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Interviewing Parmeet Shah – CEO NEXT School

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“Schools are not Factories!” WOW, I am really glad that someone said that out loud. If you ask me, If I was a good student, I would say yes because I still remember what was taught in school. But this only applies to my favourite subjects, say English, Marathi, Hindi, History, Geography and Science when it came to Biology or Botany. I remember the Caste System and how we don’t believe in it because of the school education, I clearly remember being in awe of Shivaji Maharaj and hating the Britishers who ruled India for 150 years. I am compassionate about animals because that was taught in school. I think…..I think the way I do because of my schooling and pondering on my past I know that I took what was taught in school to my heart. So yes…does a school play an important role in shaping the individual, the answer is a universal yes but our schooling system needed a change with the advent of the mobile and internet and social media. In the past, I had waited for a good 2 weeks to know and see who Adolf Hitler was but today it’s just a 2-second job on google.
Hence I think it was high time someone revolted against the small picture schools and introduced the big picture schools. Let’s hear it from the CEO of NEXT school Mr Parmeet Shah who cared and dared to dream about a school of his dreams.
 
Hi Parmeet, when I heard about the NEXT School, I was really impressed with the thought behind the same. It feels so great to be featuring you on our website. Please tell us something more about yourself- Your upbringing and family and most importantly schooling.
 
My family has been living in Mulund, Mumbai for the last 4 generations and that’s where I was born and brought up in a big joint family. I have been fortunate to attend some of the best educational institutions in Mumbai and around the world. I went to Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai up until 10th Grade and then did my IB Diploma from Dhirubhai Ambani International School. I did my undergrad at Yale University and my post graduation from Columbia University, both in the USA.

You have said that you have been frustrated as a student, can you highlight more on the same?
I remember as early as 8th or 9th grade I became very disillusioned with the education system and started questioning what its purpose really was.
It all seemed very pointless - we sat in class for 6 hours - 
it was incredibly boring, we were always distracted and 
learned very little.
If the purpose of education was to simply score well on the board exams, these lectures were not helping and I’d rather just study at home. And what was the point of the board exam anyway? We always forget almost everything right after the exam!

I was a great student, but these thoughts started bothering me since I was 14-15 years old. And the frustration and pointlessness only grew as I went on with my educational journey for the next 8 years or so. The boards, degrees, countries were different but the system was the same. Throughout, I was very frustrated and always questioning the purpose of education.
Tell us something more about the concept behind this video – 6 problems of the school system.
 
The 6 problems video was my chance to finally vent all this built up frustration with the school system. I wrote the script myself and worked with some animators on illustrating these problems in a visual way.
Many people forget about the horrible educational system we had to all 
go through and remember only the great friends and teachers they had. 
I wanted to remind them how it felt to be in the classroom - 
how boring, unproductive and pointless it was. 
And its really worked, people relate a lot to what they see in the video. It has actually become one of the most viewed videos in education in the world.
 

When you were scouring the globe for the best educational models for the last 6 years, what exactly did you experience?

 

Over the last 8 years or so I’ve met and read about so many revolutionaries who are trying to bring radical changes to the education system. It helped me really understand why the system is the way it is in the first place – because it came about in the industrial age and didn’t change much ever since. It gave me a first-hand experience of what new and alternative models look like, what they focus on and how it all works. Finally, we found what we believe is the solution to the huge problems with the system of today – a philosophy called Big Picture Learning.

How do you think the Big Picture Learning model can help kids?
 
It helps on so many levels, its hard to explain in short form. I’d recommend that people watch our launch keynote via this video


But in a nutshell – the current system focuses on just – at school, it’s all about just doing what you are told. Big Picture focuses on helping kids figure out their passions, interests and talents and then helps them create goals and plans around them. It focuses on real-world learning – we already have kids in the 6th or 7th grade who web designers, fashion designers, hair stylists, architects, chefs, etc. They are learning real-world skills that will help them become real-world professionals. And in the end it’s also about freedom and autonomy – we don’t micromanage every second of each student’s life but we trust that they will be productive and responsible, and that really works wonders.
How can lower income communities benefit from this wonderful approach?

The Big Picture philosophy and approach is implementable anywhere and everywhere – in fact, lower income communities may benefit much more. At NEXT, I was given a mandate that the school must be self-sufficient and so the fees are at a level that is not affordable to low-income families. But to us this has never been about just one school, we want to change the education system of the entire world. We are just waiting for an opportunity to implement this kind of approach in low-income communities.
There is no additional cost of taking this approach, 
and existing low-income schools also can easily be transformed 
into Big Picture schools.
 
Hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much as we have liked interviewing Parmeet Shah.
Keep on rocking.
XOXO
SuperMOM Mitali