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Learning in five-star luxury

delhi Updated: Sep 27, 2009 00:21 IST
Manoj Sharma

Lush green lawns surround the off-white building, while the high-arched facade reminds you of ancient Rome. The huge circular lobby and corridors have upholstered sofas, statues and sculptures. Teak-panelled walls are adorned with large paintings. Young children of varied nationalities lounge on the sofas, their animated chatter echoing through the corridors.

No, it’s not a five-star hotel. We’re at Gurgaon’s Lancers International School. Built at a whopping cost of Rs 90 crore, Lancers started in August this year.

Guess what students pay? A cool Rs 6.65 lakh per annum for Indians and Rs 7. 49 lakh per annum for expatriates (for boarders of 12th grade).

‘Five-star’ facilities
Another world school that started this year in the NCR is Genesis Global School. Designed by Singapore’s renowned “Architects Team Three”, the school is spread across 23 acres on the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway.

A wi-fi campus, e-class rooms (classrooms fitted with PCs and projectors), multimedia library, conference rooms, air-conditioned living rooms — the school has it all. Plus, its has infrastructure for 19 sports, including golf, athletics, badminton, billiards, snooker, swimming (it has an Olympic-size pool). The cost? Rs 4 lakh for boarders. An admission drive is on.

Not long ago, world schools in Delhi meant the British School and American Embassy School — with their multi-cultural environment and international education — but they mostly catered to the children of embassy personnel and officials of other global organisations.

All that changed in 2003 — with the arrival of Pathways World School and GD Goenka World School.

The last few years has seen a steady rise in the number of such schools, what with the growing expat population and Indians’ growing charm with ‘global education with world-class facilities’. Presently, there are about 10 world schools in NCR.

New Mayos and Doons?
So, what’s the deal? What is a world school all about?

Firstly, they boast of an international curriculum like IB (International Baccalaureate) and IGCSE (International General Certificate for Secondary Education of the University of Cambridge); an international faculty and students — and lavish facilities.

No wonder they’ve become the new Mayos and Doons for the urban elite.

Walking down the lush green campus, dotted with trees and fountains, of Pathways World Schools in the Aravalli Hills near Sohna Gurgaon, one feels one is at a hill resort. Laptop-wielding children of varied nationalities are engaged in animated conversations. An in-housing swimming competition is on at the pool, with hordes of students screaming from the stands.

“We have students from 35 nationalities. Life on our campus is fascinating mix of academics and extra-curricular activities,” says Dr Sarvesh Naidu, director of the school, where boarders pay about Rs 4.8 lakh a year.

But does a school require such facilities as AC classrooms and hostels, a multi-cuisine dining hall, gyms, design technology studio and golf course? Doesn’t it make children class-conscious?

“Our facilities only support education and ensure all-round development. Our children do a lot of community work in the adjoining villages. They have their feet firmly on the ground,” Naidu adds.

“Indian education has failed to ignite the imagination and curiosity of children. We want to expose every child to international standards of mentoring and produce global citizens rooted in Indian values,” says Pramod Sharma, principal of Genesis. Prior to joining Genesis two months ago, Sharma was principal of Mayo College, Ajmer for 13 years.

Global mission
Adding to the global appeal of these schools is the fact that they boast of students and teachers from many countries.

Pathways, for example, has teachers of 10 nationalities. Lancers’ principal Daniel Dobe (46), from the US, says: “I’ve worked as an educator in 10 countries. This is by far the best school in terms of aesthetics and infrastructure. Besides, students and parents in India are more respectful towards Indians.”

These schools are also popular with children of people of Indian origin, who want their children to be schooled in India to familiarise them with their roots. But what attracts most Indian students — mostly children of top-notch professionals and businessmen — is their international curriculum.

“I came here last year from a boarding school in Mussoorie. I wanted to be at a school with a modern outlook and facilities,” says Kanupriya Bhagat from Agra, a 12th grade student at Pathways. “The experience here is multi-cultural and the IB diploma will help me gain admission in a foreign university easily,” she said, adding that life on campus is a mix of fun and academics.

Most world schools in NCR offer daily, weekly, and term boarding.

About 70 per cent of Pathways students are termly and weekly boarders. The hostel’s AC rooms have Wi-fi. It’s cafeteria serves cuisine to suit every taste.

Striking the right notes
Apart from sports, these schools also put a premium on creativity and performance like dance, music and theatre. Their music rooms boast of almost every music instrument — from guitars, drums, piano, keyboards to violins, tablas, sitars and tanpuras. Children are taught piano, western classical, blues and rock guitar and are encouraged to perform in front of classmates.

These new-age boarding schools say they are different from conventional boarding schools in that they do not carry ‘the baggage of traditions’.