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The ABC of success

K.P. Gopalakrishna, the principal feared by students and parents alike, is actually quite charming



K.P. Gopalakrishna: `I don't have any social life beyond my schools.' — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

HOW MANY 22-year-olds decide to start a school? And end up being one of the first to introduce a new concept of education in the city? Certainly very few. K.P. Gopalakrishna, Chairman and Founder of NPS Group of schools, after a two-year stint as an organiser in Gandhi Smaraknidhi, and six months with the LIC, with just Rs. 975 in his pocket, started his first school in Rajajinagar way back in 1958.

The first private CBSE school in Bangalore was started by renting a large three-storied building for Rs. 130 per month. He began with 165 students, which went up to 300 the following year. Leading book houses offered him books and the cane furniture came from Central Jail. And there has been no looking back since then.

For someone who has earned himself a reputation for being cranky and aloof, Dr. Gopalakrishna is quite charming. As he explains with a disarming smile: "When you are hassled by parents and people in power for seats, that is the cloak you need to wear."

Why did he choose this field? "My subject is education and I have always been interested in the field. Besides, when I started the school, there were not many English medium schools around."

Since his first school, he has set up one in Chennai, two more in Bangalore, besides two international schools. One of these has now become an autonomous institution.

"I don't have any social life beyond my schools. Besides, my wife also works in the same field. Together we have managed to achieve our goals. She would take care of the academics so that I could concentrate on the administration. Without her support and inspiration, it would have been very difficult. As for the funds, my needs are very limited, we keep ploughing back the surplus into the schools," says Dr. Gopalakrishna, who puts in 18 hours of work a day.

He has always preferred academic merit to financial and is very strict when it comes to admissions.

"I have one basic policy. I will not accept donations or capitation fees. That is the reason I never ventured to set up institutions for higher education."

He feels Indian higher education has a lot of catching up to do if it needs to match standards abroad. "Basic education up to the secondary level, in all institutions, be it India or abroad, is the same. Only the method of approach and handling of the curriculum varies. People call our system as rote learning. I disagree. Our students have proved otherwise through their success abroad. Besides, any success involves hard work and commitment. But the quality of our university education, barring IITs and a few others, is not up to the mark."

School kids nowadays face more pressures than even before and Dr. Gopalakrishna prefers diplomacy to the stick. "It does not work if you tell a child what to do and not to do, she has to make that decision herself. We explain the hazards to our children and create the atmosphere for them to take the right decision."

NANDHINI SUNDAR

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