It was in the 1950s and the 1960s, when central Delhi had started bursting at its seams that south-east Delhi became the new destination for the affluent and the upwardly mobile class of Delhi. The rise of south Delhi residential colonies led to a need for basic amenities such as markets, hospitals, hotels and, of course, good schools that could meet the aspirations its residents.
Before south Delhi came up, central Delhi was where most of the good schools were located. Back in those days when public transport was weak and school-buses were difficult to arrange for, the commute between south Delhi and central Delhi seemed too long and most parents preferred to send their children to schools within walking distance.
“My daughter went to a reputed school in central Delhi but back in those days even that distance seemed so much,” said Sharmila Verma (63), a homemaker and a resident of Greater Kailash II. “We also felt that some of the older schools elsewhere in the city were less open to experimentation and were too embedded in needless traditions.”
This was the reason, Verma said, we sent our younger son to Bluebells School, which was close and followed a unique curriculum. It was one of the first schools in Delhi to introduce exchange programs with other schools abroad and facilities such as dance studios and recording studios.
It also makes its students take on the roles of the school support staff every day to make them understand the dignity of labour.
“When the school was started no one knew that the area around it would develop into such prime property,” said Suman Kumar, principal of Bluebells, which is just next to Greater Kailash-I, the home to Delhi’s nouveau riche.
Being located next to a residential colony is not always an advantage though. Most of these schools started off with a small student body, but grew over time. The haphazard way in which south Delhi developed has meant that most of these schools don’t have enough land available to expand their infrastructure now.
Moreover, their proximity to residential colonies brings other difficulties. Often there are complaints from resident welfare associations (RWAs) regarding traffic bottlenecks, noise on annual days and congestion around the school to mention a few. “Because we are located in the heart of a residential area we have had to streamline the traffic during school hours,” said Jyoti Gupta, principal, KR Mangalam School, which is located in GK II. “We work hard to reach a mutual understanding with the RWA on all issues.”
Over the years the schools in south-east Delhi have emerged as an alternative to older and more established schools elsewhere by having children from diverse backgrounds.
“We are a middle class family and it was very important that our child didn’t attend a school where children from only very elite or rich families studied,” said Sunil Arora, a resident of Janakpuri whose daughter passed out of Laxman Public School two years ago. “I wanted my child to interact with children from similar backgrounds.”
However, some parents are now worried that with schools giving preference to students who live in the neighbourhood, the diversity of student body might get compromised.
“Most people living in certain south Delhi colonies have similar social and financial background. This will create a very uniform culture in the classrooms,”said Ritika Nanda (29), an export house owner seeking admission for her three-year-old daughter.
Over the past two decades schools in southeast Delhi have built a reputation. “Central Delhi schools have a legacy to take forward, but we are in the process of making a legacy,” said RC Shekhar, director, Gyan Bharati School, Saket. “We are the schools to watch out for and we are the future.”
Stress-free, hassle-free: Mother’s International School
Students describe Mother’s International School as stress-free and parents describe it as hassle-free.
“My daughter studied at the school from nursery to Class 12 and I never had to pay any donation or hidden charges,” said Sarla Vijaya Sharma (49), a banker whose daughter passed out of the school a few years ago. “It’s completely a no-frills school.”
But that’s not the only thing that sets Mother’s International apart from others. The school, which is based on teachings of Sri Aurobindo, scores high on almost every parameter considered on the survey. The teachers at Mother’s International work hard to keep the students in touch with traditional Indian values of respecting elders, refraining from giving materialistic things too much importance and leading a simple life. “One of my most distinct memories of school is how fantastic the teachers are,” said Aditi Vyas (27), who studied at the school from nursery to Class 10.
However, some parents feel that sometimes Mother’s gets carried away in trying to keep its traditions alive.
“Students at Mother’s lead a sheltered, almost utopian existence till they graduate whereas in 21st century you need to be a little street smart to survive,” said Sharma. “That go-getter attitude is lacking in students here and the school needs to think of how to change with changing times while keeping its philosophy intact.” It’s also one of the few schools in the city where selection of prefects is not a result of academic achievement alone — leadership skills and co-curricular activities are vital too.
The school counts sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, cricketer Gautam Gambhir and writer Khushwant Singh among its alumni.
Creating global citizens: Bluebells International School
Bluebells International School was started as a pre-primary school in Jorbagh by a Hungarian lady and was later shifted to its present location in Kailash. The school is known for following a unique curriculum and experimenting with teaching methods.
The school finds its 2.6 acre campus limiting as far as expansion of infrastructure and sporting facilities are concerned. This is the reason the school falls behind other schools in the categories of sports and infrastructure.
However, the school does try to make up for it by encouraging its students to participate in various extra-curricular activities.
Social clubs are a huge part of co-curricular activities at Bluebells International School.
“We have made life skills and value education an integral part of the curriculum,” said Suman Kumar, principal of the School. “We want our students to be aware and sensitive to issues around the world that’s why we have clubs such as the Africa Club, Che Guevara Club and Iqbal Club (Pakistan).”
The aim of the school is to create global societies and global citizens, she said.
The school also excels in social accountability and has tie-ups with around 13 NGOs and makes each of its students do 150 hours of community service during vacations.
Inclusive learning: Laxman Public School
"Be Yourself”, the motto of the 28-year-old Laxman Public School sums up the school’s approach to education.
“Conducive environment and inclusive learning are our motives and we do not believe in taxing the parents,” said Usha Ram, principal, Laxman Public School.
The school excels in sports despite facing a space crunch after the DMRC took away some of the school’s land for Metro construction.
The school runs a cricket academy supported by cricketer Virendra Sehwag called Virendra Sehwag’s Academy. Apart from cricket, the school has got accolades at national and international level in tennis, basketball, yoga, football, taekwondo and ice-hockey.
The school also scores well on parent participation, life-skills education and social accountability.
On the social accountability front, the school has adopted three slums. Apart from opening its doors to students from economically weaker section, the school also imparts different kinds of training to parents of these students. The school has also got the International School award from the British Council for including international curriculum, e-library and smart classrooms.
The school organised the mock United Nations in November, where the General Assembly, Human Rights Council and Economic and Social Council were simulated to inculcate leadership skills in the children and make them globally aware citizens. Contemporary topics like safe disposal of nuclear waste, trafficking of human beings and reduction of poverty were discussed. Apart from studies, the students of Laxman Public School participate in various recreational activities as part of the different clubs of the school, such as the eco- friendly club, the theatre club, the paper recycling club, etc.