‘Be what you are, Do what you can’, a self-confident go getter, N.K. Ramachandran Menon

Reshmy Krishnakumar
Friday, December 15, 2017

He believes, ‘No one can influence anyone’.
He believes, ‘I can only be me and it is true for everyone else’.
He believes, ‘If I try to be like someone else, then my identity is lost’.

Meeting a successful visionary, a personality with positivity around, is always an energy booster to anyone. IIK team is extremely happy and grateful for the time he spent with us, sharing his thoughts and vison.

IIK: There was a time when N.K. Ramachandran Menon was known as a bank employee and a hardworking businessman. A shift from a banker, businessman, to an educationalist. How do you see that transition?

NKR: It is pure destiny. I was working in NBK and at the same time engaged in various business activities in Kuwait, making use of the God given 24 hours to the maximum. My plan was to retire at the age of 60, go back to Kerala and lead a peaceful life in some Ashram. But I had to resign from NBK. I was not comfortable in a job and wanted to do something different and thought of starting a school as per my concepts. Those who know me warned that I am shifting into a wrong field. A person, who as a parent, never went for a parent teachers meeting of his own children is starting a school was a bit risky job as per them.

IIK: And what was your call on it?

NKR: As a person who has a clear concept of what a school should be, and how the teachers and management should be, to opt for my own children, the point was clear. When I start a school for the children of parents like me, it should be exactly the same and should meet with all my requirements as a parent; it was as simple as that.

IIK: Why it was ‘Bhavan’ and not any other group for that matter?

NKR: Bhavan’s group is famous for its vision to spread our values to the new generation and my concept of a school was matching with them. The name “Bhavan” itself gave us 1300 students in the first year itself and I’m happy that I have done justice to that.

IIK: Tell us more about the journey with Bhavan’s family?

NKR: Even though I had a wish to start a school, I never approached anyone. On the previous day of my return from a short vacation, I just walked in to the Bhavan’s office in front of my daughter’s office at Ernakulam. I was not even having a formal proposal. Our metro man’s brother E. Govindan was the Director then. He told me give in written whatever was my idea while having a school under Bhavan’s family in Middle East. He promised me to present it at the board meeting in Mumbai. I penned down my concepts and arranged to hand it over to him and came back to Kuwait. Even though I got consent from them, I could not find a proper building. By the time I got the present IES building in 2006, the validity of the agreement was over. I had to put papers afresh, for some reason it was not happening. Then I decided to approach another group for the school and got their approval. But again everything happened in such a way that it was my destiny to spread the glory of Bhavan in Middle East. If I continued working at NBK and had a normal retirement, may be BVB Middle East would never have happened.

IIK: The name ‘Bhavan’ has got a credibility and trust with regard to the quality education. Do they have any follow up policy to ensure that Bhavan’s Middle East is also in line with them?

NKR: They help us with the CBSE approvals and affiliations etc. It is not a follow-up and audit mechanism that drives our relationship with the Bhavan Trust; it is the guarantee and confidence they gained in me through all these years. They are aware of the well satisfied student, parent and teaching community of my schools, which voices that my schools are in line with the Bhavan’s vision and mission.

IIK: Was that your vision again to introduce day boarding system at Bhavan’s Kuwait?

NKR: Anything you see in Bhavan’s Middle East is purely my vision. In Kuwait a child in LKG class is made to study for just 3 or 4 hours at school. Rest of the day he either sleeps at home or is left with gadgets, television or computer games. Instead, we should tell them at this age that education is not a joke and to be someone in life he / she should work hard. To instill this concept in a child when he reaches 5th or 6th grade would be difficult and if he / she does not understand this concept, it would be difficult for them to take it forward. Once they are in track, we don’t even have to tell them the importance of studies and hard work.

Whatever is given to a child in their younger age would remain with them forever. That is exactly why our generation still remembers the Math tables till 22 or 24. For us to add up a list of numbers written, our mind calculates just as we move our fingers down the list and it would be accurate as a calculator. This capacity is wasted by letting little kids at home with gadgets and television. I believe that a student at this younger age should be made to be active and busy to the maximum, with studies and other activities. Then whatever comes in his way won’t be a trouble for him to get through. When they are left free till 7th grade and all of a sudden they are put into pressure of high school with grades, marks, assignments etc., especially in 10th and 12th, how can we expect them to tolerate or overcome it? So, at their younger age, when it is the time for the kids to study and realize the importance of studies in life, let them do that.

IIK: How smooth was the acceptance of such timings?

