A 138-year old school, established by freedom fighters and social reformers Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vishnushastri Chiplunkar, and Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, has taken a historic step by welcoming girl students to take admission. The New English School on Tilak road was in fact far ahead of its time and was originally co-ed till 1936. After that year, the girls were shifted to a separate school by the parent body, Deccan Education Society. After 82 years, however, the school has decided to become co-ed primarily to promote a holistic and gender-neutral educational environment, principal Nagesh Mone, said in an interview. “As the students grow up, they need to know that men and women are equal and should be treated so. Gender-based bias cannot be a part of their lives and to ensure that we need to start at the school level. Among many other reasons, this was the main vision that drove us to take this decision after 82 years,” said Mone.Established in 1880, the New English School was among the first native-run schools to impart western education in Pune. The objective was to provide the masses with affordable access to modern education. This was done with a revolutionary spirit, at a time when English education was provided to a select few in government institutions and Christian missions only.“In the changing times, we need to make sure that our boys know the true sense of respect and imbibe the discipline of treating women right. It all starts at a young age; only then can change trickle down in society. On the other hand, women deserve all opportunities equal to men and should not be barred based on gender,” said Mone. He was optimistic that the entry of girls would raise the standard of education at the school.