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HindustanTimes Sat,12 Jul 2014
Elite schools, grounded students
Abhijit Patnaik, Hindustan Times
September 10, 2012
First Published: 00:42 IST(10/9/2012)
Last Updated: 01:25 IST(10/9/2012)

One must fight the natural urge to declare a ranking of schools in south-west Delhi as a ‘clash of the titans’. These schools are the gold standard, they set the benchmarks. For years, Delhi Public School, RK Puram and Modern School, Vasant Vihar, were the ‘it’ schools (for very different reasons, of course).  In the last decade, Vasant Valley and The Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar, have become the talk of town. 

According to the 2012 HT-C fore Top Schools survey, The Shri Ram School (TSRS) has lost its coveted number 1 rank to Vasant Valley school. TSRS has been a consistent Top Ten in previous surveys, and two years ago, it had finished top of the podium, albeit, by a nose (the 2011 survey did not carry number ranks, only a list of top ten schools). With the highest scores on the ‘innovative teaching’, ‘individual attention to students’ and many other parameters, Vasant Valley has, for the first time, topped the overall charts.

TSRS has jointly topped the ‘extra-curricular activities’ parameter with Springdales, Dhaula Kuan. There are a few hat-tricks as well. DPS, RK Puram, which has built a reputation around its excellent academic performance, has scored one, by topping the ‘academic rigour’ parameter once again. TSRS has scored another, by topping the ‘competence of teachers’ category again this year (jointly with Vasant Valley).

The competition between schools is a figment of our imagination, schools insist. “We aren’t looking over our shoulder,” said Arun Kapur, director, Vasant Valley.  Schools may not be competing with each other, but are competing “with ourselves, with what we are providing to the students”, said Madhulika Sen, principal, Tagore International, Vasant Vihar. “We believe in simple, steady and continuous growth,” she said.

Schools in this part of Delhi have long sent students to the best universities in India and abroad. What makes them so special? “Our teachers are passionate about children. We invest a lot in training,” answered Manika Sharma, principal, TSRS.

Vasant Valley, apart from a continuously evolving and improving the curriculum, radically changes its approach every 5 years. “We have a full staff meeting where we redesign every aspect of the school, so that if we use a certain methodology, everyone knows why it’s there. We have a curriculum for both students and teachers,” said Kapur.

Schools, given their limited options for expanding big physical infrastructure, are upgrading other things, both tangible and intangible. The biggest is the curriculum, the methodology used to teach, and the tools needed to impart this curriculum. “The future of education in Delhi is in  embracing technology,” said Sen.

Brand equity

Based in affluent colonies such as Vasant Vihar and  Anand Niketan, some schools here are accused of being elitist. How do they  respond? “Yes, the longevity of the school has created a certain brand equity. But our school is not there yet, most of our students come from Vasant Kunj, not Vasant Vihar or Anand Niketan. We have a lot of defence officers’ children,” said Sen.

Kapur agrees, but elaborates further. “If elitism is defined as being the best in something, then we are guilty as charged. In our 22-year-old school, we have always had 1,200 students. We are not looking to expand this number — we are not a corporate looking for 10% annual growth. The only thing we want to expand is our students’ minds,” he said. Students in these schools couldn’t have it any better. “Our teachers are not so strict, we are allowed to have fun,” said Kabir Oberai, a Class 5 student at TSRS.

Tomorrow:

To find out which schools in South-East Delhi make it to the Top Ten, look out for Part VII of the survey in tomorrow’s HT.


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