in this role of authority?
Perhaps the only challenge was with acceptance from prospective parents when they came to admit their children. I remember instances when parents would walk into my room, quickly step out to check the board outside to confirm that it is indeed the Principal’s office. On the other hand, my young age was actually an advantage when it came to connecting with the students. They could easily relate with me and I with them.

As a person who has been on all sides of the Indian Educational system, what are the changes you would like to bring about to it?
I think the most important thing is to shift the focus from acquiring degrees and certifications to gaining knowledge and being inspired. We need to bring the joy of learning into all levels of education in India. Education needs to become transformational for the individual and the community.

What is the role you play as Group Director of these reputed institutions?
My role as the Group Director is to provide strategic leadership to the group and to all our institutions. We as a group are committed to ‘Leadership at All Levels’. We believe in and practice collective decision making, driven by a shared vision. My primary responsibility is to make sure that, even as the group continues to grow, we do not deviate from our core values and ethos.

Could you tell us a little about your role and experience as a knowledge partner at Navaneeta Public School?
As you know, Navaneeta Public School is a one-of-a-kind social initiative by the Krishnapatnam Port, that provides world class residential educational to the underprivileged at no cost to the parents. I am proud of St. Mary’s association with Navaneeta. Our role is to manage the academic operations of the school in its entirety. I consider it a great opportunity for us to make a difference. I am glad that our expertise in the field of education is being used for the benefit of hundreds of first generation learners.

 In light of Republic Day, what are the ways in which your institution inculcates a sense of patriotism in its students?
Educational institutions definitely have a role to play in inculcating a sense of patriotism. At St. Mary’s institutions, we strive to inculcate values that make our students responsible individuals. While we equip our students to be global citizens, we foster in them a love for their country. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.

Is there anything you would like to tell the students and youngsters of Hyderabad?
Take ownership!    --- as told to Tanya