Meet Edupreneur Lina Ashar – The founder of Kangaroo Kids Preschool

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Education is not only teaching the masses but in the vision of  Lina Ashar it is something to inspire, motivate and help in creating a path to knowing what one’s purpose is and reaching one’s peak potential in all areas of one’s life. Relationships, career, physically, socially, spiritually, cognitively. To understand that one’s ‘end’ goals and ‘means’ goals are different. An end goal is an outcome that you want for your life for example ‘to travel the world’. To meet these end goals you have ‘means’ goals for example money.

Lina Ashar is an educationists and independent entrepreneur with being  the Founder of  Kangaroo Kids education Ltd. She has also written two books who do you think you are kidding and ‘Drama Teen’. She has an peculiar approach towards education, according to her education that inspires students to leave a legacy by addressing and solving world challenges. Education that draws people from all over the world together in the spirit on ‘oneness’. I am passionate about igniting human potential and greatness.

Today education sector faces a lot of challenges and it’s more to westernization. But in her school there is the more focus on left brain skills like mathematical, analytical, and mechanical abilities that are being rapidly replaced by Google, machines, and technology and as parents we continue to value and perpetuate that focus, we Indians may end up as the back office of the Western world. Lina Ashar says that Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. The instructional design is based on learning themes which include activities and the development of skills ranging from remembering and understanding, to applying, analysing, evaluating and creating.

Today’s time people need to understand that only bookish knowledge is not the ultimate achievement. Education teaches us the values of Wisdom , Individual creative thought, Aspiration Spirituality, A united world. It teaches us the hegemony. She tells that in the words of Bill Bernach “A dream can turn into dust or magic depending on the talent that rubs against it”

Lets Meet Lina Ashar Founder of Kangaroo Kids Preschool & Billabong High International School and explore her journey and her motivation towards her venture.

1.What initially inspired you to pursue a career in education?
My entire philosophy of education and parenting has developed from my observations and personal experiences. I watched my older brother excel academically, but struggle socially and emotionally. On the other hand, I watched my younger brother scoring bottom-of-the-barrel grades, failing in his higher secondary exam twice. Kamal, the younger one, however has the gift of the gab. He loved football. In those days, when we were growing up in Australia, we could not afford to buy the bubble gum that offered free football cards. Each card would have information about a footballer and were a child collector’s craze. I am sure some brilliant marketing genius thought of this idea, which became a kid collector’s dream and every parent’s nightmare. Kamal desperately wanted to get his hands on them. But Mom could give him only one as she simply could not afford more. Ever heard that necessity is the mother of invention? It is the very reason why I feel that lack of money in childhood is not always a bad thing. This lack of money triggered what could have remained a dormant and unexercised skill of negotiating and trading. Kamal took this one card and began to trade and soon collected a hundred cards. The skill of negotiation and influencing was one he seemed to have been born with. Starting with one player, he would trade for two less valued players, eventually owning a hundred, including the original one he started his ‘business’ with. He would spend hours in the toilet imagining a football game and give his own commentary. His commentaries were so loud and entertaining that we would patiently wait for him to wind up the entire match! Today, my older brother still has a highly valued-at school brilliant left brain, yet it is my younger brother who leads a successful company due to his street-smart negotiating capabilities and the gift of the gab he developed while doing football commentaries. Does this mean I advocate not applying oneself academically? The answer is a resounding ‘no’! What I would have liked is a schooling system that helped my older brother develop socially and emotionally, and used my younger brother’s high interest in football to teach him math, English, history and even physics in a fun and interesting way. What a wonderful world that would be!

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2.What according to you is the purpose of education?
To inspire, motivate and help in creating a path to knowing what one’s purpose is and reaching one’s peak potential in all areas of one’s life. Relationships, career, physically, socially, spiritually, cognitively. To understand that one’s ‘end’ goals and ‘means’ goals are different. An end goal is an outcome that you want for your life for example ‘to travel the world’. To meet these end goals you have ‘means’ goals for example money.

3.How do your own life/work experiences inform your approach to your Work?
My mind is always preoccupied with thoughts of how children should learn and ‘absorb knowledge’ and how to create more innovative ways of ‘transferring’ this knowledge. My ultimate and cherished dream has been to capture the latest and most innovative learning and teaching techniques and to introduce them successfully in India.

