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Lifelong Learning


By Sandeep Dutt

As our lives take new turns, it’s natural to feel a mix of emotions – excitement, uncertainty, and hope. Reflecting on our journey so far can bring a sense of gratitude for the opportunities we’ve had. My recent post on LinkedIn as a Lifelong Learner highlights the importance of institutions that support our passions. The English Book Depot, Learning Forward India, and Good Schools Alliance have played crucial roles in providing guidance and support to help young people find their way.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge these institutions’ impact and their role in shaping young people’s lives. Here’s to the next chapter, full of possibility and promise!
Thank you, Rupa Publications India, Fabindia limited (erstwhile Fabindia Overseas Pvt Ltd), The Doon School, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and all the schools and institutions that have helped shape my life, including mentors and individuals whom I am not able to list here, simply due to the lack of space and holding your attention span!
The summer of 1983 was a defining one as my father suffered a heart attack, and with my mother by his side for six months, I set out to decode the nuances of business and took the road less travelled wherein you follow your heart and meet the needs of a family held business.
I had barely completed my Graduation from Delhi University. As a young lad, I loved the outdoors, volunteering, and simply climbing hills – the calling came to join the family business of bookselling. It took me 40 years to write my simple bio: ‘The mountaineer and
bookseller inspires children to explore the world of books and helps improve education in schools.’
Like most family-run businesses, you just end up going to work at the heels of your parents and family. There was a 21-year-old who got a bicycle and started visiting institutions in Dehradun to deliver books on approval to librarians and school leaders for due selection. Living with joy and enthusiasm was my love for the hills, volunteering with schools and more for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and even more exciting, the long years of running with the Welham Girls!
When I look at the treks we did in the 1980s and 1990s, walking from one end of the Garhwal Himalayas to the other, summer after summer, this kindled my love for schools and schooling. In 1998, my book, ‘Good Schools Of India’ was a bestseller in the category. My ringside view of schools was my lessons for growing up as a school improvement coach.
In 2012, when I stepped down from the role of the National Director of The Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award, another rudderless phase of six months gave me time to look back at the three decades as a bookseller and one who chased his dream of setting up 69 Book Cafe stores nationwide; to wind up the flexi-format bookstores and look for happiness working with schools, my eternal calling.
Life took a beautiful turn yet again, and William N Bissell packed me off to spend a week at his farm in Pali near The Fabindia School, which he founded. Thus, a School Improvement Coach was born! ‘My Good School – Where Passion Meets Education’, published in early 2021, shares my life and joy in helping transform The Fabindia School into a piece of land brought to life in the words of William N. Bissell. For me, he is the only
school promoter who understood me and gave me the freedom to do whatever it takes to reform governance, training, and learning at school. We worked with all the stakeholders for over five years to build a shared vision and mission for the school. Today, the school stands as a model My Good School—with equal emphasis on Service, Skill, Sport, and Study—if not literally, but figuratively—the school awards and rewards performance in all four critical elements of our My Good School Philosophy.
In 2020, on my return from Finland, the USA and Singapore, I found my life’s joy and decided to build My Good School, focusing on reading, reflection and relationships. My family supported and helped me set up the Learning Forward India Foundation. Whether you’re establishing a new school or looking to upgrade your current one, we offer customised programmes to help transform your school’s culture, promote lifelong learning, and deliver affordably.
I am stepping down from the Bhadrajun Artisans Trust, the charity that operates The Fabindia School, and I feel great fulfilment. After four decades of being a bookseller, mountaineer, and school improvement coach, my next mission is to build a legacy of joy and learning to help schools, teachers, and young people experience the joy of learning.
A big thank you to the wonderful people who believed in me and continue to invest their faith in me. Their love and belief are my most considerable earnings, so I thought I would share some beautiful words they have penned for me:
“One person whose contribution I would particularly like to highlight is Sandeep Dutt, who joined us as Chairman and Executive Director of the Bhadrajan Artisans Trust in 2012. He has facilitated many of the landmark achievements we celebrate today.” – William N Bissell, Founder & MD Fabindia.
“Learning Forward has developed best practices for the world through innovative innovations like the byte-sized PD, which focuses on core values and every individual’s personal and social development.” – Kalyani Chaudhuri, Principal, Billabong High International School, Thane.
“You rarely come across a stand-out talent like Sandeep. He never fails to make a dramatic difference in any role he occupies. He can juggle multiple projects without compromising on the results. He can get teams to work to the highest standards through a strategic and inclusive leadership approach. Sandeep is a committed humanitarian and educationalist who has influenced change in the development and corporate sectors. He is highly recommended as a leader and as a team member.” – Cristal de Saldanha, Leading Commonwealth Youth Adviser.