NKR: Difficulties were there. The school timing followed here by all other schools for last so many years was challenged by introducing the day boarding system in BVB Kuwait. There were many who commented that it was too much for children to study till 3PM. Parents were doubtful on how the kids would take it. But we were able to convince them. Even if the parents feel that their children are taking much pressure on studies or other activities, we assure them that they are capable of taking it. We tell them to be with the kids and let them work hard and let them face it. My doors are open for parents, students or teachers. Personally I’m happy that I could convey and convince this concept to majority of the parent community and they could feel the change.


IIK: What is your priority in selecting a teacher for your schools? Are they coming from Bhavan’s schools in India or you prefer those who have Kuwait experience?

NKR: It is not easy to get capable teachers. My teachers should be competent enough to give the best for the school and should work in line with the quality of the education that the school offers. So recruiting a teacher from Kuwait who is well aware of the teaching scenario here in general, is not a priority for me. A person who worked as a teacher here for 15 to 20 years and if he / she is still not able to prepare a standard question paper, then what is the point of taking him / her on a high pay scale? I would even prefer to hire a fresher from India whom I feel competent enough. The teachers are clearly told about the concept of our school, how it works, the timings, the pressure they might have to take, etc.; and they are happy to stand with my vision. A teacher from other schools of Bhavan’s in India come to our school in Middle East as a secondment. They have to go back after helping us out for a maximum of three years.

IIK: Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan has got any schools in other part of the world?

NKR: No. Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan is a trust which stands for the reintegration of our culture and they have such cultural and language centers in countries like Singapore, US, UK, Australia etc. Our people got settled in different countries and follow their respective educational system. Still, they wish to keep safe our traditional values, art and culture, close to heart. Bhavan’s centers help them to fulfill their wish and consequently the response for such centers abroad are commendable.

In Middle East, the scenario is different. One day, anyway, we have to go back to our homeland and majority of our kids leave to India for higher studies. Thus we need Indian schools here to follow our educational system. As far as Bhavan’s Middle East is concerned, which comes under my management, we have art, culture and various excellence centers along with the regular schools, spread over Middle East.

IIK: Today, education is a competitive industry and you have certain values you stick on to; how do you strike the balance? Any inevitable compromises that you had to do?

NKR: It is absolutely true. Compromises are inevitable to strike the balance. For example, when quality is to be maintained, I cannot fill my classes with 40 or 50 students for a single teacher to manage. For 40 students I have to have 2 divisions, at least, with 2 teachers and all other allied facilities. My expense goes double which is a compromise on my income. Otherwise I have to compromise on the quality. But when I decide to be happy with what I get, there ends the importance of the word ‘compromise’.

IIK: You said you never attended the PTMs for your children. But do you feel any difference that makes a PTM important these days?

NKR: When I know my children very well than anyone else, why should I meet and talk to someone else to know where my kids stand. Those days we as parents had enough time to spend with our children and the relationship was comparatively easier than today’s world. Today also parents may feel that they know their children very well. I agree; but now with both the parents working, there are chances for them to miss out something with regard to the matter of understanding their children. Children spend more time with the teachers and this makes it easy for the teachers to identify the changes in them. These days it is always beneficial to attend parent teachers meeting and give an ear to what their teachers got to say.

IIK: While managing such a large group of people with different characters, what is your technique of handling problems?

NKR: I don’t have a special procedure ready for troubleshooting. Rather, I don’t care about the kind of problems that may arise. You anticipate something negative to happen, and then, what if they appear before you in a different form than expected? In that case your time and energy spent on contemplating a solution are wasted, right? We should not anticipate any problems in our life. Let the problems appear and then analyze it. Dealt with a peaceful mind, I am sure we will be able to find a solution. This is applicable to me, be it with schools or in life. Live the moment and be happy.

IIK: You wanted to land up in an Ashram life and you are nowhere near that; not even in near future. How do you feel now?

NKR: My father was working here in Kuwait. As one among the six kids of our parents, mine was an ordinary childhood with all the ingredients of a kid of those times. Even though my father and relatives were there, no treasure was waiting for me here. I am happy and content that my hard work which led me all through these years got paid off. I don’t expect to carry anything back. The motive behind a wish for an Ashram life was to engage myself with activities beneficial to the society. Now, even the summer vacations would glue me to my schools with some or the other work. For me this busy schedule for my schools is equally serene and refreshing as my ever desired Ashram life.

IIK: New academic year is slowly approaching. Last year we got schools in Kuwait and Ajman under Bhavan’s umbrella. Is there any new addition this year?

