The objective of the annual EW India School Rankings, conducted by C fore, is to proclaim and track the country’s best schools as role models to the entire community of educators, and inspire top-ranked schools themselves to improve from good to great. Dilip Thakore reports
The national interest won’t be served by glossing over bad news. Decades of under-investment, indifference and ham-fisted political interference has scarred and damaged K-12 education in post-independence India. And the situation is only getting worse.
For the past seven years, the Mumbai-based NGO Pratham (estb. 1994), which publishes its highly respected Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) measuring learning outcomes in primary education in 567 districts of rural India, has been warning that a rising percentage of class V students are unable to read and comprehend simple textbook passages which they should have learned in class II, and over 46.5 percent (in 2012) of class V children in rural primaries can’t do simple two digit subtraction sums.
Learning outcomes in secondary education aren’t better. In 2009, the first cohort of 16,000 secondary students selected from government and private schools in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu — reputedly India’s most educat-ionally advanced states — wrote PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), a transnational test which assesses English and maths compet-encies of students in 74 countries. In the results published, India was ranked #73, just above the last-ranked cohort from Kyrgyzstan. Moreover a Wipro-Educa-tional Initiatives study conducted in 2011 to assess top-ranked private metropolitan schools, revealed poor critical thinking and application skills, and astonishingly regressive gender prejudices.
Against this despondent backdrop of the continuous failure of successive governments in New Delhi and state capitals to accord top priority to nurturing and developing the world’s largest 550 million child and youth population, since 2007 EducationWorld (estb. 1999) has been commissioning perception-based field studies to compile league tables of India’s most respected and admired primary-secon-dary schools — islands of academic and holistic education in a sea of mediocrity. The objective of this elab-orate (and expensive) annual exercise is to proclaim and track the progress of the country’s best schools — some of whom are as good as any worldwide — as role models to the entire community of educators, and inspire top-ranked schools themselves to improve from good to great.
During this six-year period the annual EducationWorld India School Rankings league tables compiled in collaboration with the well-reputed Delhi-based market research and opinion polls company Centre for Forecasting Pvt. Ltd (C fore, estb. 2000), have generated consid-erable enthusiasm within the academic, parents and students communities countrywide. With C fore’s managers and field personnel consistently upgr-ading the respondents’ database and assessment parameters, the publication of the EW annual league tables of India’s top day, boarding and inter-national schools followed by the EducationWorld India School Rankings Awards Nite during which we felicitate and celebrate the country’s most respected and admired schools, have become calendar events for educat-ionists, principals and teachers.
More pertinently, the annual EW India School Rankings have generated positive sentiments of institutional pride and inspired committed education leaders and principals to work for continuous improvement of schools under their charge, as also parent communities to transform into pressure groups for holistic K-12 education.
Inevitably, EW’s annual school rankings and publication of detailed league tables haven’t been universally welcomed. Critics have questioned the value of league tables based entirely on perceptions of a few thousand respon-dents, notwithstanding this institutional performance assessment methodology being globally accepted for evaluating universities and institutions of higher education in Britain and the US. Not a few educationists prefer inspection teams visiting schools to conduct on-site audits — a time-consuming, expen-sive, indeed impossible proposition — given that knowledgeable educators are unlikely to be able to spare the time to travel and conduct audits countrywide. Therefore less knowledgeable and market savvy principals and teachers are known to be dismissive of the EW India School Rankings.
However Abha Adams, an alumna of Delhi and Leeds universities, former director (1993-2006) of Delhi’s top-ranked The Shri Ram School and currently advisor to the fast-rising Step by Step School, Gurgaon, believes the EW India School Rankings serve a useful purpose. “The EW league tables inspire school managements to introspect and are a spur to improve infrastructure, academics and holistic education. The assessment parameters are well chosen and continuous impro-vement — separate ranking of girls, boys and co-educational schools to enable fair comparison — also improves the quality of the league tables. Of course it would be wonderful for perceptions to be backed by evidential data, but that’s a universal problem. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt the annual school rankings have prompted school managements to upgrade stand-ards and aim higher,” says Adams.
On our part, EW editors and the C fore management are conscious of the need to continuously better assessment and evaluation norms and methodologies. In response to feedback and complaints received from some schools, this year, day, boarding and international schools have been further divided into all-boys, all-girls, co-ed, and day-cum-boarding sub-categories to ensure fair comp-arison of equal institutions. Thus for example, La Martiniere boys and girls schools are not obliged to be compet-itively ranked as hitherto, nor is the all-boys Bishop Cotton, Shimla compared with the co-ed Lawrence School, Sanawar in the league tables. However since the parameters on which all schools are assessed are identical, those who wish to draw cross-category comparisons can rationally do so. Moreover to facilitate cross-category comparisons and reduce the multiplicity of tables, the separately presented parameter rankings are unmindful of category sub-divisions.
“To rate and rank the country’s best all-boys, all-girls and co-ed day, boarding and international schools, this year we interviewed a larger sample of 5,779 individuals comprising 4,258 fees-paying SECA (socio-economic category A) parents and a mix of 1,521 teachers, principals and educationists in 21 cities countrywide including Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Dehradun and Darjeeling. Each respondent was shown a list of pre-selected high profile schools in her region — north, west, south and east. Respondents were asked to rate schools of whom they were aware on a ten-point scale against 14 parameters of education excellence. This year we have added the important new parameter of ‘pastoral care’ for residential schools. As usual, low-profile institutions assessed by less than 25 respondents are not ranked. The ratings awarded to schools under each parameter were totaled and used for ranking schools in each category. And to make the tables more user-friendly the ten point scores awarded by respondents were multiplied by ten and rounded off. All parameters are given equal weightage except the vital parameter of ‘competence of faculty’, which is given double weightage as usual,” says Premchand Palety, the knowledgeable founder chief executive of C fore.
The larger and more knowledgeable sample respondents database and division of hitherto broadly defined day, boarding and international schools into more discrete classifications, has transformed the EW India School Rankings 2013 into a superior rating and rankings exercise compared to previous years. Moreover, in response to pressing demand for inclusion of hard data, especially for academic perfor-mance, for the first time we include several tables ranking CISCE (Council for Indian School Certificate Exam-inations, Delhi)-affiliated schools accor-ding to the performance of their students in the class XII school-leaving ISC board examination 2013.
This revealing data which enriches the EW India School Rankings 2013, has been brilliantly mined and tabulated by Hyderabad-based IT professional Prashant Bhattacharji of www.the learningpoint.net to whom we are thankful for his generosity and cooperation.
Unfortunately despite numerous requests, Vineet Joshi, chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education, declined to furnish similar data relating to CBSE schools on grounds of “policy”, despite the fact that such school performance data is routinely published in the US, UK and most Commonwealth countries.
For complete rankings league tables see