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  • Writer's picturegaurav muradia

Unlocking the Excellence Mindset

Much has been said and written about ‘excellence’ in the history of education. In the last few decades or so, we have seen the word ‘excellence’, in the traditional meritorious sense, challenged and unpacked. Today, the word takes amorphous shape, floating between a verb, a noun and an adjective. We will examine excellence as a mindset, a state of becoming, rather than being. The first question we must then grapple with is- where can such a mindset come from? I believe the answer to this is two-fold.

We will examine excellence as a mindset, a state of becoming, rather than being.

Firstly, excellence as a mindset is the natural outcome of one’s passion. Education plays a powerful role in enabling and refining this, as it brings out, uncovers and develops ‘latent’ excellence’ that exists as potential. It brings it forth, makes it visible and tangible through active learning and action. In many ways, this form of excellence is deeply personal and internal to one self: it extracts and polishes one’s own enduring, eternal essence. It takes many forms as it takes shape: it can look like single-minded pursuit or commitment, it can manifest in attention to detail, or deep determination.

Secondly, excellence can also take on a larger connotation- one that is shared. In the educational context, we commonly take benchmarks of quality assurance as measures of excellence, as organizational ‘gold standards’ to be aspired towards by schools. The practice of these can be communicated, unpacked, emulated, assessed both by schools and by external assessors. Take for instance, the School Quality Assessment and Assurance Framework developed by the CBSE or the QS I-Gauge. They assimilate and contextualizes global quality standards, and strives to make it more accessible to schools who may find themselves at different points of the school improvement continuum. Excellence here, is standardized and codified to an extent, but its interpretation and translation to action will undoubtedly be unique to schools.

It stands to reason, therefore, that when excellence that is intrinsic and internal to individuals take flight through shared standards of excellence- miracles can happen, and benchmarks can be rethought and redefined continuously. In the light of both these facets of excellence, and their possible combination, it is now possible to unpack some of our deeply held assumptions about the nature of excellence:

  1. Excellence vs. Pursuit of Excellence: Excellence is not an impossible achievement reserved for legends- nor is it a stagnant state of success. It is a continuously evolving state of becoming that demands individual educators and school leaders alike to keep reflecting, learning and refining.

  2. Perfection vs. Excellence: The above redefinition automatically makes excellence more attainable. Whether perfection, or ‘excellence in everything’, is even desirable, becomes then open for debate. Focusing on specific areas to for achieving excellence will help schools and school leaders alike be the ‘best’ at a few niche areas, ‘differentiate’ themselves in more areas in a broader sense, and meet standards for the remaining others is perhaps a more practical approach to excellence.

  3. Excellence as Exclusive vs. Excellence for All: With the shift in approach, and the lack of necessity to be ‘best in everything’, excellence naturally loses its exclusive and competitive features. It invites school communities to perceive excellence as collaborative exchange and collective pursuit, rather than merely consisting of ‘outperforming’ others. It also comes with the realization that in the excellence of ‘all’ lies the excellence of the individual, and how therefore, one is not possible without the other.

My upcoming series of blog posts will further explore what this concept of excellence means in the context of awards & recognitions, as well as accreditation, affiliation and evaluation processes for schools with various national and international organizations.

Dr Gaurav Muradia is a progressive educationist and director of leading K-12 international schools. He is also an Advisor to several schools with whom he works with to establish and sustain innovative systems and practices.

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