Pandemic Taught Us New Ways To Deal With Crisis & Emerge Winners: SAI International Founder Bijaya Sahoo

Bhubaneswar: In a coveted recognition, the Bhubaneswar-based SAI International School has been conferred with the ‘School of the Year’ Award 2020 by Business World. The SAI International Residential School (SIRS) has also bagged the ‘Leading Residential Schools in India Award 2020’, earning the school an elite place in the Business World Top Education Brands Club.

This achievement is testimony to the SAI International’s dedication and educational innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Founder and Chairman, SAI International Education Group, Dr Bijaya Kumar Sahoo said during an exclusive conversation with Odisha Bytes. Excerpts:

It’s one year and two top positions in the Day-cum-Boarding School category in the Education World India School Rankings (EWISR), 2020. How crucial has been this year for SAI International School?

It is an immense moment of pride for the entire SAI International family. Getting Rank 1 is a monumental achievement for us. It is a victory of our educational innovation.

This year has been a testing time for everyone. We understand the colossal responsibility shouldered by us and that is educating the future citizens. At SAI International School, teachers, staff and management worked round the clock, as a dedicated team to ensure that students are not deprived either of their academics or co-curricular activities. For us, it is a commitment which we strictly adhere to. The pandemic has taught us new ways to deal with crisis. It has fortified our resolution to work assiduously as a team and to overcome the unforeseen challenges.

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How has the school authorities battled the odds amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

We right away rose to the occasion the day lockdown was announced and schools were directed to close from March 16 onwards. Almost instantaneously, we started the process of turning each home into a school by soliciting the support of the parents. SAI Cloud School 1.0 was started within a week. In not even a months’ time, we upgraded from SAI Cloud School 1.0 to launch SAI Cloud School 2.0, with the sole purpose to surpass the existing benchmarks in excellence in our online teaching endeavors.

The IT team was strengthened, new technological devices were added and teachers were given adequate trainings to qualitatively handle online classes. The 2nd and subsequent versions focused on instilling the new millennium skills to ensure that our students receive the finest online education. Scholastic, co-scholastic and hobby classes were incorporated. We conducted expert session and hobby classes for parents. Language programmes in English, Hindi and Sanskrit we introduced, the e-portal with additional academic content was upgraded and virtual lab classes were conducted.

We also devised a method for objective and subjective e-assessment as well as added additional academic support for students requiring remediation. Every step was taken to make sure that children are not deprived of any learning facility.

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What do you have to say about the CBSE assessment scheme for Classes 10 and 12 board exams and how did it impact the results of SAI?

The CBSE assessment scheme was quite conducive and elaborative, covering all the skills. The result was as we had expected. We appreciate the assessment structure of CBSE. I feel this was the best step that could have been taken in this pandemic. However we had an elaborate counseling session of students to help them cope with the pandemic and score better results.

How effective is online teaching for the students?

Online teaching can never be compared with regular classroom teaching. But we feel students and teachers have both adapted to this virtual teaching and learning process, and it is going on smoothly. At SAI International we have a strong student-teacher bonding which makes the teaching process easy and qualitative. We try to make it as much interactive as possible. We have also introduced flipped classroom and more of experiential learning to make the teaching-learning process more interesting. Teachers are also regularly given feedback and provided individual trainings to bridge the gaps, to make sure everything goes smoothly.

How has imbibing the best educational global practices with internationalism as core component of the curriculum helped the students?

Our aim is to provide the best possible education and give students a wider exposure of the globe. We all know that the world has become a global village and now we can really experience it.  Imbibing the best educational global practices with internationalism as core component of the curriculum has a profound impact on the students. It helps in strengthening their core values, enables in an all-round development as well has makes them more confident. It prepares children to be successful in school and in life. We have seen how well our students have fared in international podiums.

SAI has been declared as Microsoft Innovative School and Microsoft Showcase School by Microsoft, USA. What is the idea behind such collaborations as learning partners?

Technology brings in endless opportunity into the classroom. We believe in unleashing the potential of each child by blending technology in learning. The idea behind collaborating with Microsoft is to share and exchange ideas of innovations in technology, train teachers on latest technological tools that aids in providing better education and to make the students technologically strong.

How does the school strike a balance between maintaining the high scores and extra-curricular activities for all-round development of the students?

This has been the practice of SAI International School since inception and it continues even in this trying time. We have a fixed time for academics which also includes remediation and doubt clearing classes. We have allotted time for extracurricular activities. It has weekly club classes, activity classes and exhibitions. We also ensure that students are provided all the opportunities which they had prior to this pandemic. We had a 14-day e-Summer Camp, conducted SAI Model United Nations Conference, which saw participation from students across the globe and also eminent Ambassadors, Ministers and UN Delegates. We continued with celebration of Father’s day, Mother’s Day, Grandparents day, Family Time, Teacher’s Day, Children’s day, Independence Day and all international days. During the time, we also initiated SAI Alumni Talk and SAI Career Talk.

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Tell us something about your Suprabhat sessions.

Suprabhat sessions were being held at 6.30 am everyday both for students and parents to enhance positivity during the summer season. Yoga and aerobics exercises were taught by trained instructors of SAI to reinforce the concept of a sound mind in a sound body for both parents and students.

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