English is a major international language and the ability to read fluently in English is a life skill that is crucialto academic success and to participate in the global arena.However, for several reasons, Indian children are trailingbehind in their ability to read and comprehend English. Wecan no longer ignore that. A child who doesn’t read at gradelevel expectancy by class 4 will never catch up.
According to Kavish Gadia, CEO, Stones2Milestones, “It is our goal to change this even for children in a non-English environment. We want to make learning to read, a conscious design of curriculum. The focus is on enabling the skill to make reading easy and also on developing the will to make reading enjoyable. As the window for this intervention is from age three to age nine, we integrate this programme with the early school curriculum. Besides providing this to schools, we also equip parents to support this growth in their children.”
Gurgaon-based Stones2Milestone’s programmes use effective methodologies such as reading aloud, group work, discussions, reflections and application of understanding through worksheets. These programmes are also offered to schools for using as part of their language and library programmes. In a Facebook Go Live session titled ‘Noble Heart and Able Mind’, Manisha Kanoria Lohia, Founder of iSpark Holistic
Happiness Studio and iSpark E-magazine interacted with Kavish Gadia of Stones2Milestones. Here is a transcript of the session, in the form of an interview, for Business Economics.
Q. I have been very inspired by your work. And since you have chosen the title of this discussion – ‘Noble Heart and Able Mind’, please share your own experiences as you grew up to what you are today.
A. As you rightly said about iSpark’s belief in the holistic development of the body, mind and soul, in my view also, these three aspects are very integrated and guided by each other. The key learning outcome is to blend an able mind with a noble heart. Our own journey is all about creating a change – from the way it was yesterday to the way it will be tomorrow. In my childhood, I have been greatly inspired by my grandfather, a prominent businessman in his small hometown. And he believed in setting aside almost 90% of his time to create a
change in the lives of people around him. This has influenced me a lot and when I started my own venture (2005), my single-minded aim has been on how to create future leaders by providing the right kind of education. They must listen to their heart and follow their heart to make a change in the world and make sure that they do it with absolute ability of mind and belief in themselves.
Q. Having been brought up by your grandparents and living in a joint family has obviously inculcated a lot of societal values in you. Could you elaborate?
A. My maternal grandparents did not have a son. So, my own parents felt an obligation to let me grow up with them so that they could enjoy a son in their midst. Uniquely, I landed up being the only son to my parents. Thereby, I had the love and affection of two sets of parents, and this vastly influenced my life as I grew up. There was a great sense of giving, unconditionally, and all that was spread around were love and affection and the development of the body, mind and soul - with family values. There can never be a better learning
experience than that. As I grew up, I also realised that a noble heart is not just about giving, it is also about getting in touch with your heart to listen to it.
Q. How does family contribute to the growth of one’s body, mind and soul?
A. Largely, it is the blessings that parents and grandparents shower on us that develop our personality. The love and affection as well as the observation of their generous lifestyles - of unconditionally giving all that they can to your own growth and well-being - teaches us to develop relationships with our own loved ones. It is also being true, genuine and frank about what you feel and give.
Q. How do you convey to your students that while technology is required for the present and future, it does hamper the course of real-time education?
A. Human nature is the most unpredictable and difficult to manage. Conquering technology and human nature are two extreme ends of the life experience. Apprehension about technology hampering growth is easy to win over. Once you conquer technology, as a parent and an educator, you will know how to use it to manage human nature. Technology is needed to empower you as a parent and educator. You should learn how to not become a slave to technology. Children will observe keenly about how we are either a slave to technology or use it as a development tool.
Q. How do you attract the best talent to work for you?
A. You do not attract the best talent to your own establishment by paying the fattest pay cheque. If you create the right value systems in the organisation, you will get the right people to fall into the slots to take on responsibilities. First, is to give them an opportunity to own it. Ownership of an activity gives them a sense of responsibility. Second, the line of communication should be authentic and clear, without being ambiguous. Create a culture of authentic communication. Third, is to create a sense of joy of working. This is done by giving a lot of independence to people in how they want to perform their duties - the goal being how to get to the destination by achieving success along the way.
Q. The same applies to children in the education centre. The principles are the same for both adults and children. As a parent what do you cherish most?
A. What I love the most is their questioning nature. Every time they come up with a question, it opens up a kind of Pandora’s Box for me. Recently, my seven-year old son who has seen me as an entrepreneur since he was born, came up to me and said he wanted to start a business. When I asked him what kind of business he would like to start, he said that most people were not eating healthy food and since we were growing organic vegetables in our balcony garden, he wanted to give it to them. When they come up with questions, I set aside everything else and try to address their queries.
Q. What are the three fundamental values which you feel you have lived your life with?
A. First is the belief systems in which I take extreme ownership. Second is authenticity - being authentic to my inner voice, my heart. Third, making today the dream day that I was waiting for – a day of holistic abundance.
Q. What was your inspiration to start Stones2Milestones?
A. When I was working in the corporate world, I lived close to a slum and would observe the slum children whiling away their time. I started spending my weekends with them, reading to them and teaching them simple things in life. These things prompted me to start my own venture when I realised that I can help every child find their place in the world and one of the first missions within that is to create a nation of readers. While I was giving, I was also getting back a life’s experience – learning.