Growing up in Africa, Dr Peter McLaughlin, headmaster of the Doon School realised how critical education is for raising free and prosperous societies. “I saw hunger for education and people who were denied that because of political elites. It was sort of exclusive. It bothered me and developed a burning sense of justice inside me,” says the headmaster, who is in the city to meet prospective parents about the school’s specialist approach to education.
The resaon behind coming to Hyderabad, he says, is to rekindle the vision that the school was set up with. “For a while we centred a lot in the North. But we have had students from Hyderabad in the past and we want that strand to sustain in the school’s DNA since they add a lot of value,” he says. The school also has a student house called Hyderabad House. “Doon’s association with Hyderabad dates back to the Nizam ‘s time who were donors,” points Peter. Mukarram Jah, the eighth Nizam of Hyderabad was an alumnus.
Advice to educators
Peter, who was in the field of business before pursuing his love for History, was keen on telling others about the subject. He went on to get a post doctoral degree in the same and now as an educator pushes for quality. He says principals and teachers should adapt a growth mindset. “We have to move from just scoring marks because, we have to be able to apply what we learn,” he says. Quoting the Global Innovation Index where India dropped 10 places and is currently in the 76th place, Peter says we have to learn to compete to move forward economically and strive to become a super power. This can happen only when stress is laid on overall development which begins at the school level. “If a child is not able to collaborate with his team members, how can we expect them to collaborate with his or her colleagues? If a child does not understand the idea of debt, how we could get into it and how to get out of it, how will he or she understand how to deal with it?” he questions.
Adapting the classroom
Peter says with the advent of technology and the available resources, redesigning school’s curriculum is not a difficult task. “At Doon, we tell teachers there is no sports curriculum or classroom curriculum. Everything a student does at school is curriculum and it needs to be valued that way,” shares Peter. The many student clubs in the school, like the entrepreneurs club for instance teaches them how to budget their expenses. “It is ensured that they are on a level-playing field and then they are taught how to take care of what they have,” he explains. He points out that schools need nothing more than a broadband connection to replicate ideas like these and hence promote overall learning among students. “You can create a virtual space if not a real space. We are just lucky to have a physical space as huge as that,” he quips.
Established in 1935, Doon School is known for its egalitarian ethic that encourages children from all backgrounds. “The mission is to be an all-India school. It was set up in West Bengal with a hope that boys from all over the country would come. But it had to be closed down because only Bengali boys joined,” explains Peter, who has been the headmaster since the year 2009.