Learning to lead by example
Updated on Nov 15, 2018 - 11 a.m. IST by Faizal Khan

The Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet stands tall as a school for the children of jagirdars to a workshop for the world’s future leaders…

The Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet (HPS), which is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year, has the rich legacy of being nurtured by the country’s top leadership. Decades later, the school, in turn, nurtures top leaders for the world. Former Indian President Dr S Radhakrishnan was the first Chairman of The Hyderabad Public School Society, which runs the school. Today, the school has on its alumni roll leaders like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Singh Banga, Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayen, NASA vice president Satish Reddy, former Union HRD Minister Pallam Raju, former Indian cricketer Venkatapathy Raju, cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.

Linking past and present

From its birth in 1923 as a school meant for the children of jagirdars (feudal landowners), the institution has come a long way. Situated on a sprawling campus in the heart of Hyderabad, the school is a training ground for the world’s future leaders. The school maintains strong alumni connect for the current students to benefit from the former students who are global leaders. “There is a collaborative effort between student activities and alumni relations,” explains Amritha Chandra, who heads the English Department. “Current students organise reunions of former students on the school campus and interact with them,” says Chandra. “Student editors get in touch with successful former students for an article in the school magazine,” she adds.

There is a strong emphasis on linking the past heritage of the school with the present for the students to benefit in the future. Former students are often invited to the campus for school events, an inspirational talk or lectures on specific topics. They also pitch in to contribute to the school’s website. Former students write blogs for the school’s website and engage in intense alumni networking, giving advice and direction. “Former students are also invited into campus programming, creating a sustained relationship of engagement and stewardship,” says Chandra.

Inspiring young minds

Nadella visited the school in February last year, spending long hours on the campus and interacting with the students. The Microsoft CEO inaugurated the Turner Library and Ramandeep Kaur Samra Centre for Performing Arts on the campus. He also played cricket with the kids, discussing technology topics like robotics. The school ensures that there is a continuous connect with the former students, who regularly visit the school and even write letters to students. “Much of what I have achieved in the corporate world may be attributed to what I learnt in the classrooms and the cricket grounds at HPS,” a humble Nadella told the students.

The school’s tradition in nurturing leadership is inspiring the young minds in a big way. Says Head Boy, Srinivasa Ikswaja Chelluri, “The innovative approach of our school in catching us young and training us through activities that range from cherishing diverse cultural values, voicing our honest opinion on issues to spending quality time with the aged and the needy have moulded us into strong leaders with a zeal to serve society courageously and with empathy.”

Among the former students of HPS are Prem Watsa, Chairman, Fairfax Financial Holdings, P Ashok Gajapathi Raju, former Union Minister for Civil Aviation, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin, Lord Billimoria, Chairman, Cobra Beer, Megha Patodia Mittal, Chairman and MD of Escada, Sanjaya Baru, senior journalist and former Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, and musician Talat Aziz. Harsha Bhogle, a former student, and now a well-known sports commentator, has credited his flawless diction and command over English language to his English teacher, S W Chandrasekhar.

The school sows seeds of leadership in the young minds very early. One of the initiatives is instilling prefectoral responsibility from Class 1 onwards. The students are encouraged to lead the school from early years. The school nominates students for the Global Young Leaders Conference. Workshops and lectures are regular on the campus for students to sharpen their knowledge and focus from experts in various fields. Recently, HPS student Tarunim Jamal travelled to a climate change conference in Germany to present a paper. HPS students regularly take part in the Green Olympiad, National Science and Cyber Olympiads and the International Math, English and French Olympiads.

History and Tradition

The school opened its doors to students beyond the children of jagirdars in 1951 when the jagirdari system was abolished by the government of a free India. An all-boys school, it went co-educational in the ‘70s. The school offers scholarships instituted by the Telengana Welfare Department to children from backward communities.

An inclusive institution, the school runs classes from pre-primary to Class XII. Affiliated with the ICSE and ISC Boards, the school has 3,500 students. The 152-acre area of the school houses two synthetic and four cemented basketball courts, six hockey fields, eight football fields, four volleyball courts, four tennikoitt courts and three clay courts, two synthetic tennis courts and one obstacle course.

