When Soma Gupta moved to Noida in 1991 with her family, you could count the number of good schools on your fingers. Her two daughters studied at Delhi Public School, one of the big names in Noida education.
“There weren’t many big schools and people sent their kids to Delhi to study. Also, since the older schools came up as the township developed and prospered, they were all in residential sectors,” said Gupta.
Today, the scenario is starkly different. Noida seems to be in the midst of a second wave of schools, especially in the last decade. Fuelled by demand from the increasing army of working professionals, these new schools dot the expressway and institutional areas. Even established names such as DPS and Somerville School are opening new branches on the expressway."The availability and allotment of land around the institutional area is a big factor in schools coming up here. Gurgaon and Noida are developing, the occupancy in highrises is rising and there is demand for new schools," said Abha Adams, education advisor, Step by Step School.
This mix of old and new schools is reflected in the top 10 contenders of the Hindustan Times-C fore Top Schools Survey 2012. Tried-and-tested names, such as Amity International, Delhi Public School and Apeejay School, among others, rub shoulders with the newer kids in town, such as Lotus Valley School, Kothari International and the Shriram Millennium School.
Step By Step School tops the charts with the highest scores not only in the extra-curricular activities and innovation categories, but in parameters related to competence of teachers and their training and development as well.
Amity International maintains its edge in academics, topping the parameter and coming over-all second. Though the Delhi Public School, Noida, does not top any particular parameter, its consistent performance earns it the third slot. Apeejay School scores in the sports parameter, while Lotus Valley gets top billings in the infrastructure category and Somerville School is the most value for money.
Different schools are identified with different USPs, be it academics, progressive learning techniques or affiliations to reputed educational institutions. Call it the curse of the plenty, but in the crowded marketplace of education, each school has to stand out to catch parents’ attention.
“Parents do a proper reconnaissance before admitting their child to a school. Some sit for hours, observing, while others look at Class 10th and 12th results or the activities offered,” said Sarita Madhok, principal, Mayoor School.
One can detect a marked shift in the kind of schools younger parents are looking at. For many, admission into an established school is still the Holy Grail, but others are leaning more towards ‘progressive’ schools: those that offer smaller class sizes, individual attention, and newer ways of learning.
Said Rita Kaul, principal, Millennium School: “When parents come for interviews, I let them ask the questions. I tell them that I can give your child knowledge, but I can’t guarantee any results. Parents already know that our school is different from others.”
Results. Though still powerful, that one-word epicentre of school education is slowly being displaced. Parents are asking for, and schools are striving for, something more. The introduction of Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation is also aimed at assessing different types of learning.
“Schools have begun to focus on the need to teach skills and not only on textbook curriculum. Parents are also asking, will my child be happy in this school? Will it give her holistic education?” said Adams.