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India’s Best Boarding Schools

This year The Doon School, Dehradun has been obliged to share top spot with the Rishi Valley School, Chittoor, an alternate-style residential school 

The four-year reign of the Doon School, Dehradun (estb. 1935) as India’s most respected boarding school is not over yet. However this year the premier boarding school has been obliged to share top spot with the Rishi Valley School (RVS), Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh). Promoted by education savant and sage J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)  in 1926 as an alternate-style, nature-friendly primary-secondary at a time when the idea of sustainable, environ-ment-friendly economic development was in its inception, Rishi Valley has steadily improved its ranking from No. 3 in 2008 to second last year and to the top spot in the EW-C fore 2010 survey. RVS is rated No.1 on the parameters of competence of faculty, individual attention to students, value for money and integrity.

“We are happy to learn that Rishi Valley School has fared well in what seems to be a comprehensive survey. However we are also aware that a great deal of excellent work in education, often in circumstances more difficult than ours, is being done across the country. Many of these efforts are less recog-nised than they deserve, and are truly inspiring. We would like to think that the high esteem in which RVS is held reflects a larger concern with the mean-ing and purpose of education in a rapidly changing world. Both ‘alter-native’ and mainstream schools have an important role to play in this. Nevertheless we feel we still have much to learn as continuous learning underlies education. But we also believe that true learning is non-competitive,” says Siddhartha Menon, vice principal and spokesperson of RVS.

There’s been considerable churn further down the residential/boarding schools (defined as institutions in which boarders are in majority) Top 10 list as well. Specially notable is the steady rise in public esteem of India’s top two all-girls boarding schools — Mayo College Girls, Ajmer and Welham Girls, Dehradun — which have trumped their brother schools to be ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in this year’s boarding schools league table. Mayo Girls moved up from No. 14 in 2008 to No. 9 last year and to second rank this year, while Welham Girls has moved further up the Top 5 list to be ranked third this year. The Top 5 list is compl-eted by Lawrence School, Sanawar; Bishop Cotton, Shimla; Sherwood College, Nainital (all clustered into the No. 4 slot), and Daly College, Indore which has vaulted from No. 22 in 2008 to 14 last year and into the elite list of India’s Top 5 boarding schools this year.

“All of us in Mayo Girls are delighted that justice has been done to the school in the latest EW-C fore survey. We were very disappointed with our ranking in the surveys of the two previous years because our many achievements and new initiatives were not reflected in them. This prompted us to raise our public profile, improve our communi-cations and highlight the many achievements of our girls not only in academics, but also in co-curricular and sports education which are an integral part of the Mayo Girls curriculum. I believe this has made the difference,” says Mrs. J. Singh, principal of the school which is top-ranked this year on the vital parameters of faculty compet-ence and leadership as well as co-curricular education and transparency of the admission system.

Sumer Singh, principal of the co-ed Daly College, Indore is equally pleased that this low-profile  vintage K-12 school (estb. 1882) has risen high in public esteem and into the shortlist of the country’s Top 5 boarding schools. “It’s a great satisfaction that our institution development plan to decentralise authority conceptualised five years ago is beginning to bear fruit and is impacting informed public opinion. This has resulted in a dramatic improvement in our academic results during the past five years with four class XII students qualifying for the IITs; 101 students participating in a variety of sports and games at the national level; the initiation of an impactful environ-ment protection programme by our students with direct board funding of Rs.25 lakh per year, and over 200 students travelling abroad for seminars, exchanges and conferences during the past few years,” says Singh, former principal of the Lawrence School, Sana-war who assumed charge as principal of Daly College — highly rated on the parameters of infrastructure and sports education this year — in 2003.

Yet perhaps the biggest leap in public esteem has been of the Assam Valley School (AVS), Balipara which has leapfrogged from No. 19 in 2009 to No. 7 in the EW-C fore 2010 survey. Conversely Mayo (Boys) College, Ajmer and St. Paul’s, Darjeeling have yielded ground, but not as much as the much-too low-profile Sarala Birla Academy, Bangalore which has paid the price of poor communications and slipped from No. 8 last year to No. 26 in 2010.

Other well-reputed residential schools which have made it into the Top 10 boarding schools’ list  this year are Lawrence, Lovedale (8), the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun, (8), Army Public School, Dagshai (9), Scindia School, Gwalior and Welham Boys, Dehradun.

In the next decile as well, several schools have risen high in public esteem and moved up the league table. Among them: St. Joseph’s, North Point, Darjeeling has progressed from 21 in 2009 to 11; Orchid International, Nashik (18 to 12); B.G.S International, Bangalore (22 to 13); St. John’s International, Chennai (23 to 14); Himali Boarding School, Kurseong (20 to 15) and the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls School, Jaipur which lost consi-derable rank last year, has recovered some lost ground (24 to 16). Meanwhile two previously unranked schools in the northern state of Haryana (pop.21.14 million) — the all-girls Vidya Devi Jindal, Hisar and Delhi Public School, Pinjore have debuted impressively to be ranked 18 and 24 in the boarding schools league table of  EW-C fore India’s Most Respected Schools Survey 2010.

Further down this year’s boarding schools league table, several instit-utions have won plaudits from informed opinion. Among them Mussoorie International School which moved up from No. 33 to 17, probably an outcome of its management having been taken over by the Delhi-based Educomp Solutions Ltd; Shigally Hill Intern-ational Academy, Dehradun, which has risen 12 ranks to 25; the Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior, (11 ranks to 28) and the mint-new Taurian World School, Ranchi (estb. 2007) which has moved into the Top 30. Moreover despite pervasive political turmoil in the region, three north-east schools — St. Augustine’s Kalimpong; Tashi Namgyal Academy, Gangtok, and Mount Hermon, Darjeeling — have made sufficient impact to debut in this year’s league table of India’s top boarding  schools.

Educationists are unanimous that boarding/residential schools are a world apart from day schools and need to be appraised and evaluated by different yardsticks. Whereas in day schools academic inputs and outcomes are of prime importance, in boarding schools parameters such as co-curricular and sports education, pastoral care (aka individual attention to students) and infrastructure (because children are in school 24/7) need to be accorded equal, if not greater importance.

Yet since the dawn of the new millennium, India’s vintage resid-ential schools, a British legacy cheri-shed by the country’s establishment and the influential middle class, are experiencing novel competition from the new genre of international schools offering superior pedagogies and curriculums in conducive environments characterised by globally benchmarked infrastructure. “The annual EW-C fore survey of schools has undoubtedly created greater awareness of the importance of public perceptions within school managements. The surveys have also made us aware of the challenges of the new millennium,” says Praveen Vasisht, principal of the vintage Lawrence School, Sanawar.

Whether they will measure up and rise to meet the new challenges of the new millennium will determine the future of India’s legacy boarding schools.

Download India's Best Boarding Schools league table userfiles/file/Boarding-Top%2010.pdf

Download Boarding Schools Regional Rankings userfiles/file/Boarding-Regional%20tables.pdf

Download Parameters of Excellence: India's Top 10 Boarding Schools userfiles/Boarding-Parameters.pdf

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