When I first walked into Vidya Mandir, I was highly skeptical of the place, carrying with me predefined notions of what we referred to in school as “tuitions”. I was a bright child – I’d been studying by myself, without extra guidance, even from a parent – ever since Standard 1, and had done fairly well for myself, being awarded the post of prefect in school, remaining in the top octile of my batch at St. Mary’s and maintaining a strong extra-curricular profile. So what was the need of extra classes? Still, I begrudgingly trudged in, partly because I hadn’t been given a choice, and partly because the child in me was curious about a new experience. The first few classes weren’t surprising. However, as the weeks progressed, I noticed a change in myself as well as my classmates.
I believe that every child has an innate scientific curiosity. When we were very young, we threw a lot of “how’s” and “why’s” at the adults around us, always trying to figure out the workings of the mysterious world we’d been born into. During the early stages, our requests for knowledge were satisfied by willing parents and older family members. However, as the years passed and we were enrolled in school, somehow our curiosity took a backseat to demands for the syllabus being completed in time. Classroom discussions began to pertain solely to the prescribed portion, questions about seemingly unrelated – yet academic – things refused to be entertained by teachers. Learning by rote soon came into the picture and before you knew it, the whole school experience had transformed from a quest for knowledge by eager, thirsty minds to a quest to obtain the highest possible marks, to the exclusion of learning for the love of it – something to be gotten over with quickly so that one could go out and play. This is where Vidya Mandir, and more specifically, Mr. Rohit Sarin came in.
The change I spoke about earlier, that I observed come over my classmates and me, was one that brought back our innocent, innate curiosity for science and mathematics. Learning by rote was out the door, understanding was the new thing now. Of course, there was the awareness of progress with respect to the assigned portion and the syllabus, but we were always told the practical applications and the relevance and importance of what we were studying, in the real world. This made us more eager to actually understand the concepts and apply them, rather than mug matter up and spew it over the examination paper. And for those who didn’t mind putting in a few extra minutes, Mr. Sarin was always more than willing to answer questions – both academic and educationally philosophical – whether they pertained to the syllabus or not. Learning solely for the love of it was encouraged, rather than for maximizing results in the exams. And not surprisingly, this new approach not only enabled students to score better, but actually retain scientific concepts for longer than the duration of the academic year.
Needless to say, my term at Vidya Mandir challenged my preconceived notions of extra classes. It also encouraged me to take another look at the way I perceived education, both in an academic and sociological sense. To this day, when I have a doubt pertaining to my college mathematics, or I simply need direction, I call Mr. Sarin for guidance, and he always helps. I found a willing mentor and rediscovered my love of learning at Vidya Mandir – truly, a “temple of knowledge”.