A Class Apart - Aliya Yar Khan talks with You & I

She completed her Montessori course in Dubai, and then migrated to Canada. Now she’s teaching in Town Centre Montessori Private Schools, one of the biggest schools in Ontario. In Hyderabad, she’s known for being the first student of Nasr School, and is on the board of directors for The Nasr Education Society. Meet Aliya Yar Khan, who has been serving as the head teacher of the school in Canada for the last 15 years, and has authored five phonetic books for children, which are yet to be published.

Here the dynamic and well-versed Aliya – youngest daughter of Begum Anees Khan and Nawab Mir Muzzaffer Hussain Khan of Surat – speaks to You & I of her journey, interests, and the educational contrasts between India and abroad.

How would you define education?
Education is not just studying for a few hours a day. It is an ongoing process of developing the mind, thought, and personality. It’s about pursuing knowledge through everything around you.

You were the first student of Nasr School. Comparing then to now, what’s changed about the school?
Over the last 50 years, the school has grown beyond my expectations. I am very proud that Nasr is one of the best schools in India today. The state-of-the-art classrooms, beautifully manicured lawns and lovely playgrounds all contribute to it.

Having lived overseas for many years, is there any aspect you would like to change about the educational system in India?
Yes. After tying the knot with Safdar Yar Khan in 1980, I went on to live in Dubai for 14 years. I later migrated to Toronto, Canada in 1993. Having seen the educational facilities abroad, I would like the Indian system to have more hands-on activities. Also, the examination system should be less rigid, and creativity should be encouraged.

Who do you draw inspiration from?
My mother and mother-in-law are the two most influential role models in my life. Even to this day, I draw strength and inspiration from their experiences. They are strong, fearless,
self-confident, and the most compassionate people I have ever known.

It’s said that change is the result of all true learning. What’s your take on this?
Change is important, as it helps us grow within ourselves. Change makes you flexible and adaptable. With the idea of doing the same things over and over again, one gets somewhat stagnant. We should always be open to change. This way we become more open to the different experiences and opportunities life has to offer.

For a change, I would love to live in Spain for at least six months, and adapt their way of living. Also, I feel that teaching Spanish children to read and write would be challenging and exciting!
Life in your comfort zone is easy. You simply follow a routine and you can predict the consequences. Outside of the comfort zone, your assumptions are challenged. And your opinions, mindset and belief system are tested. I think change is exciting!

Speaking of change, what are your future plans?
As I am already a member of the board of directors of The Nasr Education Society, I will be totally involved in Nasr in the future, when I come back from Canada. I would also like to open an orphanage and a women’s shelter, which are initiatives close to my heart.

How do you use your free time?
I love reading books! My current favourite is Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak. I am also a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan, and I enjoy watching their movies. I also like watching films by Irrfan Khan and K.K. Menon. I’m a big music buff and love almost all genres of music. Whenever I get some free time, one can find me caught up doing one of these!       --- as told to Sumana