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Poonam Sachdev, School Director of NIST International School navigates shaping minds and futures with passion and purpose

by Nikki Kumar

On The Record!


Wading through the intricacies of adult life, we often find ourselves longing for the simpler times of our school days, a period rich with academic pursuits and the warmth of friendships. In these reflective moments, the pivotal figure in our educational journey — the school director — tends to be an unsung hero, quietly shaping our paths.

The role of a Thai School Director is highly significant as they are responsible for managing the school’s administration in compliance with local regulations. They work closely with the foreign Head of School, Leadership Team, and the School Executive Board; all of whom possess a unique combination of visionary leadership and passion for education. Together, they endeavour to turn schools into vibrant hubs of learning and creativity. Poonam Sachdev has been a driving force at NIST International School for over fifteen years, leaving an indelible impression on its halls and classrooms.

Poonam’s fervour for education and development sprang from her upbringing in a business-oriented family, instilling in her a contagious zeal for progress. This enthusiasm was further fuelled by the mentorship and inspiration she received from her mathematics teacher during her school years. Driven by these early influences, she selected economics as her focus in high school, which laid the foundation for her future. This decision steered her towards higher education in accounting and marketing, ultimately paving the way for her successful career as a school director today.

In the bustling halls of her domain, I shared a moment with Poonam for a candid and insightful conversation on her entry into the education sector, the embrace of modernisation, and her personal journey.

How did your upbringing contribute to your values and approach to leadership?

When I was 12 years old, I attended a boarding school in Delhi. Later, I pursued my bachelor’s degree at DAV College in Chandigarh. Travelling from Thailand to India during that time was more challenging than today, and we could not return home every year. As a result, we spent our holidays with relatives there. This experience helped me become more independent, adapt to new environments, develop decisionmaking skills, and adjust to changes, all of which were a part of my maturing process.

What factors ignited your interest in The field of education?

Following my tenure as the Admissions and Marketing Manager at two vocational colleges and NIST International School, I advanced my education by obtaining a diploma in teaching and a master’s degree in Educational Administration.

What has been your experience working at an institution for over a decade? Can you provide an overview of your responsibilities and duties as a School Director?

I joined NIST International School in its third year of establishment and, over the years, developed skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving while building connections. I began my professional journey in the Admissions Office, where my primary duty was to market the school to prospective parents. Later, I became the Alumni Manager and was responsible for maintaining contact with former students, ensuring their records were accurate, and creating an alumni newsletter published on the school website, as Facebook did not exist yet.

For the last 15 years, I have served as a school director. As per the legal requirements, only Thai nationals can hold this position. My primary responsibility is to coordinate with the relevant government agencies to ensure that the school complies with all the standards. This involves maintaining all the necessary registration documents, updating regulations related to visas and work permits for teachers, obtaining licences for teaching, and procuring local accreditation among other duties.

What guiding principles inform your approach to education and leadership?

My approach to education revolves around placing the student at the centre of the learning experience while ensuring a growth mindset, equity, and inclusion. I strongly believe that every student deserves a fair, inclusive, and supportive classroom environment that ensures equal access to education. This implies that all students should receive equitable treatment from both their teachers and peers, and feel valued and supported for who they are. As a result, they will thrive and become responsible global citizens, understanding themselves and others, creating impact on the community, and committing to social and environmental sustainability. When it comes to leadership, I place high value on collaboration, shared decision-making, reflecting on past actions, and receiving feedback.

Have you observed significant shifts in the educational landscape due to increased technology integration? If so, how do you stay abreast of emerging global trends and their educational implications?

The integration of technology in education has brought about remarkable changes in the way we record and share information, teach, learn, and assess students’ progress. It is essential that we embrace these changes and keep ourselves updated with the latest information. Ignoring rapid technological advancements is not an option; instead, we must explore how schools can facilitate new digital norms. Therefore, we should continuously develop our skills, engage in professional development, conduct research, reflect on our practice, and connect with other educators to stay well-informed. This, in turn, will assist us in enhancing the quality of education.

How do you balance administrative tasks with fostering a conducive learning environment?

We are fortunate to have access to advanced digital tools that can help us manage administrative tasks effectively. I always keep myself updated and enhance my skills with these digital tools. When it comes to balancing work and creating a favourable learning environment, I believe in managing my time efficiently. This includes setting priorities, delegating tasks, taking a step back when facing difficulties, and working alongside relevant individuals to develop strategies for overcoming obstacles.

Amidst leadership challenges, how do you maintain your passion for education?

Fortunately, NIST International School provides a range of professional development opportunities for its staff. Over the years, I have had the privilege of attending various workshops, seminars, in-house training, professional learning sessions, and meetings. In addition to these, I have also read articles; taught Thai studies; and participated as an inspection team member for accrediting international schools, with a government accreditation agency. These opportunities provided by NIST International School have proven to be very benefi cial for my personal and professional growth.

What do you find yourself doing in your free time?

I used to enjoy playing badminton, dancing, and reading. My friends and I would often read Mills & Boon and Agatha Christie books during our free time. I’ve also always had a deep interest in history, particularly Indian history, and I devoted considerable time to reading about it while I was in India. As a student, I was very studious and spent significant time studying and doing schoolwork to ensure I achieved good grades. These days, my hobbies include cooking, shopping, and consuming media like historical films, epic movies, and everyday TV shows.

Could you offer any advice to people interested in joining the realm of education?

If you have a passion for education and enjoy working with children, the first step towards becoming an educator in Thailand is to obtain the required qualifications. It’s important to keep in mind that teaching can only be practised with a teaching licence from the Teacher’s Council (Khurusapha). Moreover, it is essential to seek opportunities to gain practical experience in educational settings by volunteering, interning, or working parttime while studying. Teaching is a fulfilling and enjoyable career, particularly when you can make a difference in the lives of children and witness your students reaching their full potential. With your dedication to education, you can positively impact the lives of students and communities.


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