When Vaishali Sonwalkar shifted to Delhi from Mumbai in 2006 after her husband's transfer, she was looking for a school that would encourage her daughters' various talents and not just focus on learning by rote.
After her daughters' unsatisfactory stint in a school near her society in Indraprastha Extension in east Delhi, she started looking for other options when her friend suggested Ryan International, Mayur Vihar phase 3.
Her daughters, Shubhada (Class 5) and Shamita (Class 1), have been studying at Ryan since 2008. "I am happy with their progress. Apart from concentrating on academics, the school offers a lot of extra-curricular activities ensuring an all-round focus," said Sonwalkar, a homemaker. "I find the teachers well trained too."
For many parents like her, an education focusing on holistic development of their children is of utmost importance. Agreed Sabaya Banerjee, another resident of Indraprastha Extension for last 10 years. "During interaction with teachers at the time of admission of my son, it was the teachers from Amity who gave me the confidence that my child would benefit with something more then a mere education."
His son Shourya, now studying in Class 7 at the Amity International School, Mayur Vihar phase 1, does not even want to think of leaving the school to join somewhere else.
Sonwalkar and Banerjee exemplify the essential character that today is east Delhi. But things were different earlier. For years, the trans-Yamuna area of the national capital looked at its southern counterparts for everything from schools to shopping to entertainment. "Sixteen years ago when my daughter was to be admitted to nursery, there were hardly any public school in the area. So I sent her and then later my son to a Srinivaspuri school," said Sanjay Bhargava, Mayur Vihar 1 resident.
However, after the cooperative housing societies in Mayur Vihar came up in phases and Indraprastha Extension started developing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, things started changing. These areas clubbed with colonies such as Preet Vihar, Anand Vihar and Swasthya Vihar emerged as a major hub for professionals, many of whom migrated to Delhi from other parts of the country. And Laxmi Nagar, Krishna Nagar and Gandhi Nagar, the traditional commercial centres, added to the area's profile.
Sensing the right opportunity, schools from south and central Delhi started opening branches here. Newer schools recognising the growing requirement for good education cashed in too. Today, east Delhi has schools and educational institutions that can stand in competition with any elite south Delhi school. For instance, DAV Public School, Shreshtha Vihar has more than 50 e-pathshalas (classrooms) equipped with audio-visual projectors and multimedia learning aids for students of class 6 to 12.
Moreover, schools here use state-of-the-art technology to help teachers make most of their skills, and put equal emphasis on co-curricular activities and sports. "My school believes in hands-on experience for every activity rather than bookish knowledge," said Pramod K Bhatnagar, manager of Ahlcon Public School, Mayur Vihar phase 1. "We also have special coaching academies for football and cricket, with one international faculty as football coach among the several on roll."
The school has sent its French teacher, Chavi Gupta, to France for a teacher's study project, he added.
Recognising the need to impart global education, several schools have educational exchange programmes. Almost every school offers its students an eclectic range of activities, including robotics and language labs, eco-clubs, multi-media clubs, fine arts and music clubs, and astronomy clubs. East Delhi schools are catching up with their counterparts in other parts of Delhi.
Innovative teaching tools
Honoured with four international and three national awards, for both academic excellence and extra-curricular activities, Ahlcon International School believes education goes far beyond the four walls of the classroom.
With 11 laboratories and four IT-enabled learning rooms, the school's campus, spread over 8,000 sq metres, is equipped with state-of-the-art technology for innovative teaching — which made it win the British Council international school award 2010.
The school envisions imparting education and creating global leaders out of students from all walks of life, including slow learners and the physically challenged.
It has 18 diverse clubs for students and a dedicated annual budget for teacher training programmes, facilitating regular skill building.
Along with participating in ongoing exchange programmes with schools in the UK and Germany, Ahlcon students excel in sports such basketball and swimming.
The school also provides facilities for shooting, yoga, judo and squash.
"Parents today are looking at holistic development, not merely academic excellence," said principal Ashok K Pandey.
"Our infrastructure, curriculum and teacher training programmes are aimed at imparting life skills along with academic excellence."
Mantra of active learning
What began with a mere 36 children, a single teacher and with bare minimum infrastructure, has grown to include more than 1,500 students, an extremely dedicated staff and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
A huge playground and chirpy children welcome you as you enter the school. The introduction of a sports programme in accordance with the UK sports academy just goes to show the focus on sports — Salwan Public's USP.
"The country needs to focus more on sports. Today, children are into tuition, television and other such things…they need to get on the ground," said principal Kiran Mehta. To make the children aware of the growing problems of the environment, the school has a special magazine on sustainability and environment.
Vibrant cultural exchange programme is the hallmark of Salwan Public School that also sends its teachers and students on foreign trips. The school has an ISO 9001:2000 certification, has educational partnerships with eminent global institutions such as the British Council, Cambridge University, UK and Reggio Emilia Institute, Italy, which provide students a unique global platform.
Students are constantly encouraged to try their hand at activities as diverse aero modelling and documentary filmmaking.
The school has smart classrooms that include projectors and audio-visuals modules. Teachers too undergo continuous training and attend regular workshops to hone their skills. Salwan regularly organises leadership camps, which offer activities such as close quarter combat, tent pitching and night trekking at high altitudes.
Training for success
Ahlcon Public School puts a lot of stress on co-curricular activities. With its girls' football team recently winning the CBSE football nationals, the school's decision to invest in coaching academies for football and cricket — not to mention getting an international coach for football and setting up two playgrounds — has yielded fruit.
The school was established in September 1988 by the Shanti Devi Progressive Education Society and is spread over three acres, has 11 laboratories and six IT-enabled learning rooms, two multipurpose auditoriums and several clubs.
The school has a number of activity groups such as the eco club, the disaster club and the heritage club that enable the students to make the children understand and become aware about their environment.
"We also lay stress on education for the underprivileged and offer scholarships to the needy," said Pramod Bhatnagar, the school's manager. There is a parallel school that offers free education to children from the deprived section. The initiative, called the priority wing, brings the students on a par with the regular students and merges them with the mainstream classes.
Another interesting aspect about Ahlcon is the annual Silico Battles, an endeavour to guide students in making their mark as budding IT professionals. The event today is one of the most sought after in Delhi and NCR region, with more than 45 schools having participated the last time it was help.
Over the years, Ahlcon has become one of the most sought after schools in this region, ably competing with the more developed localities of the national capital such as south and central in every field.