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Bridging the north-south divide

delhi Updated: Dec 23, 2010 23:14 IST
Harsha Baruah
Harsha Baruah
Hindustan Times
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North Delhi may be known for housing the country’s largest university, the University of Delhi, but when it comes to schools the area goes short on good names. Although it is home to some of the oldest schools in the Capital — Happy School in Daryaganj or Tis Hazari’s Queen Mary School – north Delhi hasn’t kept pace with the change that has come about in other parts of the city in recent decades.
That is partly because the area had a preponderance of government schools, which have steadily slipped over time. And until recently, good private schools didn’t move there to fill the gap.

“There came a time when the standards at government schools fell,” said Vijaynagar’s Rekha Sharma, whose two daughters study in Delhi Public School, Rohini. “We lack enough good private schools in our area,” Sharma said.

Kalyan Vihar resident KC Pandit, whose son is studying in Class 10 in Maharaj Agarsen School in Ashok Vihar, agrees that schools in the region haven’t improved with time. “In spite of the fact that government schools have more-qualified teachers and infrastructure, these are not utilised fully,” said Pandit.

The largely unchanged demography – mostly refugees from Pakistan and small-time business people who placed much less emphasis on education compared to residents in other parts of the city – was responsible for keeping good private schools from exploring north.

According to DK Bedi, principal of Apeejay School in Pitampura, when it comes to choosing a school, today’s parents in Delhi usually think: “If I can shoot, I will shoot in south Delhi.”

That is not to say, Bedi said, that good schools exist only in south Delhi.

“You will find good as well as not-so-good schools in both the north and the south. At the end of the day, it is a matter of mindset,” he said.

“If one goes to Greater Kailash or Saket, one would notice a sense of poshness. Youngsters are used to leading a certain kind of lifestyle in those areas. Naturally, they would also like to study in a school in the same area. So it is not just a matter of the quality of the school.”

Rita Sen, principal of DPS, Rohini, believes that it would be wrong to over-emphasise the “north-south” divide when it comes to school education.

“If parents were so desperate to send their children to schools only in south Delhi, I would not be getting 4,000-odd applications for nursery admissions to my school every year,” Sen said. “Today, we are in need of more good schools in every part of the city.”

Few would disagree with that, but north Delhi perhaps needs good schools more than any other part of the city.

Sen’s DPS is a response to the changes that characterize north Delhi’s demography in the last two decades. Areas such as Rohini and Pitampura have come up in a big way and are home to an upwardly mobile middle class that places a premium on its children’s education.

Schools in these areas are being sought after by parents who live in faraway places. “Parents from places as far as Vikaspuri, which is 10 km away from my school, apply for their children’s admission. We, however, give preference to children living within a 5km radius,” said Sneh Verma, principal of DAV Pushpanjali Enclave, Pitampura.

Delhi Metro is also bringing about interesting changes, both in enhancing the appeal of north Delhi schools and offering easy transportation.
Disagreeing that the south city has an edge when it comes to quality education, Rukmini Devi Public School director KC Garg said, "In areas like Dwarka, where there are groups of flats occupied by middle-income families, one finds a number of good schools to cater to their needs. And it would be wrong to say that schools in Pitampura are less good than ones in Barakhamba Road.

Academic excellence
DPS, Rohini, has topped the rankings for the north zone for the second consecutive year. Rita Sen, its principal, brushed aside the achievement, saying, “Achievements keep happening every year. She was happy with the board results this year. The school, which scored 79 on academic rigour, the third-highest in the north zone, had a 100% positive result for Class 10 and 99.43% for Class 12.

Agreeing that teachers play the most important role in getting a school good board results, Sen said that she was very happy to have the teachers she did.

This year, along with other CBSE schools, her school’s Class 10 students won’t be giving a traditional board exam, but will instead be tested through Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE).

Talking about the new evaluation method, Sen said: “CCE has been a major change. We took the parents through the process, explaining how the new evaluation is done.”

The school also scored the highest in life skills education. Sen spoke of one child whose achievement stood out in her memory. “Ekansh Gupta stood second in the DPS Maths Science Olympiad 2009. He has been awarded a Maruti Suzuki Alto for the achievement.” Class 10 student Gupta, who names science as his favourite subject, said about the experience, “It helped me assess where I stand in relation to other students.”

The school also has two libraries, both for junior and senior sections with over 20,000 books. They also have a trained counsellor to advise children on academic as well as other problems.

Where quality comes first
Montfort School, Ashok Vihar, has climbed up from fourth position last year to the top of the rankings in the north zone this year.

The school’s principal, Brother Monachan KK, says the reason for his school to stand out from the others is because it doesn’t compromise on the quality of education. He also believes that a dedicated faculty and providing equal opportunity to every student is a vital part of a school’s mandate. Monachan believes that the educational qualifications of a teacher should not be the only criterion for recruitment, but that the teacher should also have a personality which will allow him/her to interact and understand the students.

“We believe strongly in discipline and reforms in our school. And we are not a commercial organization; our aim is to provide education to the masses. That is why you will find that our students come from different socio-economic background. Every year, around 4,000 to 5,000 children apply for admission to my school and their families come from across social statuses. That is why our fees, too, are nominal.”

Monachan is especially proud of his school’s basketball team, and says that apart from the school’s academic record – Montfort had a 100% and 98.05% result in the Class 10 and 12 board exams, respectively, this year – he would list the basketball team’s performance among the school’s high points this year. Perhaps this emphasis on sports is why the school scored a high 92 – substantially higher than all the other schools in the zone – in extra-curricular activities.

Churning out sportspersons
When asked to list some of the achievements of her school in the last academic year, Bal Bharati Public School’s principal Meenu Goswami mentioned the three national records that her students broke this year in various sports categories. She set aside her students Vinayak Pariyar and Akshay Shaukin for their performance in the sporting arena.

“Apart from the national level, our students also excelled at the zonal level,” Goswami said.

She added: “Last year, we narrowly missed out winning the Ramjas Inter-school debate. I am very glad to say that we clinched the top spot this year.” No wonder then that BBPS, Pitampura, scored the second highest in sports, with 79 points, and the highest in extra-curricular activities, with 80 points. It also scored the highest in academic rigour with 81 points, with a 100% and 99.2% results in the Class 10 and 12 boards, respectively.

Speaking on the new CCE that has been introduced this year, Goswami said: “Our teachers are coping very well with the new system; we ensure that we train them so that they are fully conversant with the new system. However, some parents need to be convinced about the system’s credibility in order for them to have full faith in it.”

Goswami also said that while children in junior classes adapt to the new system better, board students have a less easy time doing so because of examination preparations.

She added: “In fact, even before the CBSE introduced the system, we had our own methods non-scholastic evaluation, even for the junior classes”

The social has a very good social standing and can be termed as the neighbourhood school, with many parents choosing this school over the existing schools as well the newer ones coming up.

BBPS has various clubs as well, such as the Paper Recycling Club, the Gardening Club and the Pinnacle Club, where students can learn different forms of programming, animation and advanced graphics.