To call central Delhi the cradle of schools in the Capital would not be too off the mark. Before Delhi started rapidly expanding in all directions and schools started opening in every nook and corner to cater to a growing population and growing aspirations, central Delhi, with its accessibility to each part of the city and plenty of open spaces, was the preferred location for setting up a school.
It doesn’t then come as a surprise that the average age of the 10 schools voted as the best in central Delhi by respondents of the HT-C fore Survey is 60 years.
The top school in central Delhi, the 90-year-old Modern School, Barakhamba Road (its junior school campus is on Humayun Road) is one such beneficiary of the age factor. Going in favour of the school are its reputation, a strong alumni network, and an equally strong stress on academics, sports and co-curricular activities.
However, the age and the experience of these schools can also prove to be roadblocks.
“Being an old school means one has to constantly keep re-inventing,” said MI Hussain, principal, Delhi Public School (DPS), Mathura Road. “The task of preserving the school’s core beliefs while changing one’s outlook with each new generation can be a difficult task.”
DPS, Mathura Road, is going to introduce air-conditioned classrooms for children from next year because of growing demands from parents to do so. The school also reviews its pre-primary curriculum and activities regularly to meet the changing needs of students and parents.
The youngest school in central Delhi to have made it to the top 10 list is Sanskriti School, Chanakyapuri. Just 12 years old, Sanskriti has gained a reputation for itself because it focused on areas that other, older schools were slow to pick up on. It has built an impressive infrastructure, which other schools either took years to build or have still not been able to build.
It followed a similar approach in co-curricular activities.
“Sanskriti was the number one choice for my kids because not only does the school offer the best education but its approach is down to earth and the children are protected from the ostentatious culture of the city,” said Aarati Anand, a career counsellor and trainer, whose two sons study in the school's junior section. “In sports, though, the school could still improve.”
Sports is an area Modern School excels in. More than 80 of its students are involved in national- and international-level sports, a figure few Delhi schools can compete with.
“The sports infrastructure at the school is outstanding and there is personalised training as there are coaches for almost every sport,” said Shivika Vikram (13), a student of the school and a national-level basketball and badminton player, and a Kathak dancer.
When the schools in central Delhi were established they had not anticipated the infrastructure needs of future generations of students. Now, some of them find it difficult to expand because of space constraints. “We are running short on space and hence are not able to expand the sports infrastructure as much as we would like to,” said F. Latif, who has been teaching at Mater Dei School for 31 years.
To maintain their reputation and popularity, schools have to sometimes do away with traditions and adopt new practices to cater to the changing needs of the society.
“There was a time when DPS used to have an ‘ability’ section for students who were performing exceptionally in academics,” said Hussain. “However, with changing times and stress on inclusive education we have done away with that practice.”
But not all schools agree with this.
“We ensure that all changes in the school are in line with our traditions and philosophy,” said Anuradha Joshi, principal, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya.