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Mumbai’s old schools get new curricula to attract students

Fearing getting overshadowed by new schools, most state board schools are setting up divisions offering national and international curricula

mumbai Updated: Oct 05, 2017 16:15 IST
Musab Qazi
St Joseph School, Bandra is offering IGCSE curriculum to Class 8 and Class 9 students.
St Joseph School, Bandra is offering IGCSE curriculum to Class 8 and Class 9 students.(HIndustan Times)

Times are changing, and so are the old state board schools in the city.

Fearing getting overshadowed by new schools, most are setting up divisions offering national and international curricula.

Two schools to follow suit are St Stanislaus School and St Joseph Convent School at Hill Road in Bandra, which are among the oldest schools in the city. Both were founded in 1863 as orphanages and are run as government-aided English-medium schools that follow the state board curriculum.

While St Stanislaus School, which is a boys-only school, is run by Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), a Roman Catholic congregation known for their educational work; St Joseph School, a girls-only school, is run by Daughters of the Cross, another Catholic congregation. Both are affiliated to the Archdiocese Board of Education (ABE) in Mumbai, which manages more than 100 schools.

Last year, both the schools started to offer International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum to Class 8 students in combined classes for boys and girls in new schools. This year, the schools have extended the facility to Class 9, opening admissions to students from other schools if they clear the entrance test.

Lisette Fernandes, administrator at St Joseph’s Convent International School, said the international schools were established with the intention of offering an alternative to state board schools within the institution. “For the past few years, many Catholic students are shifting to other non-convent institutes. As a result, the board decided to introduce the international curriculum in select schools of the city,” she said.

The schools had several reasons for choosing IGCSE over other educational boards. For one, the Daughters of the Cross already have the experience of running an international school affiliated to the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) school in 1980s. The school was closed in the late 1980s, as the religious order running the school felt only privileged students were benefiting from the school due to its high fees.

The schools decided against adopting a CBSE curriculum because they believe it is too similar to the state board curriculum. While the ICSE curriculum fulfilled the schools’ requirement, they found it difficult to compete with the already established ICSE schools in the city.

Another organisation that has introduced a new curriculum is Parle Tilak Vidyalaya Association (PTVA), which runs several schools and colleges in Vile Parle, Andheri and Mulund. When Lokmanya Tilak died in 1920, a group of prominent residents of Vile Parle came together and decided to continue the work of the freedom fighter.

In 1921, they started PTVA’s Marathi Medium School, which soon became the flag-bearer of the distinctive Maharashtrian culture of Mumbai’s Vile Parle suburb. The association’s English medium school started in 1982. In 2008, the management started an ICSE school.

The management said the new school seeks to fulfil the requirements of an upwardly mobile population. “People from the area now have higher aspirations and even want to go abroad. Such schools help them fulfill their dreams,” said Anil Ganu, president, PTVA, adding within six years, the school has got such good response that they now run in two shifts.

Shardashram Vidyamandir Trust, a Dadar-based educational society founded in 1949, will also start an ICSE school from the next academic year owing to the demand. The trust started with a small technical school and now runs 13 different Marathi- and English-medium schools that follow the state board curriculum. The schools count 35 cricketers, including famous names such as Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar and Abhishek Nayar, among its alumni.

The trustees cited the changing demography of the locality as one of the main reasons for starting the new school. “The locality was earlier characterised by cotton mills and was populated by Maharashtrian mill workers. But following the workers’ strike, the middle and lower Maharashtrian population began migrating to the suburbs. The chawls gave way to high-rises. Now, the locality is much more cosmopolitan and aspirational, and we have to cater to this population.” said Chandrakant Sangar, joint secretary of the trust.

‘Curriculum can’t decide how successful a student will be’

Francis Joseph, who is working towards improvement of school education through his organization, School Leaders Network, talks about bringing diversity to the classroom and improving the environment of the school.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why are parents opting for other education boards over the state board?

It could be because the international boards give more freedom to schools and students. It doesn’t help if teachers are tied to a particular curriculum. Parents’ perception of schools also plays a role. They have slowly started devaluing the state board. Higher fees are often considered the equivalent of better education.

How much difference does the board make to child’s education?

Curriculum is not the deciding factor for success. It’s not even about infrastructure. Instead, the role of teachers and leaders of the school is much more critical. The environment in school and home often plays a much larger role in the upbringing of a child.

What do you think is the future of state board schools in Mumbai?

State board schools will never shut down. They have started to improve to compete with other schools. Many state board schools are performing very well.

Do you think different boards of education will add to class disparity in society?

When I was in school, people from all strata of society were in the same classroom. That has changed. We are pampering our children a lot.

How should educational institutes respond to changes in attitude and society?

The legacy of a school is determined by its culture, not by how old the building is. Schools will have to build a culture. Even if they are bringing new boards, the various curricula should supplement each other. There should be no disparity among students on the basis of the curriculum. Same facilities should be extended to all students.