The school follows a constructivist approach to academics with a strong emphasis on the learner rather than the teacher. Multiple Intelligence theories have been a popular basis for reform efforts within education, underlining the fact that students represent a diversity of cognitive strengths and various ways of learning.

INTERVIEW: Skand Bali, Principal, The Hyderabad Public School


Q. How does a school like yours with students from Class I to XII prepare young leaders?

A. If leadership is about exerting influence, doesn’t every person in some way or another, to some extent exert influence on someone else? We may or may not realize the impact of our influence but in some way our presence/absence or words/behaviour can bring about a major or minor change in another person. That being the case, we are all leaders.  It is the same with the students. I believe that all students have the potential to be a leader. To hone this ability of theirs it is important to teach them critical thinking, problem solving and independent decision making skills. The best way to prepare the leaders of tomorrow is to get their ‘thinking muscle’ tuned up! And that is exactly what we do at HPS, we allow our students to think for themselves. 

Q. How do classroom and the teacher fit in to inspire young minds?

A. A student may have interest in science and be generally ambitious to do well in school and progress to a good college for further studies. At least 50 percent of the student’s progress will depend upon the academic quality of the school and in particular upon the personality and ability of the science teacher. A great school teacher is one whose actual lessons may be forgotten but whose living enthusiasm is an inspiring power. The classroom and the teacher provide the inspiration to motivate the students. Simply put, leadership and motivation are like brother and sister. Strong affiliation with the classroom and teacher will inspire a student to fulfil his or her potential.

Q. Are the teachers given periodic training?

A. Yes, we arrange workshops, talks and professional development sessions for the teachers from time to time. Teachers are also encouraged to share their experiences so as to learn from each other. We  have a dedicated team of teachers who are open to new challenges and possibilities and are always eager to learn anything new.

Q. Is the admission policy aiding leadership development goals?

A. I’d say no. Schools should not have admission policy for leadership development. Rather each school should have a policy document to make leaders from kids, post-admissions. It is what school delivers to its students, which decide leadership development rather than any admission policy. All students who are taken need to be given the opportunity to become leaders. We have no bias in admission policy and open our gates for all from all communities. HPS is a ‘mini India’ in all sense. We feel pride in our student and parent community and make leaders for all spheres from our diverse community. 

Q. How does our traditions and the heritage of the great city of Hyderabad help in nurturing tomorrow’s global leaders?

A. Our traditions have taught us to worship our teachers as well as the material of learning. Hence, there is an inbuilt respect for learning. Similarly, Hyderabad has produced great leadership, from Nizam’s times to our current global leaders. Children have a very sharp and critical mind in their growing age and hence they not only analyse everything critically, but at the same time make their role models. Hence, the traditions along with rich heritage history of Hyderabad play a big role in developing tomorrow’s global leaders. Our motto is ‘BE VIGILANT’. This too helps in the learning for tomorrow’s leaders. 

Q. How are the children taught to face the challenges to contemporary world and find solutions?

A. We encourage them to take up various case studies on different issues and present them in the school. A Department of Progressive Learning has also been set up in school to nurture that further. An Original Thinker Award has been set up for students to come up with creative ideas in any field of their interest, which the students will present before a jury. We are also going to start an entrepreneur club on the campus very soon. Apart from this, there are regular visits outside the school and many visitors are invited to discuss issues with students, where students learn from the interaction.

Q. What is the link between the school and the community to benefit each other from the school’s strong leaders around the world?

A. We have an old students’ association, which not only interacts with the school community, but also contributes in every sense. Our old students visit our campus regularly and encourage students not only to excel in life, but also motivate them to make a difference to the society at large. Our children and old students also contribute to the social cause together. Social and community service is one of the core values HPS stands for. There is one common thread, which binds current as well as former students: the values of empathy, care, acceptance and humility imparted in them by the school.

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