This month a 14-member team from Utpal Shanghvi School in Juhu returned with 15 medals, including seven golds, and a championship trophy from an Asian martial arts championship. These students, all stars of karate, judo and kobodo participated against children from 21 countries. This was the school's best performance so far.
"There are better opportunities and better prospects for children now," said Reshma Lalwani, who coached the team with her husband. "Parents' perspectives have also changed, and they want their children to do something in life. It's not just about studies anymore."
Not only has the range of extra-curriculars broadened in schools, the level and intensity has also gone up. Students routinely participate in international science Olympiads, sports competitions, debating and drama activities.
"Education is a must, but my son is gifted and we don't want to lose out on that," said Meera Chotrani, whose 10-year-old son Veer is the under-11 national champion and Asia number one in squash. "His school is very supportive and he aims to pursue the sport professionally."
A contingent from Billabong School in Malad participated in an international Spelling Bee last year for the first time. "It is important for the children to know how to deal with a competitive environment and to develop confidence," said Kusum Kanwar, the school's principal.
Model United Nations conferences, which have become a regular feature in most schools now, are among the most international activities. In 2011, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Bandra, got its first foreign participants. Cathedral and John Connon School in Fort, also had international students last year, while the Harvard Model United Nations held a conference in India for the first time last year.