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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014
Living up to expectations
Zehra Kazmi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 13, 2012
First Published: 14:51 IST(13/9/2012)
Last Updated: 01:43 IST(14/9/2012)
Students at St. Thomus School, Mandir Marg, New Delhi. Photo: Sushil Kumar/Hindustan

It would not be an exaggeration to call Central Delhi, the locus of education in the capital. Most schools here are heavy-weights in their fields and need no introduction. Whether it is Modern School’s sprawling red-brick campus in the heart of the capital or the buildings of CJM and St. Columba’s, which stand side by side near Gol Dak Khana or the arches of DPS, Mathura Road visible from the flyover, these schools are landmarks of the city.

With lack of space precluding addition of new schools, the 2012 HT-C fore Top Schools Survey features a familiar list of names. In fact, this year’s results look like a facsimile of last year’s, except for one alteration. Convent of Jesus and Mary (CJM) has found a place in the top ten, edging out Mater Dei Convent.

Sanskriti School finishes top of the charts, with the highest scores in ‘teacher care and development’, ‘individual attention to students’ and ‘safety and hygiene’. Modern School, Barakhamba Road, spread over 25 acres, unsurprisingly tops the ‘infrastructure and facilities’ parameter, along with the ‘sports’ and ‘extra-curricular activities’ categories, though it has the lowest score in ‘value for money’.

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In third place stands Springdales, Pusa Road which is ranked first in the ‘social accountability’ and ‘life skills education’ categories. For the fourth slot, it’s a tie between Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, which tops the ‘academic rigour’ and ‘innovative teaching’ parameters, and the Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, which stands second in the ‘sports’ category.

Age : asset or liability?

Logistics is the biggest headache most old schools face. Replacing old systems,  getting MCD permits, phasing out old material, the list goes on.

“Things are far more difficult for an old school. You have to maintain your reputation, at the same time, you cannot be a dinosaur,” says Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal, Springdales School. “You have to institute reforms, upgrade skills and facilities, work on old teachers who may have fallen into a pattern.”

Agrees Anuradha Amos, principal, St Thomas’s, “We are an 81-years old institution, but there is no question of resting on our laurels. We constantly innovate, we have introduced ICT in classrooms and are planning to introduce smart boards as well. But yes, despite having two campuses, space is a problem. We would like to have another field, but there is no space to expand.”

Of course, having an established name has many advantages: the vast alumni community, word of mouth goodwill and most important of all, dedicated teachers with years of experience.

“In our school, independence of opinion is encouraged. I have been here for more than two decades and I don't want to leave till I have to,” smiles Seema Narayen, who teaches English at St. Thomas’.

But perhaps, the biggest satisfaction for seasoned schools is the ability to be role models for others. “Concepts like grades replacing marks, child-centered learning or community building were part of our school much before they became the norm. When it comes to educational reforms, we have always been the insiders, not outsiders looking in,” says Wattal.

Inclusivity is a cornerstone of schools here. Said Amos, “As a minority institution, we are not obliged to take students from the EWS category but we still do. We are focusing on girl-child education as well as minority students.”

Rubbishing the concept of ‘elite’ schools, Wattal defines a truly modern, 21st century school as one that is inclusive. “Schools in India need to look at inclusion and its different aspects —globalisation, offering a third language whether it is regional or foreign, facilitating communication and dialogue, taking students from minorities or special needs children or economically weaker backgrounds.”

Top 10 schools of central Delhi.

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