Kangaroo Kids Founder Lina Ashar Grades Herself In IWB’s Candid Test
- IWB Post
- September 5, 2018
She started out as a teacher in a Mumbai school, and Lina Ashar was amongst the first to introduce the concept of the pre-school in India.
Lina, who was brought up in England and later in Australia, had her prime focus on education from early on.
Surprised to see the narrow scope and redundant approach towards education in India, she set up Kangaroo Kids Preschool in Mumbai. Since then, there was no looking back.
Kangaroo Kids is now an international brand and synonymous to quality education and holistic development of students. There are over 100 schools, which includes Kangaroo Kids Preschool and Billabong International School, across India. They also have branches in Dubai, Maldives, and Qatar.
Lina also extended her experience and expert advice to the parents through her books, ‘Who Do You Think You’re Kidding?: Parenting in the New Age of Digital Revolution and Globalization’ and ‘Drama Teen: A Cool-Headed Guide for Parents and Teenagers.’
Indian Women Blog contacted the expert educationist to discover the secret behind her dynamism and ready-for-life attitude. Excerpts:
I am friendly, confident, mindful, aware of my feelings, curious, ask questions, and is always excited to try new things.
You have studied in England and Australia. And, then you moved back to India and became a teacher. Share with us one experience or incident that made you think of opening a preschool in the country where most people weren’t even acquainted with the concept, at the time?
In 1991, I came to India on a year-long sabbatical from college; while connecting with my roots, I landed up taking a teacher’s job in suburban Mumbai, an experience which changed my life. Back then, the education system in India was still grappling with a straitjacketed approach to education, leaving no scope for an overall development of the child, which was a complete contrast to the milieu of what I had studied. I chose to stay back in India to change the antiquated approach to education which existed then.
Hence, Kangaroo Kids was born in 1993, and the first center was situated in Bandra (W), Mumbai.
Share with us your entrepreneurial face off with patriarchy and how did you defeat it.
Women all over the world grapple with the same challenges. The differences come with access to quality education which leads to financial independence and therefore, greater autonomy in controlling one’s own direction. Women in India differ greatly from region to region because of this difference. The rural woman has hardly any resemblance to the Bombay Times Page 3 women, even though they are both Indian. One has power and control because of the financial independence. While the other is very often a victim of her destiny because of the financial constraints – and I had Education as well as financial independence.
And, these two things can empower a woman like no other!
Being in the teaching profession, what one quality do you think Indian students have which the students in England and Australia lack?
Indian students are very high on aspiration, and they respect and value education.
How did you come up with the name Kangaroo Kids?
Kangaroo is the national animal of Australia, and that’s the country I came from. Kids also get excited seeing a Kangaroo, so ‘Kangaroo Kids’ was the most natural name to keep.
Which part of the Kangaroo Kids Curriculum you had to convince the students’ parents for?
We were the first in the Indian education industry to introduce a learner-centric methodology and innovative ways of learning via integrated and theme based learning. This was new to parents, and initially, there was a lot of resistance. However, when the parents saw the results, they were convinced that this system works.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book, ‘Who Do You Think You’re Kidding?‘
With the medium of my school, I was able to guide parents of our children. However, I wanted to take this knowledge to all parents and beyond our schools. Hence, the idea of writing the book on parenting came along. Even if a handful parents are benefitted, my day is made.
You can get the book here.
Share with us the importance of home learning for kids from your personal experience.
Home learning sets the foundation for learning and instills the habit of working independently. The future is about working without the confined boundaries of school and office. Extending learning at home provides an opportunity to create a bonding routine between the parent and the child. It encourages a constructive approach that doesn’t involve video games and television.
As an educationist, what is the biggest challenge that schools have to face, nowadays, to keep the students engaged and focused?
This is the age of technology, and the information is available at the drop of the hat. So, teaching children in a lackluster manner do not help, they lose interest, and the challenge is to use the curriculum in an innovative and experiential manner which is what we specialize in.
What are the things you would warn budding women entrepreneurs about?
I believe in optimism and, hence, let me share a positive message. The Mantra which I would like to share with women entrepreneurs for attaining success is focus, dedication, determination, innovation, and inspirational leadership skills.
However, due to the patriarchal system of society that we have been brought up in, women need certain additional emphatic qualities like, firm decision-making skills, pragmatic outlook towards enterprise management, and larger risk-taking appetites in order to sustain and succeed their ambitions.
My advice to women entrepreneur is “Chase your dreams! Do not live somebody else’s existence. Make your choices, stand by those choices irrespective of the repercussions and watch those distant dreams turn into a reality.”
Wow, that is truly motivational and something every woman should remind herself every day!
The Westernization of the education system is neglecting the mother tongue, Indian history, and cultural values. Comment.
The problem does not lie with the education system, our country is aping the west. For e.g., lawyers still wear the black robe, the hostesses on the Air India flight give more importance to a white guest, etc. If we take stock of who we are and respect our roots, we will be able to retain our culture.
What steps are taken by the schools towards gender sensitization amongst the students?
We believe that children should be treated equally. Hence, our policies and rules are fixed accordingly. For e.g., in our schools, boys and girls can have long hair, but it needs to be neatly plaited or pinned.
One thing the children of your preschool taught you about life.
Lina: They have taught me how to stay young and energetic, positive, joyful and have reverence for beauty.
Whenever I see a child who would have fallen through the ‘cracks’ in a conventional school, shine in our school, I have a ‘goosebump’ moment.
If you were to grade yourself, what grade would you give for the following: (from 1-10, 1 being the lowest)
- Discipline – 8
- Extra-curricular – 8
- Sharing your tiffin box- 9
- Tech Savvy – 8
One secret your life report card hides about you?
That I am fairly vulnerable.
Your favorite and least favorite subject?
English and least favorite Maths.
Maths… Ugghhh. Least favorite of most kids!
Fondest school memory?
From being an outsider to becoming a class captain in Australia
To know more about Lina Ashar and her work, you may visit the website, here.
This article was first published in October 2017.