New innings

On August 12 Dr. Shayama Chona, the national capital’s most well-known school teacher and iconic principal of the Delhi Public School (R.K. Puram), called it a day after 35 years in education (1975-2009), including 17 years as principal in service of the school which she transformed into one of India’s most respected institutions. In the inaugural EducationWorld Survey of Schools 2007, DPS (R.K. Puram) was ranked India’s No.1 day school (EW September 2007). Subsequently in the next two EW-C fore annual rating and ranking of schools, its overall position slipped to 12 and 9, because of changed assessment parameters. Yet in all these years it has retained its premier all-India position on the parameter of academic reputation (see cover story).

An alumna of the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls School, Jaipur and Rajasthan University, Chona joined DPS in 1975 as a senior teacher and was promoted to the office of principal in 1992. During her long innings she transformed DPS, promoted in 1972, into one of India’s premier schools. In an education career spanning over three decades, Chona has received 50 plus awards including the Padma Bhushan (2008) and Padma Shri (1999) for her singular contributions towards upgrading DPS and Indian education. In her last communication to teachers and students dated August 11, she exhorted them to continue to nurture the institution. “The legacy I have left is of glorious accomplishments and unparalleled accolades. The legacy of being ranked the No.1 school in the country, and one which has become internationally renowned, is one of stunning successes and high performance standards. None of this has been easy. But there are still plenty of surfaces we haven’t even scratched,” she wrote.

Even as she cavils at the changed rating and ranking methodology of C fore which has pushed DPS (R.K. Puram) down the EW league tables, Chona takes enormous pride in the school consistently maintaining its premier position under the parameter of academic reputation. “I regard every student as a would-be topper, every teacher as the best teacher and parents as a great resource for provision of feedback. To this end, we provide students with state-of-the-art classroom, library and lab facilities. This is the formula which has transformed this school into the country’s premier K-12 academic institution,” says Chona.

Post retirement, her first assignment is with the Union ministry of HRD, which has appointed her a member of an advisory group to finalise and implement a public-private scheme announced on August 11, for setting up 2,500 model schools in collaboration with private partners.

Chona’s heart though, is in Tamanna, an NGO she promoted in 1984 to focus on education of special needs children. “I am deeply involved in the cause of disability, and hope to devote my time and energy to improving the lives of disabled children in the country,” she  says.

Chona’s best may be yet to come!

Autar Nehru (Delhi)