Rageshree Niyogi and her zeal to nurture skills in education

Rageshree Niyogi, director, product and marketing (Collins Learning), HarperCollins Publishers, and winner, Educator of the Year, shares her work of creating resources for students and teachers

15 May 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Rageshree Niyogi, HarperCollins Publishers

How did you celebrate the Award?
Once the news settled in and I did my victory dance, I felt thankful that I work in a field that I am passionate about – that is, education. It is a beautiful thing when career and passion come together. I am humbled by this recognition. It has been heartwarming to receive so many congratulatory messages from peers within and outside the publishing industry. The award motivates me to continue strengthening the education sector in every capacity.

The jury members were impressed with how seven million students use Collins resources, 1.5 million educators benefitted from the training programmes, and 35,000 schools partake in the educational initiatives. 
Collins publishes learning and teaching resources for students and educators. With a rich legacy of more than 200 years, Collins started publishing in India in 2013. With our books, teacher’s resources, digital support, student initiatives, and professional development programmes for teachers, we have grown from catering to the learning needs of a few thousand students in the first year to seven million students today. Every year, we conduct around 1,500 workshops to upskill teachers, while also helping them implement Collins resources effectively in the classrooms. 

I joined Collins in 2017, and since then we have made a conscious attempt to nurture skills in students by providing them with opportunities to partake in meaningful play-based activities, such as Scrabble, spelling bee, SDG championships, math quizzes, heritage quizzes, creative writing workshops, coding championships, readathons, among many others. We have witnessed an overwhelming response from schools, students, and parents. 

The professional development programmes that we conduct for educators and school leaders are carefully curated after a thorough needs analysis. Our in-house team of product managers conduct about 70% of the sessions on the latest trends in education, innovative pedagogies, and other topics aligned with the vision of the National Education Policy 2020. We have also created a dedicated pool of resource people who bring in their rich experience in the field of education and help us deliver these workshops. We have a list of topics we share with schools based on which workshops are conducted.

You are responsible for leading and mentoring a team of product and marketing professionals. Can you describe a typical day during a mentorship programme?
At Collins, our relationship with schools goes beyond textbooks. We strive to be their ‘academic partner’ in every sense of the term. Our product managers study the resources carefully, are abreast of the latest developments in the curricula, and help schools select the correct title(s) suited to their requirements. For example, if a school feels that the students lack effective communication skills and would like to invest in developing that, we have our best-selling title, Tune In!, which helps address this issue. 

Once a school adopts Tune In!, our product manager visits the school to schedule the workshops, which include effective pedagogies to nurture and enhance communication skills through projects, group activities, role plays, etc. They also take the teachers through lesson plans and digital support available with the course for effective implementation. The team also carries a workshop proposal with more than 50 topics, on National Curriculum Framework, effective pedagogies, and skills enhancement, that a school can choose from.

One of the workshops that caught the eye of the jury members was the Global Perspectives (GP) workshop. This is a new subject recommended by the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE). What is the module and how does it work?
Yes, GP is recommended by CAIE and is one of the most innovative courses that focuses on nurturing skills, such as analysis, collaboration, communication, evaluation, reflection and research, in students. 

Since it is relatively new, teachers often struggle to integrate it into their curriculum — however, what is commendable about GP is that it is cross-curricular, can be integrated with any other subject, and can be used to further project-based learning in students. Our workshops take teachers through Collins resources including detailed Teacher’s Guides, and offer practical guidance around activities to encourage learners to consider and connect personal, local and global perspectives related to an issue.

Your training programmes are of critical importance. How can the print and paper industry invest resources in this impactful project?
Firstly, thank you for recognising this. Teacher training is imperative. If, as an industry, we can come together and invest in a full-fledged teacher training programme for schools that are deprived of such opportunities, we would be one step closer to bridging the knowledge gap.

What, according to you, is the roadblock to education in a country like India?
Sadly in India, there are many roadblocks – dated curricula, archaic assessment patterns, infrastructure disparity, affordability, limited collaboration between government and private publishers — but the biggest of them all is that teaching is still perceived as something you do when you can't or don't want to do anything else, unlike in other countries. 

The education sector has limited, and often hushed, voices when it comes to initiatives that will help elevate the status of a teacher's role. Good teachers make good students, and consequently a better nation, so investing in advancing the quality of teachers is the first step to ensuring a better future.

Is there a magic wand that can close the teacher gap?
Yes, we will probably need a Dumbledore too to use it wisely. On a serious note, I believe, if we make teaching aspirational with pay parity and growth opportunities as in other industries, we will be able to narrow the gap and address the issues of shortage, quality, and enrolment.

Can you list one or two things that we can implement which would ensure educators get a voice?
At the risk of offending some, I feel people in the education industry are aware of the issues that exist but lack in working cohesively towards the solution even when they have the intent. We can never underestimate how populous and diverse we are as a country, so the ways to empower educators must be manifold. 

However, there are two things that I would like to suggest to everyone in school leadership and other stakeholders. 

First, include educators in school transformation efforts. Be prepared to learn from them and expand your comfort zone. Trust your teachers, and be willing to adopt an idea different from your own. Don’t dismiss ideas without verifying their feasibility and impact. Second, systematically invest in teacher upskilling programmes. A teacher needs to influence the content of professional learning opportunities that they want to undertake. 

Is there a book project that made you smile in these grim times?
Our latest series on well-being is a much-needed course that delves into the physical and mental well-being of students. Children must have a positive sense of well-being so that they can express themselves better, feel safe, empathise, and be able to help others around them. Children with a positive sense of well-being are also more likely to feel confident, motivated and engaged in their learning. This course brought a smile to my face because we are equipped with an essential tool to invest in the holistic development of our children.