Off To School… But Which One?
The British Raj sprinkled convent schools all over the country. Particularly picturesque were the boarding schools nestled in hills, run by strict nuns and priests who instilled English discipline into young Indian minds. These elite institutions delivered products that were head and shoulders above their government school counterparts, or so was the popular belief. They continue to maintain high standards, but have they really managed to keep pace with the dizzying speed at which the society and the professional world is transforming?
Public schools in India, as per the original definition, are government-run schools and have been around for six decades. They are not to be confused with the more expensive schools run by private trusts or entities, mostly non-Christian, that sometimes include ‘public school’ in their name. For the purposes of this discussion, however, we will call the former Government Schools, and the latter, Public Schools.
More recently, international schools have sprung up in every city where there’s money. Occupying acres of land and claiming to train a child in every conceivable aspect of modern living, they draw a large number of students each year, despite the extortionate tuition fee charged by some. There could be many reasons for this.
Amandeep, mother of 11-year-old Laavanya goes for the student-teacher ratio ‘irrespective of public or convent as I personally feel, in junior classes, more personal attention is required’.
Puneeta, though, is unequivocal in her preference for public schools for Shraddha, 11, and Shaurya, 7, because ‘the system of education of convent schools is redundant, orthodox, conventional. In Public Schools, there is a stress on overall development; kids are more aware of what they are good at.’
Bhavna, on the other hand, considers ‘quality of education, distance from home and safety’. Her children, Abhiraj, 10, and Anantika, 4, have studied in both types of schools, and she complains the army public schools do not have dedicated teachers. Her children attend an international school at Secunderabad.
Neyha is emphatic about the government-run Kendriya Vidyalayas. “CBSE killed my love for academics; we had no outlet for our creativity or thirst for knowledge.” She would want her two-and-a-half-year old son, Nirvair, to eventually ‘follow an IGSCE curriculum that promotes thinking, research and creativity’. She believes that they impart better life skills and employ techniques in keeping with child psychology.
Mitu would ‘ideally like to send our son to a private school (non-convent)’. Her major concerns are the student-teacher ratio and the extreme focus on academics. She would also consider the infrastructure and the careers of the majority of the graduates from a particular school before she picks it for three-year-old Eshaan. “I have always felt strongly against the current system of education and am all for alternatives!”
Four decades ago, there were fewer alternatives. We moved every two years with my army officer father. Educating three kids on an army salary meant Kendriya Vidyalayas, after the initial primary years in a convent school. I may have missed out on Shakespeare, but I partook of the cold dal-chawal from a poor friend’s tiffin and learnt to share my nicer paratha-sabzi with her. Life skills were learnt by living.
My daughter, educated at army and navy public schools, and now an HR professional in an IT firm, says she missed nothing. “I am glad I haven’t been in one school with the same bunch of people day in and day out. I still have lifelong friendships. I feel lucky when I meet people who have lived only in one place and are incapable of perspective.”
Such are the contrasting colours of this tapestry. Yet, all the views are valid.
Times change, so do needs and aspirations. The busier parents get, the more crucial do schools become. The greater the number of ‘good’ schools, the harder they compete to provide the best educational practices. The decision is hard. Due diligence and an informed choice is the solution to this conundrum.
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