To become a superpower of knowledge, India needs to prioritise education, says Skand Bali, principal of HPS Begumpet
Principal of HPS, Begumpet discusses the school's initiatives, vision for the future, and advice for parents and principals.
The Hyderabad Public School (HPS), Begumpet is celebrating its centenary this year. It is a prestigious school which has produced global leaders like Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Shantanu Narayen, President and CEO of Adobe Systems; Ajay Pal Banga, President World Bank; Harsha Bhogle, Cricket Commentator; Karan Bilimoria, British Indian Businessman, Life Peer in the UK House of Lords & Chancellor of the University of Birmingham; Ram Charan, Actor; Nagarjuna Akkineni, Actor and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Chief Minister of AP.
Hindustan Times digital spoke to Skand Bali, the Principal of HPS, Begumpet, to understand the school, its values, his vision and the way forward. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
Congratulations on being the Principal of HPS, Begumpet! It's indeed a proud moment for you. However, being the principal of this prestigious school comes with immense responsibility. Could you share your thoughts on that?
Thank you for your kind words! It's an honor to serve as the Principal of Hyderabad Public School (HPS), Begumpet. This, in fact, is my second stint at HPS. I was here between 2017 and 2021, and I returned in 2023, when the Board of Governors of the School requested me to come back.
The Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet is built on the foundation of values such as trust, respect for diversity, empathy, camaraderie, trust, love, and compassion, which are close to my heart as well. The School has a remarkable history of contributing to society, including pioneering the allocation of 25% of seats for children from underprivileged backgrounds long before the Right to Education Act came into existence.
Could you tell us more about how these underprivileged students are selected for admission and supported in their education?
Certainly. We have a partnership with the Social Welfare Department of the Government of Telangana. They recommend children of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe families with low-income levels for admission to our School. These children receive quality education in our School at no cost to their families.
With your second stint at HPS, what role do you envision for yourself in taking the school forward?
The educational landscape is evolving rapidly, with the integration of technologies like artificial intelligence. We have initiated several measures to ensure that The Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet remains at the forefront of education. For instance, the batch of our alumni has generously donated funds to establish an innovation center at the School. We are also focusing on providing professional sports coaching to enable our students to excel in various sports.
Additionally, we have introduced an Educators' Conclave, which will be held annually among our sister schools. This initiative aims to enhance the professional development of our faculty and students. We believe that The Hyderabad Public School Begumpet can set a roadmap for other schools to follow in their pursuit of excellence.
Apart from the inclusion of courses like artificial intelligence, could you share other important initiatives for a school like Begumpet?
Certainly. We believe that leadership qualities are essential for every individual. To foster these qualities, we have launched the ‘Leader’ program, wherein every student from Grade 1 to Grade 12 goes through 50 modules over their school journey. These modules cover a wide range of skills, including negotiation, financial literacy, conflict management, critical thinking, and ethical communication. This program aims to instill and hone leadership skills in our students over their school years.
We have also adopted a long-term vision, mission and plan, ‘HPS Vision 2050’, which envisions HPS as a top-tier school globally, known for excellence and eminence, by 2050. Toward this end, we are investing in infrastructure, faculty development pedagogy and technology in our School.
Could you elaborate on what ‘Vision 2050’ entails for HPS?
Vision 2050 envisions HPS, Begumpet and other schools in the HPS family as institutions where students are equipped to lead not only the school but also the country and the world. We aim to position HPS among the top schools globally, known for excellence and eminence in education.
Our goal is to provide opportunities for every child to excel in their chosen field, whether it's engineering, medicine, sports, the arts or any other area. To achieve this, we are investing significant resources, up to Rs. 150 crore, in infrastructure development, faculty development and technology. We want to ensure that the quality education provided by HPS is accessible to students from different parts of the country and possibly even from abroad.
Currently, HPS is not a residential school. Are there plans to transition to a residential setup in the future?
Yes, HPS has had a unique journey when it comes to its residential status. We started as an all-boys boarding school in 1923, gradually transitioning to a day-cum-boarding school and then to a co-ed day school with boarding for boys. However, in about 2014, we made the decision to reduce the boarding strength. Presently, we do not have boarding facilities. However, as envisioned in our Vision 2050, we will go back to being a boarding school. Over the next two to three years, we plan to construct new hostel blocks that would accommodate 400 to 500 students. This will ensure that students from different parts of the country and even foreign students have access to the high-quality education offered at HPS.
You've led some of the best schools in India. Could you share your thoughts on what differentiates a good school from an average one?
I believe it's not the school itself but the practices followed within it that determine whether it's a good or average institution. A good school is one that provides holistic development opportunities for students, including academics, sports, co-curricular activities, cultural activities, public speaking, and leadership. It fosters a culture where students and faculty have a voice and choice in their activities. Moreover, it offers growth opportunities for all stakeholders within the organisation.
A good school is inclusive, focused on quality education and aims to produce ethical individuals. The Hyderabad Public School is an example of an institution that follows these principles.
You've received numerous awards and recognition in your career. What advice would you offer to other principals when running a school?
I've always believed in creating a positive school environment that nurtures happy students. Happy students perform better, making parents happy, and ultimately, it brings satisfaction to the Principal. It's a virtuous circle.
I believe in being accessible and available to students. Just as I'm conducting this interview, students can freely approach me during school hours. Creating an open and welcoming environment is crucial.
Moreover, principals should prioritize the overall development of students, including instilling empathy. Demonstrating empathy and equality within the school, such as through common dining experiences for staff and students, sets the right example.
Lastly, education is not just about academic success. What advice would you give to parents to ensure their child's holistic development?
Regardless of whether a school is residential or day, research suggests that parents play a significant role in their child's development. It's essential for parents to maintain open and transparent communication with the school and educators. It is important that they spend quality time with their child every day, discussing the day’s activities and offering feedback, counsel and support. This fosters inclusivity, understanding, and communication.
Parents should consider themselves as stakeholders in their child's education, understanding that educators are professionals who understand the needs of the curriculum and students.
They should trust the school and engage in a constant dialogue with them. Keep disagreements or agreements with the school within the appropriate channels, away from the child's knowledge.
Lastly, parents should set a positive example for their children, fostering empathy, respect, and inclusivity in their homes.
Is there anything else you'd like to convey or recommend, especially to the government?
I would like to urge the government to consider establishing Indian Educational Services similar to other prestigious services such as the Indian Administrative Services and the Indian Foreign Services. This would ensure that the education sector in the country receives the attention it deserves.
Additionally, the government could create “Indian Institutes of Education” on the lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management, dedicated to researching and improving the field of education. These institutes could play a vital role in transforming educators and students across the country.
There is a need for proper regulatory authorities to oversee the functioning of schools. These authorities should ensure that schools follow proper guidelines, including teacher qualifications, classroom sizes and ethical practices. Such regulatory bodies would ensure the quality of education imparted to our children.
Above all, to truly become a superpower of knowledge, India needs to prioritise education and learning.