Shifa Hassan Gir - Positive Perspective

Husband-and-wife duo Shifa and Deepak Kant Gir have always had an interest in early childhood education, and each have been associated with pre-primary schools in Hyderabad. Deepak’s initiative, First Steps, ran from 1994 till 2005, and was a much sought-after pre-primary school. Shifa was associated with a pre-primary school called Giggles for a few years, before embarking on her own venture. With more than a decade and a half of combined experience in running pre-primary schools, the couple have an in-depth understanding of early childhood learning principles, and can intuitively see things from a child’s perspective. The Creative Learning Centre is situated in a beautiful Banjara Hills home whose design reflects the couple’s basic core values of respecting the environment. The lush greenery at the centre and a homely atmosphere make for a naturally comfortable environment for kids. This week we caught up with the enterprising woman behind this venture to find out more.

How did the idea of the Creative Learning Centre come about?
As parents of teenagers and a toddler, there were two primary areas of concern which were not being addressed by any institution in Hyderabad. The first was that many students post-6th grade fall behind in mainstream education, due to large class sizes and limited time available for students to interact with teachers to clarify their doubts. The Creative Learning Centre offers tuition with a high degree of personalisation, allowing a student 30 minutes of one-to-one guidance with a tutor in a one-and-a-half hour session. The second concern was that toddlers are expected to make the transition from home to school with no room for the child to adapt to the new environment while the parent is around. Toddler Den is an initiative by the Creative Learning Centre which, to our knowledge, is the only playschool that lets parents spend time with the child in the new environment, for as long as it takes for the child to get comfortable. Toddler Den offers a four-stage programme of familiarisation: play, socialising, and learning to prepare a toddler for school. The first three stages include the involvement of the parent. No other school does this.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
When parents and toddlers spend time at our facility and go home happy and keep coming back to progress in our programme, it makes our day. For older school going children, our tuition programme allows students to revisit concepts at their own pace and learning ability. Enabling them to practice coming out of their shell of low self-confidence is an extremely rewarding experience as educationists.

What are some of the challenges you face in this field, and how do you overcome them?
Toddlers take time to wean away from their secure parental presence. We have deliberately structured our programme to factor in the reluctance of toddlers to accept being away from their parents. The slower-paced, positive experiences built into the programme mean parents can slowly let children get used to other kids and adults, leading to a smoother switch to a structured learning schedule eventually.

In tuition, students tend to go into a shell. This is either on account of peer pressure in class to not be seen as lacking the ability to grasp the subject, or because of the paucity of time to address their academic needs. Getting children out of their shell as they fall behind is a huge challenge. Our programme works first with where the student is stuck, and slowly builds on bringing them up to mark in terms of where they need to be vis-a-vis their current syllabus. Personalised tuition is the key to doing this, along with ample counselling.

What would you say are your biggest strengths?
We understand childrens’ problems from their perspective, and offer a genuine solution designed to meet their special needs.

How do you like to unwind?
I read, travel, ride motorcycles, do gardening, listen to music, and eat out.

What else are you passionate about?
Vintage cars, sports cars, bikes, and philosophy.       --- as told to Suneela