I never use the word failure; I prefer the word challenge as I truly feel all challenges are placed before us as teaching tools and are to be viewed as learning opportunities. The greatest learning occurs if we view challenges positively and work out how to draw the learning from them and how to rise over them to the next level. I know I would never have had the guts to build my own schools, so I see the ‘adversity’ as the opportunity to somehow have the guts to do so. Sometimes it is only when we are pushed into a corner with our backs against the wall that somehow we summon the strength and courage to rise to another level.

4.What have you learnt from your time as the head of Institution?
From being a teacher to an entrepreneur I learnt most domains of business along the way. For instance I didn’t know the difference between debt and equity. Once upon a time! I have learnt that a great team is crucial. A great team is made up of people that share your purpose, vision, intent, culture and values.

5.What are the key values that a school / institute must insist?

Education that values
Wisdom over knowledge
Individual creative thought over rote learning
Aspiration over ambition
Spirituality over religion
A united world over a divided one

6.What characterizes the students graduating from your Institution?
Our kids believe in themselves and the power of what they can achieve. They are willing to challenge the status quo.

7.What would you say makes the learning environment extra special at your Institution?
One word that sets us apart is that we have a CHILD CENTRIC approach. Every decision we take is centered around one question ‘Is this in the best long-term interest of the student.’

8.Which features of the Institution do parents value the most?
Nature provides a blueprint for each child’s potential development and we make sure that their uniqueness is celebrated and potential reached.

9.What are the main principles and philosophies you promote at the Institution? (I think question 5 and 9 are the same)
Education that values
Wisdom over knowledge
Individual creative thought over rote learning
Aspiration over ambition
Spirituality over religion
A united world over a divided one

10.How do you get children to do their best academically?
We use the basis of what neuroscience tells us about the way the brain best learns and absorbs information and use these to underpin our instructional design process on. Findings such as teaching concepts using visual, auditory and kinesthetic strategies, giving the mind a connection between what is being taught as a concept to the reason why the brain needs to know it; for example teaching the concept of endothermic and exothermic reaction to self-heating cans. Making connections between disciplines. For example teaching ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ across disciplines; for example – the history of chocolate – the geography of where cocoa beans grow and mapping this – the branding of chocolate from Godiva to Cadbury. The entrepreneurship of chocolate from borrowing capital needed, to production and packaging – the English of chocolate … creating jingles – the art of chocolate …wrapper designs to marketing collaterals etc.

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11.Which other areas of education and extracurricular activities are you developing?
We believe in holistic development and therefore we have a sports and performing arts program, where children pick one sport and one performing art for the year and they showcase what they have learnt at our annual day and sports day. Apart from what is done through the curriculum, entrepreneurship is constantly encouraged throughout the schools in events like Business Baazigar.

Self development is encouraged and practiced by all, including students, teachers, leadership and ancillary staff. Everyone cares about everyone and is championing and encouraging everyone to be the best they can possibly be. The staff and students feel equally accountable for student outcomes and achievements.

12.What is the best thing about leading your institution?
I am a creative person and enjoy working towards creating new learning tools for children and leading my institute gives me the freedom to do so. I also never get bored as every day throws up new challenges and opportunities. I also get to keep learning, growing and expanding. I wear different hats every day, from that of a creator, business woman, brand strategist, speaker, teacher, coach!

13.How do you make the most of everything that the Institution’s location has to offer?
We create awareness by various mediums of local marketing and our trademark interactive events for schools and children in the vicinity.

14.What unique features make your institution stand out from the rest?

We are the ONLY brand that creates curriculum for three education Boards viz: ICSE, IGSCE CBSE. For our Primary school curriculum, we adopt best practices from all of these, and allow parents to make an informed choice about Board alignment in Grade 5. We have a large 80+ team of instructional designers and we never stop researching, designing and innovating.

15.What would be your future plans for the Institution?
We are in an expansive mode. We are targeting all key metros and tier 1 & 2 cities to set up our chain of institutes. We have also expanded internationally in 4 other countries.

16.What are the main trends in education that you are seeing at the moment?
The biggest and the most crucial change I see coming is the digitization of education.

