How Grace Pinto Became the Reckoning Force Behind Ryan International Group of Institutions
With 135 schools in India and five in the Middle East, Madame Pinto literally lives her life out of a suitcase. Back from Dubai for the interaction with our magazine, she is now off to Daman & Diu to be with her students of Ryan International. As you get to know her better as an entrepreneur, you will understand that she is a teacher at heart who enjoys being amidst kids.
Her curiosity to interact with children and listen to them patiently remains the same as it was in 1976, when it all started. This was the year after she got married to Dr. A F Pinto, an entrepreneur, who envisioned building his own group of educational institutions. His wife, Grace Pinto became the executing partner to this vision.
Their entrepreneurial journey embarked from the need of the society to have good English medium, privately owned schools to re-shape the education system. They initially began with a school in 1976 and after running it successfully progressed on to open their second school, St. Xavier's High School in North Mumbai. Pintos developed an alternate model of learning at St Xavier's which was unheard of, and was thought ahead of its time, which led to the success of the school and others that followed.
With the opening up of the economy in 1991, the group started spreading its wings in other states. Owing to their success, bankers came upfront to finance their projects and several state governments supported this new model of education.
FROM MRS GRACE PINTO TO MADAME PINTO
However, the transformation of Mrs. Pinto to Madame Pinto wasn't an easy one. Grace Pinto, MD, Ryan International Group of Institutions, shares, "I learnt to sacrifice time allotted for my own children in order to nurture and educate the students at Ryan, because hard work and success involves sacrifices." She has always risen to the challenge and never backed out from introducing newer systems and methods of learning.
In her own words, the kind of exposure she wanted to give the children at Ryan, she first experienced those by visiting international schools, attending workshops under acclaimed teachers before integrating these into the teaching-learning process in her schools. "I equipped myself and I implemented. Alongside, I also worked on building my own team," states Pinto.
SHARED VISION FOR LEARNING
On her vision that she has been able to execute all through the years, Pinto shares, "Many new and innovative ideas, and methods of teaching and learning, which we implemented later became trends followed by other schools. Earlier education only meant exams and nothing more! No dance, no drama, no interaction, no extra co-curricular activity, no thoughts and no innovations. There was little opportunity to identify and channelize talent or develop life skills.
Our aim was to foster holistic education with a focus on all-round development and therefore, integrated a range of extra-curricular activities and life skills programs to develop their innate talents." The institution regularly invites national and international trainers to coach children in various activities. Over the last four decades the group has nurtured and built a sense of trust amongst the parents and other stakeholders. The Ryan International Group of Institutions today is one of India's largest and most successful private group of K12 schools with 140 schools spread across India and abroad.
BUILDING ENTREPRENEURSHIP IDEOLOGY
Entrepreneurship ideology, which is slowly becoming the way of life, is one of the prime focuses at Ryan and such ideas reflect in its curriculum. Entrepreneurship forms a part of their 12 point vision of school ideology. Children are curious, receptive and are always open to new learnings and different experiences. "Catch them young" became the motto when CBSE launched entrepreneurship as an optional subject in schools. Pinto says, "Opportunities to excel depends on the kind of exposure you give to the students, which serve as their foundation." Still in its early days and already there are examples of young entrepreneurs out of schools. Pinto feels, "Students tend to show interest only when a subject fetches marks. But internationally, things move differently. We are putting forward our desire to the education minister and HRD minister."
The institution lays emphasis on building leadership skills in its students not only through the optional courses being taught, but also through accompanying activities, which are conducted such as workshops by Kiran Bedi and other such people of stature to build leadership skills. As a result, children pursued their interests passionately and excelled too; case in point being Arjun Vajpai, a Ryanite who was the first youngest Indian to climb Mt Everest when he scaled the summit few years ago. With talent breeding talent, Ryan Group has kept its focus on bringing the best to all its schools. Realizing the diversity that the nation offers in specialist teachers, the group makes an effort to source the most effective teachers to deliver quality education.
"Each state owns talent and while expanding we leverage the best from each state," claims Pinto. And while moving these teachers to another state, the group makes an effort to help their families settle down.
TAKING THE BRAND GLOBAL
The institution has affiliations with all the boards like CBSE, ICSE, ISC, SSC, HSC, IB and IGCSC. As per Pinto, this really helps when people have to settle overseas. As the world becomes a global village such international exposure makes students future ready. After spreading its wings to the Middle East, the group is now looking at other countries as well. The second generation of the Pinto family has already joined the business.
Currently, their youngest son, Ryan, looks after the international expansion of the group when he joined after having finished his Masters from London. Their older daughter Snehal, having completed her Doctorate in Education from United States, looks after the development and implementation of their national & international curriculum for the group as also liaisoning higher education opportunities for their students. Their younger daughter, Sonal, having done her ECCEd looks after the early years education for the group. The founders themselves had undergone a lot of training to bring the best of practices to their curriculum.
"We invite many speakers, both national and international; and we have leading educationists & industry veterans in our advisory board," says Pinto. The board had advised them on integrating technology and introducing skill-based learning as part of the curriculum. The speakers and trainers visiting the school interact with the students, mostly class XI and XII, and help them in choosing the right career option.
FOCUS ON INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE
At Ryan, children are encouraged to take national and international exposure. Even in sports, the best talents are provided support to play internationally through our arm, Ryan International Sports Club. A few students as we speak, are currently attending advanced football camps at London, informs Pinto. Examples include many like world renowned tennis player Karman Kaur Thandi, who is one of India's top ranked junior players and Simran Singhi, who was India's U-13 National Badminton Champion. The institution organizes various educational programs with NASA, World Scholars Cup and Thames Valley Summer School. The group also has a tie up with several countries for performing arts and cultural exchange programs.
"Our children visit these places during summers while, students from these countries spend the entire winter here," shares Pinto. A six-week cultural exchange program is conducted all over the nation especially in Delhi, Bombay, Punjab and Bangalore. That is the way children perform, and interact, they get to learn new languages and cultures.
Talking about her vision 2020, Pinto says, "We are witnessing disruptive changes in the education field and are motivated to constantly innovate and take risks for progress. Among the many initiatives, we are excited about our partnership with the Commonwealth/State of Pennsylvania through the PennHub programme, which will provide our students access and opportunities for internship and study with partner institutions in Pennsylvania."
Amongst her role models, Madame Pinto counts Jesus Christ her foremost and like Mother Teresa, hopes to emulate Christ who never gave up but kept focus and accomplished his mission on earth. Currently, Ryan has nearly 15,000 employees on board and has imparted education to more than 2,50,000 children. Now the school plans to expand in states that are untouched so far and also come out with a preschool chain.
(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)