Education Stalwarts 2021 | Panchami Manoo Ukil, School Leader & Vice Chairperson of The DN Wisdom Tree Global School | Leaders in Education

Panchami Manoo Ukil, School Leader & Vice Chairperson of The DN Wisdom Tree Global School, one of the top Leaders in Education is with EducationToday sharing her experience.

I grew up in Bhubaneswar, Odisha in the 70’s and 80’s. I received my early education from St. Joseph’s Convent which was one of the few English medium schools of that time. This stint in a convent school set the tone to skills of language and discipline, and also facilitated a strong sense of discipline. At the age of eight, I was sent to Maharani Gayatri Devi (MGD) School in Jaipur in Rajasthan, one of the premier residential-cum-day boarding institutions of that time. My father who was an IAS officer, was deeply aspirational about his children’s education. Even though a government officer’s remuneration was hardly enabling for the fees of a premier institution, my father’s burning desire to give me the best possible education made it possible through a lot of sacrifices by the family.

I owe a lot of my skills and persona to the multi-faceted education that I received in MGD. As a child from a middle-class family of a small town, MGD was the opening of a new world. It was a journey of transformation through enriching experiences, most of which I hold intimately in my heart as I set out to make a difference to the education space in my state. After schooling, I graduated in Economics and went on to do a post-graduation in Economics from Utkal University where I topped the batch and was awarded a gold medal. Subsequent to this, I began coaching fresh graduate students for the entrance test to the newly opened Xavier Institute of Management (XIMB). I also conducted tuitions in Economics, Political Science and English for students pursuing graduation.

The biggest lesson learnt during my formative years came from my upright and disciplinarian father who firmly believed that one had to earn everything in life through honesty, diligence and hard work. No short-cuts were allowed even though he was an influential bureaucrat of the state. Over the decades, practising this lesson has ensured my siblings and myself a life of utmost dignity and self-confidence.

My foray into the education sector was not planned even though there was always a vision of translating the MGD experience for children after I noticed the gaps in the education system when my daughter went to school. While the concept of “holistic education” is common jargon today, there is hardly any honest attempt at imparting an all-round education that fundamentally hinges on transformational learning as opposed to instructional and informational learning. In order to implement this mode, we, at The DN Wisdom Tree Global School, Bhubaneswar, have enhanced the learning experience through a system of mentoring in place of teaching, by which children are gently mentored on the lesson paths and then given the independence to imagine, create, deduce and solve by using their critical thinking skills. Also, life-skills and value education including anchorage in our age-old roots of wisdom are an integral part of the curriculum. To prepare this special curriculum and its related pedagogy, we sought the advice of senior experts in the field who guided us to prepare and execute this unique system of creating independent thinkers and learners. Since this system was novel and completely different from the prevalent system of instructional teaching and rote, it took us a while to convince parents of its efficacy but after realising the transformation in their children, our parents with their whole-hearted support are the biggest affirmations of our vision and our best brand ambassadors.

As an institution that imparts learning, we wholeheartedly recognise the uniqueness of each child and endeavour to gently nurture, nourish and polish these inherent qualities towards excellence. I firmly believe that this global era is the multi-skilled. Hence, to create a successful global citizenry for the future, we have adopted a happy synthesis of core academics along with a vast array of co-scholastics that enable children to familiarise themselves with various skill options while pursuing mastery over their core competencies. Children are inspired to compete with themselves and continuously improve their own capabilities rather than be burdened by unhealthy competition that kills their innate effervescence. This is where The DN Wisdom Tree Global School benchmarks the learning landscape in the state of Odisha.

I believe that a spirit of joy is the best starting point for any journey in life. I derive joy from the smallest things in life, be it trees, flowers, birds, books, art, children, food, friends etc. Being joyous and living in the present is the greatest mantra for a fulfilling life. Joy, therefore, is the driving spirit behind the ethos of our institution as we mentor children towards excelling, while empathy is the fount from which emanates this joy. Facilitating a joyful ambience for mentors, children and parents through caring, sharing, understanding, collaborating, facilitating and empowering with freedom is my constant endeavour. With green ethics ensconced in the core of our philosophy, our children are guided towards affection and concern for the environment in order to bring home to them the wisdom of respecting the interconnectedness of the universe.

As an amateur birdwatcher, wildlife photographer and conservationist, I have been featured in Sanctuary Asia’s special edition on “Women in our Wilds”, as well as in Discovery Travel & Living’s programme on Odisha. I have been a University rank holder in Plus II, Graduation and Post-Graduation. The DN Wisdom Tree Global School, Bhubaneswar, has been the humble and grateful recipient of several reputed awards for “Upcoming School” by Education Today, National School Awards and others.

I wouldn’t be where I am in this sacred space of education if it had not been for the unstinting faith and support of the visionary Chairman of The DN Wisdom Tree Global School, Shri Jagadish Prasad Naik. As a leader and as a friend, he has always given me the freedom to experiment and execute and it is this freedom that empowers me with tireless wings. Poetess, author, icon of women’s empowerment and my friend, Ratnamala Swain has been a driving force, nudging me and prodding me to bring out any latent potentials that I may be holding within myself. My team of Swagatika Dash, Suneeta Mohanty, R K Pradhan, Linku Dalai, Sanghamitra Mishra, Swagateeka Mohanty, Sanjay Bakshi, Sanjay Samal, Sudhanshu Palai, Tapas Barik and the bubbling enthusiastic mentors and support staff are my backbone and anchors who translate my vision with commitment, dedication and intensity. To all of these enablers in my life, I owe endless gratitude.

Educators are foremost nation-builders. I have always believed that a roomful of educators is way more powerful than a roomful of world leaders. Let’s accept this power with humility and gratitude and use this power with kindness and with the right intent of giving the best that is within us towards educating our children. For it is within us to ensure a better world through the children we nourish and nurture in our temples of learning.

Do check out experiences shared by our top 50 leaders in education. All of the Leaders in education who have shared their experience with us have been motivating and life changing.

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