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.