In those days, people would often jump the school walls to fetch an admission form,” said Brother Dominic Jacob, principal of Delhi Cantonment’s Mount St Mary’s School, explaining the popularity of this school in the city’s southwest in the 1960s.
Catering primarily to the children of defence personnel, with 70% seats reserved for them, the school was sought by parents of civilians too.
The disciplined environment was what impressed the parents,” said Jacob.
At a time when areas in southwest Delhi such as Vasant Kunj, Vasant Vihar and RK Puram were developing, more and more of the service class started shifting to these localities from central Delhi. Academicians from educational institutions such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University (south campus), Indian Institute of Technology and All India Institute of Medical Sciences also settled here.
At the same time, many foreign embassies started coming up in these areas.
Lack of good schools in the area meant that the professionals who settled here would often have to send their children to central Delhi schools such as Modern School, Barakhamba Road, St Columba’s, Delhi Public School (DPS), Mathura Road and Mater Dei. Tapping the need for established schools in southwest Delhi, DPS opened its branch in RK Puram (in 1972) and Modern School in Vasant Vihar (1975).
These schools carried with them the legacy of being successful brands, and their proximity made them the number one choice for parents in southwest and west Delhi. “The educated middle class, especially those from academic circles, most of whom were settled around this area, wanted the best education for their children and schools like DPS, RK Puram fulfilled that need,” said Shayama Chona, educationist and former principal of DPS, RK Puram.
Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar was established in 1972. “We started with only 15 students and had no recognition from the CBSE. So in spite of being located in a posh locality, the school catered to children from poor families,” said principal Madhulika Sen. “In fact, we would have a ‘admissions open’ board round the year.”
In the 1980s, the new schools coming up in southwest Delhi positioned themselves as those providing ‘alternative learning’ and ‘holistic development’. This soon caught the fancy of parents who looked for schools that focused on sports and all-round development along with academics.
Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan was the first to have a no-examination policy till class 8, and use grades for assessment instead of marks.
Air Force Golden Jubilee Institute, Subroto Park (established 1985) had a focused approach as well. Initially started as a school for the specially abled, it later expanded into a full-fledged school, with 70% seats reserved for children of air force personnel and 30% for general candidates.
Going beyond the set curriculum, customising it to a child’s abilities, and a teacher-student ratio of 1:14 in elementary classes and 1:28 in other classes are factors that set apart The Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar. Other schools such as Vasant Valley, Vasant Kunj (1990), DPS Vasant Kunj (1991), Ryan International School, Vasant Kunj (1991) and GD Goenka School, Vasant Kunj expanded the horizon of education in southwest Delhi, offering innovative curricula and expanded facilities. The competition among various schools to stand out in southwest Delhi has made them among the most sought after in Delhi.
Their popularity can be gauged by the fact that get 6 to 10 times more applications than the number of seats available for nursery admission.
A name to reckon with
With the junior wing in Vasant Vihar and the senior wing in Gurgaon, The Shri Ram School became a name to reckon with within a few years of coming up, in 1988. What began with five tents, 64 children, a handful of determined staff, has, grown slowly and steadily, holding its own among the oldest of schools in Delhi, to a school strength in excess of seven hundred children and a hundred and eight staff.
TSRS is one of the two ICSE schools in Delhi (the other being Frank Anthony Public School).
To ensure that every child’s individual need is catered to, TSRS has a Special Needs Department, which has been in existence since 1997.
Shreya Kumar, an alumna of the school and currently doing her Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, says, “The academic pressure was not so much and we had the freedom to express our views. We were treated as young adults rather than immature kids.” With equal emphasis on co-curricular activities, it’s easy to guess why it one of the most popular choice among parents for their children.
The school invests a lot in teacher training programmes, with the teachers attending regular workshops and seminars, to constantly upgrade their skills. TSRS lays a lot of emphasis on students with special education needs and these students engage in many extra and co-curricular activities throughout the year.
Lessons beyond books
Vasant Valley School, established in 1990, by the India Today Group, is a self-financing day school spread over eight acres. One of the best things about Vasant Valley is that the school does not assign a class rank to students. With an average class size of 30 students, individual attention is ensured to each student.
The school invests a lot in teacher training and in the year 2009-10 alone, the teachers attended 75 different workshops, ranging from teaching for different learning, to behaviour modification, to something as current as global warming. The innovative teaching makes learning fun and productive.
"The teaching would go beyond books. We would attend classes such as instrumental enrichment, which made us aware about concepts that may not be in syllabus," said Prayaag Akbar, who passed out of the school in 2000.
Vasant Valley gives equal importance to sports as well, with its students bringing laurels to the school. Most recently, the school won the under-13 inter-school squash tournament for the North zone.
The school offers the ASDAN curriculum for its students, which is a UK-based organisation that offers a wide range of curriculum programmes and qualifications for all abilities. The school website puts up the homework schedule for all the classes and is constantly updated.
The second school to be established under the Springdales Education Society, Springdales Dhaula Kuan came up in 1980. Ably guided by Principal Dr (Mrs) Jyoti Bose since 1988, a Springdalian herself, the school has gone from strength to strength. The school was one of the first to have a no-examination up to class VIII, using grades for assessment instead of marks.
Springdales has made promising efforts in the fields of community service and helped eradicate illiteracy. Its unique inclusive education program ensures that children with special needs, as also those from economically backward homes get every opportunity to join the mainstream.
Echoing the Springdales ethos, Abhishek an alumnus from the batch of 2000, says, "School was the best time of my life. Participating in annual days, sports days, community service programs, bunking classes, etc.
The list goes on and on! In fact, I hardly missed an opportunity to have fun."
The inclusive education centre established in the school in July 2006 has been a great success, with giving the children with special needs, the freedom and flexibility to progress at their own pace.
The Old Springdalians Association regularly holds large-scale health camps, literacy programmes and community service projects where a large number of old students and parents participate.
Among the initiatives of the school is Kaamyab, which will impart basic skills and personality development to young children from slum colonies. Saath-Saath Learning Center, another initiative of the school is for inclusive education and began in July 2006 in order to further enhance the inclusive educational programme of the school.