Tucked away in a tree-lined avenue at Fort stands a heritage building that has been home to one of the most sought-after schools among south Mumbai’s elite for the past 149 years.
At Cathedral and John Connon School, the imposing grey stone façade bears an old-world charm belying its constant evolution as an educational institution.
“We try to do something new each year,” said Meera Isaacs, the school’s principal, who took charge in 1996.
The latest innovations include the setting up of a resources centre for learning-disabled children and giving ISC students the option of choosing subjects across streams rather than maintaining the Arts, Science, Commerce straitjackets.
Cathedral is known for its emphasis on academics.
“But that’s not all that is important,” said Isaacs. The school offers a host of extra-curricular activities.
The school’s alumni list is a veritable gallery of contemporary achievers, including Salman Rushdie, Ratan Tata and Fareed Zakaria.
Interview Meera Isaacs
‘We believe in making students good human beings first’
Q: The school is celebrating its 150th anniversary next year. What has helped the institution attain its stature?
The principles of the school have made it what it is. We have a strong value system that we try to inculcate in our students and that has remained constant. The Christian ethos has also been important to our success. We believe in making our students good human beings first, just like all other religions do.
Q: What will you be doing to mark this milestone?
We will be doing things throughout the year. Like we do every year, this year too, we will try to introduce something new. We will bring out school memorabilia; hold performances and workshops of various kinds. Basically, we will be doing everything on a larger scale. Our alumni are also closely involved.
Q: Last year must have been difficult, given that so many from the school suffered from the 26/11 attacks?
It was a very hard time. We couldn’t comprehend why this was happening to us. About 13 or 14 families were affected, including students, their parents, teachers and ex-students. We had an all-faiths singing session in December. After that, our teachers worked closely with a bunch of counsellors so that they could themselves come to terms with what had happened before speaking to the children about it. When the new academic year opened, we discussed it at length in class. It was a catharsis of a kind. We have all tried to deal with it and move on.
Campion School, Cooperage Road
Fees: Rs 3,000 per month
Student-teacher ratio: 35:1
Classes: senior KG to Class 10
Admissions procedure: Informal interaction with parents and children
Founded in 1943 by Rev. Joseph Savall and the Jesuit community, Campion School is an all-boys’ institution named after the Jesuit saint Edmund Campion.
“Campion teaches student to think and not to learn by rote,” said principal Paul Machado, attributing the continuing high standards of the school to the “commitment of the staff, the support of the management committee and the involvement of parents.”
Outside the curriculum, Campion offers yoga, quizzing, elocution and a host of sports. The school has its own basketball court and uses the adjacent BMC-owned grounds for football and the Oval Maidan for cricket.
Last year, Campion introduced computer-aided education for classes five to 10 and from next year it will start a system of graded report cards for all classes up to class eight.
“We are continuously trying to decrease the stress of exams,” said Machado.
St Xavier’s Boys’ Academy, Marine Lines
Fees: Rs 1,450 per month
Student-teacher ratio: 25:1
Classes: Prep 1 (upper KG) to Class 10
Admissions procedure: Through applications
In the mid-1950s, Father Sologran, a Jesuit priest, convinced local police authorities to move their proposed police station at Marine Lines elsewhere. He wanted to build a school instead on the land, and in 1957, he established the all-boys’ St. Xavier’s Boys’ Academy.
Education at the school is modelled on the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm, a paradigm rooted in self-reflection as the basis of schooling. “We constantly encourage our students to think about what they have learnt. Our teachers plan all their lessons around this philosophy,” said Vice-Principal Savio D’Mello.
Inter-house dramatics, elocution, sports, quizzes and an annual science exhibition are the mainstay of the school’s extra-curricular calendar. For students of class nine, the school every year runs a unique four-day exchange programme with a tribal school in Nasik district “The rural experience gives children from Mumbai a whole new perspective,” said D’Mello. Apart from a small playground in the school, the students also use the adjacent Karnataka Sports Ground for all sporting activities.