As we were in the field of education already from many years, we felt making a difference and creating an impact on our society is important.
“We always wanted to contribute largely to Pre- School education, because the input during this period contributes to a great extent to shape the child’s future, even if that meant quitting our handsomely paid jobs,” says co-founders of The Beamish International Pre-School, Sonia Govardhan and Jui Bijapurkar In an interesting conversation with Startup Story.
Sonia Govardhan has more than 16 years of rich experience in teaching, she was a professor in a commerce college along with Jui Bijapurkar who had around 6 years of teaching experience out of which one year of stint as a preschool teacher at one of the international preschools in Pune.
Idea Behind The School
Both Jui and Sonia were concerned about what is the best way to teach children, and impart quality education in the best way.
And when Sonia had to do 19 invigilations in during one exam schedule back to back, she utilised this time to think about her journey as a teacher, current education system, moral values of teenagers, respect towards teachers and so on. She realized that year after year the mindset of students is changing drastically. She always thought that, if this has to change then what needs to be done? She eventually dug up information about early childhood education and realized that if the children get right input during age 0 to 6, the picture would change for sure. One year of research went behind the foundation of The Beamish International Pre-school
Jui mentioned there were two things going simultaneously in her mind, while teaching college students, most of the students are slightly hesitant about accepting the change & also moulding them as an individual is slightly difficult at their age and on the other hand we have preschools coming up at every nook & corner and eventually shutting down as we foresee there is no vision of making a change in early child hood education & no background in pedagogy or child care. As professionals, it was disheartening, and we wanted to set things right as well as add value to the sector. We went to one of the Baara Balutedar event in Pune, post that event we decided firmly to open our preschool in coming year & thus the idea went into action.
About The School
After they both decided to start a preschool, they both dawned upon the fact that earning was definitely important, but more important was imparting quality education. “Our research started on how to develop the curriculum. We even visited 20 – 25 preschools to understand the functioning of the School, “explains Jui. In order to get comprehensive knowledge of this field she even worked in a preschool and closely studied organisation and management of a preschool, child psychology, expectation of parents, curriculum designing and so on.
Jui and Sonia’s school is inspired from two philosophies – Reggio Emilia approach – It is not something prevalent in the Indian school system, but both the founders are trying to implement it as far as possible. The second one is Shri. Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan philosophy. They believe that stories are magical and they are best way to connect with and teach children. Every Friday they narrate a story during Shanti Niketan time. Even in the present situation when things have shifted online, they still maintain the ritual and publish stories on Beamish Preschool’s YouTube channel.
Beamish has the tagline ‘Beyond Numbers and Alphabet’, because they don’t want children to be bound to walls of the classroom. They believe in harnessing natural intelligence of the child, encourage child to learn from experiences and make him responsible citizen.
Beamish also collaborates with Parents, and makes sure that parents are actively involved in the learning process of the child.
Reaching Out To People.
In 2016, Beamish was started. The first few months, various promotional activities were held, like summer camps, because it was their own brand, and it was a new thing in the market. Initially, they had only one child, but the summer camps really made parents understand how different Beamish was from the rest. Then the number increased to 14, and just before Covid the number reached to 96 children.
It was a slow, steady progress, but the quality of education spoke for them. Word of mouth played a huge role in Beamish’s promotion, as satisfied parents started spreading the word.
The major turnaround happened in 2017 where we were awarded as Top 5 Preschools in Pune, which boosted our confidence & helped our name reach out to various part of cities in India, the trust multiplied both from parents and our employees which satisfied us that we are on right track of creating a difference in the field of early childhood education.
“This is a question we used to get asked a lot,” says Jui. We took almost more than three months to ponder on our brand name as we really wanted the name to be a reflection of our vision and mission. The word Beamish means positive, cheerful and optimistic. If the child is happy, then they would learn the most, and Beamish wants its children to be beaming with happiness.
Being The Change
Beamish is a happy, safe space for all. Even if the child has a lot of potential, without the proper help & right facilitator the child will not succeed. Even in online sessions, both Jui and Sonia along with teachers have tried to keep it gleeful, so they tweaked the curriculum as per need of online session so that children wouldn’t be burdened or bored and they won’t be exposed to more screen time. Joy, Happiness and Love is what is kept in mind when teaching the children.
We are bootstrapped, the funding was from Sonia and Jui’s saving and from their spouses. The profits earned are reinvested for the development of the School and expanding the venture.
Beamish is coming with second branch in coming academic year in Pune. They wish to open branches even in semi-urban and rural areas where such kind of education is not available and wish to offer franchisees to people who wish to bring positive changes in the field of Early Childhood Education. They are also planning to diversify into Teacher Training, as their forte is training. So they want to train teachers, who are interested in Pre-School education and bring out quality teachers for our future generations.
On a personal front, Sonia is a published author, who has written a Parent Handbook for Cambridge University Press. Jui specializes in developing the age appropriate curriculum which is highly needed for child’s brain developmental and achieving other developmental milestones. She has also developed a yoga curriculum exclusively for early years and has conducted batches for children in India & The USA.
Beamish had around 8 teachers and 4 non – teaching staff before Covid but Covid impacted the admissions and currently they have 3 teachers and 1 support staff & they are happy that their teachers Shubhangi Badiger, Dhanashree Khot & Kanchan Goyal & Maid- Poonam Kadam supported them during covid times.
In the initial days we faced several problems of getting admissions, convincing parents transportation was also a problem, because there were not enough children to be admitted in the van. But then, the clouds cleared slowly and in a span of two years everything was sorted out.
Tackling The Pandemic
When Covid hit India in March 2020, school operations stopped immediately. We thought it would be for a temporary period. Initially it was difficult to function in this changing situation, as teachers need to be trained to use technology, internet connection, and device and so on, but Beamish survived the blow. Beamish was an ISO 9001 : 2015 certified school, so the systems were set. Beamish was always ahead in using technology for efficient parent communication. They used the best app which was upgraded for live streaming of classes, and their Cambridge Curriculum that gave digital platform that helped both teachers and Parents. In fact, they even conducted exams, celebrations, sports day and annual social online and tried to give best to the child for holistic development.
Financially things were unstable in the beginning of Pandemic, but the teachers were quite cooperative and agreed to work at half salaries for few months. This year, they have a good number of children. The best part was that now due to online schooling there were no geographical boundaries. Now they have children joining from different parts of India and countries like Egypt, Switzerland, Australia. Isn’t that blessing in disguise?
“There can be lots of ups and downs, but sticking together and believing in your team is important. You have to have patience”, says Jui Bijapurkar, founder of The Beamish International Preschool.
“Upgrade yourself, be positive, and it will yield fruits at the end”, says Sonia Govardhan, founder of The Beamish International Preschool.