Noida—the land of the Great India Place, Atta Market, the DND, Ambedkar Park and of course, Mayawati. Hell, Noida is so cool, they made a bigger, badder Noida—and called it Greater Noida.
Stories of Noida’s coming of age abound. Its transformation from an industrial hub on the capital’s eastern edge to modern township is complete. On the education front, similar to its Haryana twin, Gurgaon, schools in Noida provide something for every student.
Schools have adapted to the growing demands of the upwardly mobile, multi-national company-employed parents willing to spend what it takes to get a good education for their children. With well trained teachers ready to take care of any kind of special needs, sprawling campuses and excellent sports facilities, schools here would make anyone go—Wow! Lotus Valley International School tops the ‘infrastructure and facilities’ category for a second year running, according to the 2011 HT-C fore Top School Survey. Amity International and Somerville School got the highest rank in ‘academic rigour’. Step by Step continues its excellent run, with top scores in ‘teacher care and development’, ‘individual attention to students’ and ‘innovative teaching’ parametrs among others.
In schools such as Lotus Valley International, Kothari International and Step By Step, air-conditioned classrooms, teachers for almost any sport and activity, use of computer-aided learning softwares, regular domestic and international trips for students etc are all fast becoming the norm. This of course, is feeding the rat race. Schools which provide the best facilities also charge high fees. With demand for good schools far outstripping supply, it’s the pockets of parents in the aspirational lower middle class which are taking the biggest hit.
For those in Noida able to afford it, getting a good education is no problem. The brunt of the pressure to educate is on the economically weaker parents. As a percentage of their income, many are paying close to 50% of their wages in school fees.
“My child’s fee has gone up to R3000, and my husband and I make only R7000 a month. They suddenly hike up the fees every year,” said Saraswati, a domestic help in Sector 15A, Noida, who sends her eight-year-old daughter to a local school. Many small schools have begun charging high fees, without offering additional facilities.
The commodification of education here is complete. With parents coughing up huge fees, they expect a good return on their investment. “Earlier, when parents would entrust their children to us, they wouldn’t interfere so much. But now I have noticed that parents, especially younger parents, have become over protective and a little aggressive” said Nalini Arul Raj, principal, Somerville School, Noida.
Recognising this trend, many schools are getting parents on-board. “Schools here have a very democratic set up. We encourage parents to offer their viewpoint and have discussions,” said Kamini Bhasin, principal, Delhi Public School, Noida.
With busy lives, the roles of teachers have also changed. “I think we have understood our changed role and we are adapting to it and are delivering effectively. We teach students, make sure they participate in extra-curricular activities, surf the internet for information and deliver it to the children etc. Teachers are always multi-tasking” she adds.
The pressure on teachers to deliver and students to perform is the by-product of a system where a 90% result is not good enough to get admission into Delhi’s top colleges.
But Noida schools concentrate on the big picture, constantly reminding students that marks are not all. “What schools should deliver is a complete cultural experience which includes sensitising students to their social responsibilities, participation in various activities, studying hard, playing various sports— a holistic experience,” said Bhasin.