In Conversation with Dr. V. Binumon

Staff Report

Dr. V Binumon had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a police officer but was instead steered into a career in education on his insistence. His initial reservations and apathy quickly gave way to a lifelong passion for teaching when he came face to face with the curiosity, appetite, and vigor of students at a government school he was sent to for training as part of a module of his degree.

He started out his career as a guest lecturer at a university, and made quick strides after joining a CBSE school as a senior secondary teacher where he was quickly promoted to senior secondary headmaster. He would soon take on the responsibilities of Vice Principal, Principal, and Academic Director, start the first education consultancy in South India before making his way to Kuwait and serving as the Indian Community School of Kuwait’s (ICSK) Principal and Senior Administrator.

His meteoric rise in school administration is not the most impressive thing about the National Award winning educator. What makes him so compelling is his commitment to never stop learning. Apart from a PhD in Education, Dr. Binumon has Masters Degrees in subjects ranging from Zoology to Psychology, Political Science and Business Administration, along with a host of diplomas and certified courses in diverse topics. He is currently pursuing a degree in Law and believes that with time and effort, everything is possible.

Dr. Binumon never gives up on the opportunity to learn different things as, “Learning diverse subjects has the benefit of bringing about different mind-sets.” He hopes to instil this same passion for learning in his students and shares that the secret to inspiring students is being a good model. What sets the inspirational teachers apart from those that fail to leave an imprint on students’ lives is whether or not they have led by example. Teachers, he stresses, should exhibit the behaviour, character, and qualities they wish their students to emulate.

Despite his several posts and appointments, Dr. Binumon is critical of the Indian education system. He shares his opinion that no radical change has been witnessed in the field in the last ten years, and while change is needed, there is a lack of initiative to make it happen. “The Boards measure the memory of the child instead of testing the knowledge”, he stated, bemoaning the fact that rote learning still remains endemic to the teaching and learning process with an antiquated colonial ethos holding our institutions in place. “The subject content from Grade 1 to 12 is all connected with life but the current system fails to make it relevant to the students.” This disconnect, he remarks, is a grave tragedy.

The biggest change seen in the students’ lives today is the connectivity afforded by the internet, the ubiquity of electronic devices and the widespread adoption of social media. While the promise of intellectual growth is touted as the great benefit in the information age, Dr. Binumon warns that several other aspects are being neglected. “True values-based education stands on four pillars of physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development.”

Parental engagement, he informs, is also waning. “Parents today are of the opinion that if they put their children in a good school, their responsibilities are over,” The family plays the major role in a child’s development and in the present nuclear family setup, the responsibilities are even greater. Dr. Binumon feels that parents aren’t as sacrificial, “I am giving everything, is a phrase commonly used by parents. It is a very materialistic framing. The child should feel that the parents are investing time in him or her, and not just money. We should understand that giving everything is not parenting.” He urges parents to say no to their children instead of indulging them, and encourages them to provide them challenges for growth.

Having spent time in both India and Kuwait, Dr. Binumon highlighted a few differences between Indian students here and back home along some parameters. Firstly, as students in the Middle East are mostly not adept in vernacular languages, they develop strong English speaking skills. But he shares that they cannot be deemed good communicators as there is a gap in areas of non-verbal communication. On the other hand, while students in India who do not go to CBSE or international schools, may lag behind in English language proficiency, they are often multi-lingual and possess other strengths.

Students in India, Dr. Binumon opines, are more determined to overcome challenges. While children here are insulated from hardships and not exposed to different environments, often living monotonous lives. He suggests that it is easier to misguide children who grow up here as they are less emotionally stable. Children in India, he adds, display higher emotional intelligence, physical fitness, and spiritual quotient. He also observes more consumption of junk food and less exercise among students here.

“Most people think that the examination mark is the criteria to achieve success. But I don’t agree with this.” He shared that back-benchers catch up with the rank holders in life. Success is neither subject to examination scoring nor exclusive to careers in medicine or engineering. “We put pressure on kids to learn things they have no interest in and pursue a career they have no aptitude for, and wonder why they are unsuccessful. Children should attain success through their own ambitions and interest.”

He shared that as competition is bound to only get fiercer in the future, students need to develop self-confidence which only comes through experiencing different things, being a team player, taking up leadership roles and practicing communication skills. Extra-curricular activities that provide such opportunities should not be neglected.

Of the approximately 50,000 Indian students in Kuwait, 8000 are sitting board exams. He advises students to not consider examinations as a test. In order to eliminate fear, they should be treated as a celebration. Students must understand that they have studied something, be it 30% or 80% of the portion. He warns against negative self-talk or thoughts of failure and urges the practice of positive affirmation. Parental support is also crucial in this regard, keeping comments positive near the examination.

Time management is another important component during examinations. Children are not super computers and their studies and revisions should be planned out knowing that they cannot process everything in their mind. A good timetable leading up to examinations leads to an organised set up in the mind without pressure.

Dr. Binumon recommends tackling a model exam a day prior to the examination to get over nerves and encourages six to eight hours of sleep the night before to ensure utmost recollection, meditating with positive visualisations of a successfully attempted paper before bed and first thing in the morning.

Blessings from parents, a good breakfast, and quiet revision on the journey to the examination centre are good practices to follow along with absolutely no discussion of the question paper after the exam so as not to impact the next.

While ongoing training is important for good results in every profession it is crucial for teachers. Without this, he shares, they will be stuck in the same rhythm and expected changes will not happen. He reveals that teachers who have been in the field for long can become unchallengeable and closed off to change. But the best teachers are those who go to the classroom even after decades of experience behind them and treat each day as their very first.

Dr. Binumon points to several new initiatives in the works, from the implementation of Association of Chartered Certified Accountants course started in the school, to plans of bringing IGNOU courses to the campus with special batches for female students, entrance coaching centres for medicine and engineering and a host of cultural activities to bolster the confidence of students and encourage curiosity through enjoyment.

India will soon be the biggest centre in terms of human resource and in a position to meet the challenges of the world economy, he shares. The young need to be equipped with the required technical and vocational skills to provide the necessary human inputs and so Indian education has a great role to play in all of this and a lot of ground to cover.