Densely-populated north Delhi, with its winding roads and small markets, was once home to the city's oldest schools. Over the years, these schools - mostly government-run - have fallen off the radar, leaving a lacuna that private schools are yet to fill.
Demographics have also had a role to play in this scenario. Education did not rank very high on the priority list of the small-time traders who made up most of the area's population. But with the Delhi Metro giving a boost to pockets like Rohini and Pitampura, the upwardly-mobile middle classes are settling in. And hopefully, good schools will soon follow.
The USP of north Delhi schools has always been affordable education, with a focus on academics. The results of the 2011 Hindustan Times-C fore Top School survey include many familiar, expected names, such as Montfort School, Apeejay School, Delhi Public School, Rohini and the two Bal Bharati Public Schools. There have been minor changes though. Darbari Lal DAV Model School and
NK Bagrodia School have edged their way past Rukmini Devi Public School and Jaspal Kaur Public School to bag a top ten slot this year, compared to the 2010 survey.
With smart boards and cultural exchange programmes becoming a norm, schools here are changing. But attitudes are still conservative. Parents want their children to opt for 'safer' choices like science and commerce. Hence, many schools here do not offer the humanities stream.
"We used to have an Arts section earlier, but very few students opted for it. So we discontinued it," said Monachan KK, principal, Montfort School.
A classroom in Bal Bharati Public School (BBPS), Rohini, exemplifies this struggle between old and new ideas.
"Our parents have older notions regarding education and careers. They feel that science and commerce are stable options. If you want to do something unconventional, it becomes tough to convince them," said Aishwarya Gaur, a class 10 student. While her classmates agree with her, 75% would still opt for science. "It keeps your options open," shrugs Aishwarya.
The much-hyped educational reforms and the introduction of Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation(CCE) has received a mixed response.
Though many laud the move for reducing the stress levels of students, they doubt whether the reforms can really ease the stiff competition for marks. "The entire education system, with its myopic focus on exams and marks, needs to change. One exam, a single set of marks and your future is decided," said Rekha Sharma, principal, BBPS, Rohini.
Both students and parents remain unconvinced, though their reasons differ. "For the board exams, you had to study once a year. But with CCE, there is continuous appraisal and continuous pressure. There is no time for anything else," said Ayushman Sharma, a class 10 student.
"Doing away with the boards in class 10 has made students very laidback. Now, when they encounter them in class 12, the pressure to perform will only be greater," complains Anjali Jain, whose daughter studies at Apeejay School, Pitampura.