Educating Them

Pooja Mitra talks with You & I
Entrepreneur Pooja Mitra sits down with You & I to talk about the importance of value-added education in today’s world.
You have gone from corporate relations to marketing and now education. Why the shift?
Though the perspectives from which we approach these three domains are definitely different, if you notice, there is a common thread to all. All of them have required me to rely on my people skills, and so I feel the route that I took has been a natural progression. Education gives me the flexibility to find the best work-life balance while remaining connected to my children’s education. Learning with my children helped me see the strengths and challenges of the system, and I have developed the patience to handle their queries. You can now see the results in the form of my strong association with the field of education.
Did you always have an inclination towards doing something for children?
Until I started, I really never gave this a thought. But now if I look back, yes, I have always loved children. Through initiatives such as Oakridge International Playschool Banjara Hills (Oi) and Global Edcom Pvt. Ltd., I am happy that we are adding value to children’s education and young adults’ personal and career transformation.
What are your responsibilities as director of Oakridge International Playschool?
As director, I work closely with the centre head and class teachers in identifying the administrative tasks, involved as well as planning for various initiatives and activities. Many of our activities involve parents and family, and I engage with them proactively to identify every child’s needs and progress. At Oi Playschool Banjara Hills, the ethos has always revolved around adding value to their individual learning in the limited time they spend with us. These are really young children in the age group 1 to 5 years.  So cleanliness, safety and fun are our predominant concerns.
How have you seen this school grow under your wings?
Tremendously! When I say grow, I do not mean by enrolment numbers alone, but by the number of initiatives we have established for the children’s benefit. While we follow the curriculum assigned, we have on our own initiated many supporting activities that have enhanced the children’s learning. My efforts have always been to be quality-driven. For example, a recent initiative of Oi Playschool Banjara Hills included a ‘Little Show Stopper’ event where children were encouraged to showcase a talent in which they excel. There is always an apprehension of being in unknown places and on stage. This was overcome by involving parents in the show. Children were allowed to perform with the support and guidance of the parents, giving them the confidence to go onstage and showcase their talents.
How is this different from your role at Global Edcom Pvt. Ltd.?
Unlike the pre-school, at Global Edcom we primarily work with high school and college students and their parents. Their needs are completely different; it is actually servicing two ends. The emphasis here also is on quality counselling, in addition to advice that helps them make informed career choices, college planning, and gaining admissions worldwide. The experience has been enriching, as I constantly get to explore and learn about diverse career options in different countries.
Tell us about your association with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs, UK.
Associating with the foundation has provided a lot of impetus and confidence to simultaneously lead two educational startup firms. As a mentee, I got to learn from the numerous entrepreneurship resources that are provided to women; interacting with a dedicated mentor helped bring out the businessperson in me.
You are also the trustee for an NGO, ‘We Believe Foundation’. Can you shed some light on your support for social and personal development?
Community work hasn’t been new. Being a part of the Cherie Blair Foundation’s mentorship programme brought to light the outreach potential of skills development. We Believe Foundation is a registered not-for-profit organisation that provides vocational/employability skills training with placement assistance as well as career guidance services to poor and semi-educated persons from disadvantaged classes. The organization provides courses in beauty and styling, sewing and tailoring, as well as communication skills to empower them to become self-dependent, earn a livelihood, live a life of dignity and, finally, break the cycle of poverty. It also supports orphanages by providing for children aged between 0 and16 years by way of their educational fees, food, refreshment, clothing, tuitions, etc.
What role does education play in the development of a nation?
The right kind of education is one that empowers the individual. We all want to evaluate our talent not by grades alone, but by what tasks we can undertake and how we can carry them out. Initially, I too was an average student. But a nurturing environment and positive grooming gave me the confidence to think and experiment. These have helped me reach where I am today; and this is just the beginning, there’s still a long way to go.
What is essential for women entrepreneurs to flourish in today’s world?
When women entrepreneurs flourish, the lot of the families improves along with them. This is especially true of the lower-income group, where she often plays a major role in improving the quality of education of her children, a critical aspect in improving economic conditions. The most essential and critical task for enabling this is to overcome widespread illiteracy. That is why skills development plays a significant role in developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This must be equally supported with inclusive financial assistance. Many women are not aware of development and financial schemes that provide investment and loans.                   --- as told to Vatika