NKR: It is not a purposeful attempt to add something new every year. Of course in our pursuit to give the best to the society we land up with something new without any gap. Bhavan’s Middle East includes ten schools, as of now, including the upcoming one in Deira Dubai. Formalities are completed, land has been acquired, and the infrastructure is getting ready. It is expected to be functional by 2019. Also, by next year, we are going to start the Indian Institute of Teacher Education (IITE), in Abu Dhabi targeting Indian community in UAE with a vision in line with IITE Gujrat. A good teacher is the one who can influence and nurture the coming generation in its right path. Indian Institute of Teacher Education (IITE), the brainchild of Sri Narendra Modi, was established in Gujrat in the year 2010, offering B.Ed integrated Bachelors and Masters Degree Courses. His vision was to build a platform to craft world class teachers. This year we are also appointing teachers from those qualified from IITE Gujrat.

IIK: What can we expect in Kuwait now?

NKR: As of now nothing new under Bhavan’s umbrella. IES is in its full swing. Smart Indian School has gained its momentum. The nursery schools and all other institutions are also going great. This academic year I am in a supportive role to someone who is venturing into the educational field. In my life I have never planned for anything; it all happened, and let us see.

IIK: You mean you are going to be part of another educational venture other than BVB?

NKR: To be with a person, lending a hand with the background of my experience in this field, gives a good feel. On a lighter note, now I know what ‘N K Ramachandran Menon’ is ‘with Bhavan’. This new opportunity is providing me a chance to know how / what is ‘N K Ramachandran Menon’ without Bhavan.



IIK: That’s an interesting perspective. What you have to tell an aspiring parent seeking admission to BVB Kuwait?

NKR: At my schools, your kids are guaranteed the best in the country. This I can assure because I look in to each and every thing personally; be it an academic issue or a concern call on school bus being late to pick the kid. My day begins at 4am and the routine includes compulsory monitoring of the interaction between teachers and parents through school mails. Each and every mail is checked and evaluated so that I personally know what is happening at my school with my teachers, children and their parents. This helps me to ensure that the corrective measures are taken. Their studies and co-curricular activities are well balanced. The opportunities for an integral development are also maintained. Kids are exposed to talks by eminences from all career strata so that they are aware of the choices around them. This helps them to have firsthand information on what he / she can do to the society, being in a particular profession.

IIK: To conclude with, what would be your message to the community?

NKR: Be with your kids at least for half an hour a day without any reason. Listen to them. Talk to them. Just ask them even trivial questions related to class. Ask them what the colour of your teachers’ dress was. May be the child was not aware of it on that day. But the next day they will observe it and will come and tell you. Develop such a feedback system which leads to an effective communication and bonding between the child and the parents. Also allow them to mingle with your family friends. Don’t send them inside when someone visits your home. Let them see people and be observant and learn to differentiate people. Such experience will develop a self-support and awareness system for them later and when they go back to India for higher studies, they will be able to easily understand people, understand their motive and safe guard themselves from unhealthy groups. Giving assistance and guidance to our children is good, but when it is at an extreme level, the purpose is lost. Let them be part of your decision making. It is our responsibility to make them independent, and face world with confidence.

IIK team is grateful for your valuable time and thoughts you shared. We wish you all the very best for your future ventures.

Reshmy Krishnakumar is working with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) as Research Assistant. Having done her post-graduation in Statistics, she worked as lecturer at St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, until her relocation to Kuwait. As a freelance writer, she is contributing to various magazines, blogs, and websites. Her passion includes classical dance, writing poems in Malayalam and Hindi. She is a member of the Writers’ Forum, Kuwait and the Indian Women In Kuwait (IWIK)
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Express your comment on this article

 
FAIYAZ A.A.POPERE
Monday, March 12, 2018
Thanks for introducing this great personality. He changed the way the schools in Kuwait works! Bhavans gave a new definition to schooling in Kuwait.
Sir I have suggestion student fees payment if on line payment its good for us .


Rashmi Rakesh
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Mr. Ramachandran Sir is a great personality. As a teacher what I'm now is only because of his influence , guidance on me.
I wish to be with BVB family again.
Rashmi Rakesh

Ramachandran
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Marcos, You are right. I was with Gulf bank. We worked together. The process for changing my line of activities from Banking to Education started immediately after I left NBK and my association with Bhavans started much before I joined Gulf Bank. Bhavans not emerged in a day because I got a building or a partner. It took almost 6 years to shape. Nice hearing from you. Please keep in touch. Ram

Markos Williams
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Ramachandran the educationist says there wouldn’t be Bhavan’s if he hadn’t left NBK. I remember him working in Gulf Bank after he left NBK . Wonder why the inconsistency!

Shekhar
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Thanks for introducing this great personality. He changed the way the schools in Kuwait works! Bhavans gave a new definition to schooling in Kuwait.

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