Lucknow-based edupreneur Dr. Sunita Gandhi is a woman of many parts and more ambitions. Currently, she is the founder-principal of City International School (estb. 2007) of the City Montessori Schools (CMS) group, Lucknow; founder of DEVI (Dignity, Education, Vision, International), a not-for-profit NGO promoted in 1992 to provide primary education to children; and designer of the GEMS (Global Education Model of Schooling) system of education which offers contemporary internationally-oriented pedagogy.
Born in Lucknow into the family of celebrated educationists, Dr. Jagdish and Bharti Gandhi, founders of the CMS group, (with an enrollment of 32,114 students CMS is acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the largest school worldwide), Gandhi graduated from Imperial College, London and pressed on with academics to be awarded a Ph D by the blue-chip Cambridge University. In 1989 she was signed up by World Bank (WB) as a consultant ‘young professional’ and economist. Young professionals is a competitively earned highly prized designation offering fast-track career growth within the bank. “After being inducted into the young professionals programme, I immediately focused on education development projects as per the family tradition,” she reminisces.
In 1994 Gandhi achieved her first major breakthrough in education when she played a major role in the promotion of the Global Concepts International School in Prague for the Czech government. In 1998 after quitting the World Bank (she ran into persistent health problems following trips to Kenya and Uganda) she helped launch Iceland’s first two charter schools — Aslandsskoli, an elementary school up to grade VII and Tjarnaras, a pre-school, both in the city of Hafnarfjordur.
After returning to India in 2004 to help out with the administration of the 20 CMS schools spread across Lucknow, Gandhi revived the GEMS education programme which she had conceptualised and developed with a World Bank colleague Dr. Robert J. Saunder in 1994. “One of the features of GEMS is the Brilliant Star assessment system based on continuous evaluation of pupils in early childhood education — upto class II. The main feature of the system is the belief that each child is a star with unlimited growth and development potential. When my parents asked me to return to India to help them with CMS, I was in the midst of experimenting with GEMS in Iceland where it was first piloted. I have continued this work in India,” says Gandhi.
Assisted by over 200 professionals spread across UK, Iceland and India, and after successfully testing the GEMS system on 20,000 children in CMS group schools in Lucknow, Gandhi is all set to roll out the system nationwide and internationally. “We have already received an invitation from the Singapore government to introduce the GEMS system in their schools. In about two years, we should be on the global map. In India, we will be launching a network of franchisees who will be offered brand association and infrastructure as well as the content and training to create and run 21st century schools. School education in India has been in the cocoon stage for much too long, the butterfly must emerge,” says Gandhi.
A consummation devoutly to be wished!
Natasha Pathak (Dehradun)