17.How has the teaching learning process changed from or a decade ago to now? How do you / the school meet the current needs of student?
Kangaroo Kids Education Limited (KKEL) rejects the idea that a uniform learning experience is good enough for all children. Instead, at KKEL the focus is on customizing learning, keeping in mind that each child is unique and learns differently. It imparts a holistic education based on a path breaking model which has the following pivotal underpinnings:

Learner Centric – learning makes greater sense as a lifelong process and we realize the importance of developing a ‘quest for learning’ in children. KKEL seeks to nurture this love for learning and provide children with opportunities to experience the joy of learning.

Research Based Curriculum – The schools that we attended emphasised knowing the right answers to predictable questions. It may have worked for us but it will not prepare our children for the future they face.

Superior Quality Standards – To ensure Superior Quality Standards, the KKEL Operations Department has a School Improvement Team. This department is responsible on an ongoing basis to identify initiatives to continually improve the quality of KKEL’s methods, outcomes and people.

18.What are the key challenges that you go through as a Principal / school leader and How do you overcome these?
The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur in the education industry is that our government interferes at various levels. We pay commercial rents however we are expected to give into the RTE act. They want institutions to pay teachers according to the sixth pay commission, however on the other hand they also want to regulate fees.

19.What are the main challenges for education as a whole in the future?
Our schools continue to focus on left brain skills like mathematical, analytical, and mechanical abilities that are being rapidly replaced by Google, machines, and technology and as parents we continue to value and perpetuate that focus, we Indians may end up as the back office of the Western world. I meet scores of Indian students who are brilliant academically and yet will struggle to make it big once they’re out of school.
The criterion for success has changed. We have moved from a Knowledge Age to the Creative Age. Simply ‘knowing things’ does not serve any purpose. We have Google to perform that task now. Getting 100 percent in a written paper is of no use if the child is unable to apply this knowledge in daily life. The schools and parents have to work together to ensure that the child turns into a learner for life.

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20.How are you equipping your students for future success?
The future is uncertain and the only thing that will help our current generation is creativity and the attitude to adapt. Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.

Our instructional design is based on learning themes which include activities and the development of skills ranging from remembering and understanding, to applying, analysing, evaluating and creating.

21.Tell us about your institute. How do you plan to build on the success of your institute’s long presence?
Technology has become an integral part of our life and the same will apply to the education industry as well. In the near future children will be using i-pads with all their lesson plans loaded on them and will submit their assignments online. Things will move to a paperless system and technology will play a very important role.

As we know the next big thing in the world of education is technology, we have already started working towards digitizing our system

22.What untrodden paths you took to write your success story?
When we started in 1993 we faced a world of resistance from everyone in the field of education. We started with very few students as most parents did not understand this new style of teaching and learning, however when parents saw the results we grew leaps and bounds. That is a perception challenge.

23.What would be your ideal Institution environment, and how would you encourage that kind of culture?
An Ideal institution is where each child thrives. An environment that helps develop the whole child – academically, socially, emotionally and physically is the need of the hour.

A great school is one in which children are confident, engaged and happy. Children should feel that they belong to the school and that the school belongs to them; they should have a sense of ownership and pride. When you walk through the corridors of Billabong High our children’s faces, their chatter and laughter will reflect this. Children are visibly extending their learning outside the walls of classrooms and schools and demonstrate this in functional tangible ways (e.g.- plastic free zone, raising money for ancillary staff children education , authoring, scripting, choreographing)

24.What is your philosophy of leadership?
I do the dreaming and the visioning and communicate these with as much inspirational energy I can muster. I then give plenty of space and room for the team to execute and implement. There is a saying by Bill Bernach “A dream can turn into dust or magic depending on the talent that rubs against it”… I look for individuals who share my passion and purpose and trust them to be the magic.

25.Your advice to students reading this article.
Students should create a vision document for themselves. Where do you see yourself at the age of 25. This should include all areas of your life. What will you be doing, eating, seeing, experiencing, enjoying, working on, transforming. Now look at what you are doing today. What actions, decisions are you taking today? Will these give us what you want at the age of 25? If not you can do one of two things. Change the vision of where you are at 25 or Chart out all the things you would need to do to get there and measure where you are currently and change actions and decisions to be able to reach your 25 year old vision of yourself.

 

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