Excellence personified

Print edition : February 25, 2011

Students during an early morning parade at the Doon School in Dehra Dun. - GURINDER OSAN/AP

Three prominent educational institutions in the country show how they stand out from the rest.

OF the thousands of private schools in India, a few stand out on account of their continuing excellence. Three established schools one each from the north, the south and the west of India show what makes them different. The schools have been consistently maintained excellent in terms of academic rigour, extracurricular activities, holistic development of students, sound teaching principles and, of course, infrastructure and facilities.

Kodaikanal International School

Kodaikanal International School (KIS) in the hill station of Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, was started in 1901 as the Kodaikanal School for Missionaries Children. When it began, it provided elementary education to 13 schoolchildren of predominantly North American and European origin. Today, it is a child's dream school easy rules, no uniform, emphasis on the outdoors and, of course, a beautiful location.

But, as the school's website declares, KIS is an educational institution, first and foremost. Education is what we do, and we seek to do it well. A KIS education is valued in and of itself, but also for its ability to help students find their way into appropriate higher education and vocations. The KIS has offered its students the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum since 1976. It was the first international school in India to adopt the IB diploma programme (IBDP).

With the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) membership and school authorisation dating back to 1980, the KIS is the third oldest IB school in Asia and on the list of the first 20 IBO-authorised schools in the world. Since 1980, the KIS has had an average success rate of 90 per cent in the IB diploma examinations. This compares with a 75 to 80 per cent average success rate worldwide.

Initially, the KIS had an American curriculum and aimed at preparing students for entry into colleges in the United States. In 1974, the academic plan was changed to one in which the curricular programme had value as an end in itself, but which met international standards, preparing students to enter universities in many countries, including India, and which encouraged experimentation in new and bold curriculum designs and innovative methodology.

The school believes that IB has provided KIS with an excellent and steady academic programme, innovative pedagogy, a broadened service to the local community as well as an international orientation. KIS students consistently enter universities around the world, well-prepared by IB courses and extracurricular learning, to take their places in the world.

Being a boarding school, students at the KIS experience a whole new dimension that of living as a community in which students are required to take every aspect of their lives in the community seriously as part of their total learning experience leading to a greater sense of independence as individuals.

THE Doon School

In the 75 years of its existence, the Doon School in Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, has made a name for itself, which would have made its founder, Satish Ranjan Das, proud. Das, an eminent barrister from the pre-Independence era, was also a member of the Executive Council of Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy of India.

CLASSES IN THE Doon School have about 20 students on an average.-GURINDER OSAN/AP

Das made it his mission to establish India's first public school so that the Indian youth could get a well-rounded education in much the same way their British counterparts did in England's public schools. The Doon School was the first Indian public school to incorporate the best of Britain with the rich traditions of India. The New York Times has pithily described it as the Harrow of the Himalayas.

The school is owned by the Indian Public Schools' Society (IPSS), registered under the Indian Companies Act in 1929. The IPSS, a non-profit-making body, manages the school's affairs through a Board of Governors.

Affiliated to the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, the school also offers the IB diploma. Classes have about 20 students on average, and the student-teacher ratio is an enviable 10:1. Its faculty seeks to enlarge the learning experience.

The school provides an environment in which every student discovers and realises his full potential. One special feature of the school is the five-day midterm break when students and teachers undertake a one-week hike through the Himalayas or the Siwalik hills. The juniors are accompanied, while the seniors make it on their own. They pitch tents, cook and plan their own routes.

With alumni like writers Vikram Seth, Ramachandra Guha, Amitav Ghosh, social worker Bunker Roy, sculptor Anish Kapoor and journalists Prannoy Roy and Karan Thapar, the school has lived up to its aim of being an institution of excellence dedicated to producing leaders of the future.

The Cathedral Vidya School

The Cathedral Vidya School at Lonavala in Maharashtra is a co-educational, English-medium residential school. It is a branch of the 150-year-old Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai and follows the same philosophy, objectives, and academic and administrative systems as the parent school.

Located amongst the Sahyadri Hills, the school imparts a broad-based and holistic education in its 40-acre campus. Its programmes have adapted the best of traditional schooling, marked by a strong academic core, to the needs of an increasingly technology-driven and quality-conscious society.

The school's fundamental values are hard work, discipline and simplicity. These values, practised in a nurturing and supportive environment, are visible in every sphere of school life. The school offers a classic mix of the ICSE, IGCSE and the IBDP (since March 2009).

The school was started in 2009 by Vineet Nayyar, a former bureaucrat is the Vice Chairman of Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Satyam. The 71-year-old used his savings along with minority equity participation from the Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai.

Nayyar is keen that underprivileged children should also have access to a privileged school like this. Exceptionally bright students who cannot afford the annual fee of Rs.4 lakh (inclusive of boarding) are offered 100 per cent scholarships.

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