Three pioneers of Students' Quality Circle talk on how to master classrooms using unconventional teaching tools

The mantras of success often tell you how to pick a ladder and climb it. But the essence of success lies in sifting good from bad, excellence from mediocrity, dedication from escapism. It means delivering to your best ability and satisfaction. Is it possible to explain all that to a child caught in today's marks race, much less convince his or her parents?

In an age when longitudes and latitudes matter less than attitudes, people need to adopt quality not by chance but choice. If one understands the basic difference between “noteworthy” and “not worthy” is the simple letter “e”, which stands for effort, then every struggle becomes a victory. This victory of not the mind alone, but the heart and soul as well, is what quality circles or QCs are trying to instill in schools the world over. Airing such thoughts was the team that transplanted this industrial concept into the hitherto unexplored field of academics in India: Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, founder-member of City Montessori Schools (CMS), Lucknow, and Chairman of the World Council for Total Quality & Excellence in Education; Executive Director Dr. Vineeta Kamran; and Principal of CMS P. Bihari.

The three were in the city to inaugurate the first ever national convention on students' QCs hosted by Lakshmi Vidya Sangham, which runs the educational institutions of the TVS group. They urged that QC be included in all schools to inculcate quality awareness at a young age.

“Why should the QC movement trickle down only from industry to schools?” asked Dr. Gandhi. “The order can be reversed too. Only then will our children grow into total quality persons.” Instrumental in creating a new mindset in education, Dr. Gandhi first came to know of quality control circles during his visit to Japan two decades ago. Prof. Ishikawa had successfully shaped them as formal groups within factories and offices dedicated to improving the quality of manufactured goods and services on a continuous basis.

“QC was largely known as a device evolved by Japanese companies for learning what's troubling their line workers and what they should do to improve production,” explained Dr. Gandhi. “It helped to fill in the blanks left by the numerical ratings. I thought, if it worked so well for the industry then why not make school inroads?”

He himself realized, believed and propagated in his chain of 20 City Montessori Schools that children go through three classrooms in their lives – home, school and society – and that it is the collective responsibility of these three components to inculcate quality awareness in children and shape quality citizens for the future.

His idea for bringing about a revolution in society was simple -- meaningful education aimed at developing latent capacities in children and equipping them with material, human and divine knowledge. In other words, education-plus.

Armed with enough literature from Japan, the trio supervised the world's first Students' Quality Circle team, Jai Jagat, comprising five children who prepared a case study, “How to excel in examinations”.

The rest is history. The project won national and international accolades in 1994 and paved the way for Student QCs in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Australia, the USA, Mauritius, Switzerland, Nepal, Bangladesh and many other countries. Though the QC concept arrived in India in the 1970s and about 800 Indian organisations used QC tools and techniques for quality improvement, it was left to Dr. Gandhi's boldness and vision to experiment with education.

“QC is like the signature of a learning organization,” he said.

“It sends signals for encouraging continuous improvement. Everywhere, educationists are realizing that spiritual QCs have the potential to transform today's staid educational system by inculcating quality awareness in students and teachers.”

“QC is a participative philosophy,” chipped in Dr. Kamran. “A child's mind is like wet cement, whatever falls on it makes an impression. Earlier, people enquired about IQ, today it is IQ plus EQ which equals S(spiritual)Q. If spiritual quotient of people is high, unfortunate incidents like 9/11 or 26/11 perhaps will not happen.”

As a purely voluntary exercise, Students' QC has created 90 per cent awareness and 20 per cent participation in CMSs so far, according to Mr. Bihari.

“Though our model is being emulated, growth is slow but better in proportion than what Japan achieved,” he pointed out.

“The SQC tool is universal without infringing upon religious boundaries. Parent-teacher-student synergy is one such example successfully implemented by CMS for maintaining a healthy relationship among the three essential classrooms.”

The team did not leave without high appreciation for the TVS group of institutions, describing them as a “moving embodiment of quality”.

That children are self-motivated agents of social change, nobody will argue. To infuse in them the spirit of thinking is every adult's responsibility because, after all, quality is incomplete without U and I.