The world’s largest single-city private school has taken extra-curricular education to an entirely new plane and in the process has acquired a global reputation for the high-quality academic experience it offers
A citation in Guinness World Records for the largest number of student enrollments in a private school operational in a single city is just one of the many landmark achievements of Lucknow’s City Montessori School (CMS). The school which started off with just five students in 1959, currently has a mind-boggling 29,000 students instructed by 2,000 teachers spread over 21 campuses on its muster rolls. But City Montessori School’s claim to fame is not just its massive enrollment. Over the past four decades since it was promoted, among the many awards that have come its way are the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education (2002), whose citation lauded the school for promoting “the universal values of education for peace and tolerance at a time when these values are increasingly being challenged”; the Friend of Young Physicists Award of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, and the first Henry Derozio award instituted by the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, New Delhi.
Moreover incredibly, the school has hosted four international conferences of chief justices of the world to push the case for Article 51 of the Constitution of India which inter alia articulates that “The State shall foster respect for international law”. To this end, concerned about the stockpile of 36,000 nuclear warheads accumulated by seven nations (including India and Pakistan), the school has appointed itself the advocate of the “world’s two billion children and generation yet unborn” to press for the establishment of a World Parliament “with powers to enact enforceable international laws for the entire world”. Undeterred by indifferent official reaction to this initiative, CMS is clearing the decks for the 5th International Conference of Chief Justices of the World scheduled to be held in Lucknow on December 10-12 this year.
Founded by Jagdish and Bharti Gandhi, the former who put himself through Lucknow University by doing a variety of jobs that included shoe shining and hawking newspapers and the latter an educationist with a doctorate in the Montessori teaching method from the Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwa Vidyalaya, Varanasi, the school’s motto is Jai Jagat. Gandhi explains how this motto has energised the City Montessori School mission. “Jai Jagat translates into glory be to the world, or hail the world We believe that our schools are institutions in which children essentially learn to interact harmoniously with each other. The three R’s are important but perhaps more important is our emphasis upon children learning social skills and moral values. Godliness and globalism are important tenets for us because there is no point in spreading education that leaves children socially disabled. A school is after all a building with four walls that holds tomorrow within it,” says Gandhi.
These objectives are to be achieved through the four building blocks of education devised by the Council for Global Education, a Reykjavik (Iceland) based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting development of the whole child. These blocks are: universal values, global understanding, excellence in all things and service to humanity.
According to Gandhi, these themes are woven into the larger fabric of academic experiences at City Montessori School. Thus classroom activities centre around collaborative problem solving with students choosing themes such as unity, peace, respect for the environment or service for their essays, art, music and drama compositions. The Gandhis belief that parents are a child’s best role models has led to a strong focus on parent training which takes the form of parental involvement in school curriculum design, reading of special literature and attendance at workshops and seminars that the CMS management regularly organises. Mothers of children who secure the first ten positions in every class are honoured with titles and certificates. Moreover students are encouraged to actively participate in civic projects like trash collection and tree planting as well as adopt villages where they educate children and adults in the three R’s, first aid and hygiene.
The efforts invested by the City Montessori School management in devising curricula beyond the syllabus has yielded excellent academic achievements apart from a calendar full of extra curricular activities. In 2003, of the 1,509 CMS students who wrote the ICSE school-leaving (class X) exam, 1,371 passed in the first division with as many as 801 getting honours. Of the 1,171 students who wrote the ISC (class XII) exam in 2003, 1,068 got first divisions. Likewise, of the 20 students selected for the National Talent Scholar-ship from Lucknow, 15 were from CMS. In addition, 408 class XII school-leavers were admitted into medical and other professional colleges while two students bagged the coveted Singapore Airlines Scholarship valued at Rs.12 lakh each.
CMS spokespersons insist that the school’s excellent academic record is the consequence of the management’s emphasis on holistic education driven by vibrant extra-curricular programmes. Every year the CMS calendar is marked by 15 international events as varied as MacFair, a maths and computer fair and seminars for ICSE and ISC students; QUANTA, the science, maths, astronomy, computers and robotics olympiad; an astronomy olympiad; an international school-to-school exchange (ISSE) programme under which 11-12 year olds visit ISSE member countries for three weeks. Moreover under the aegis of the Children’s International Summer Village Camp Society, London, the school organises four-week camps which teach peace and co-existence. Another widely lauded initiative is the Indo-Pak children’s pen friends club aptly titled Aao Dosti Karein (Come let’s be friends) under whose aegis CMS students correspond with students of several schools in Karachi, Pakistan.
Strongly influenced by the tenets of Japanese kaizen philosophy which stresses continuous improvement, Gandhi has been putting its principles into practice to transform CMS students into “total quality people”. “I am very impressed by the Japanese striving for betterment and the idea that if adults can be pushed towards perfection, so can young students. I believe students have the potential to transform the educational landscape of the nation,” he says.
Gandhi’s future plans for CMS include a sharper focus on digitally aided learning and setting up an in-house FM radio network. “Of the 21 branches that we run, only five are in our own buildings and we are becoming increasingly aware of the need to construct buildings according to our own specifications. But our larger objective is to discover the potential of each and every student who has the capability to light up the world,” he says.
Surely that’s a goal within the world’s largest and arguably most successful school.
Admissions and fees
New admissions begin in February. Applications for admission should be made separately to the principal of each branch on the prescribed form. The age criteria for admission are two-three years for Montessori, four for nursery and five years for kindergarten. Admissions to all other classes are made through a pre-admission test and on production of a valid transfer certificate.
Tuition fee (monthly)
Montessori, nursery and kindergarten: Rs.600
Classes I-V: Rs.950
Classes VI-VIII: Rs.1,280
ICSE (classes IX and X): Rs.1,880
ISC (classes XI to XII): Rs.2,000
Other fees and levies range from Rs.2,320-6,350 per year
For further details contact CMS Head Office, Jai Jagat Building, 12 Station Road Lucknow. Ph: 0522-2638738/ 2637658. Fax: 0522-2638008. E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.cmseducation.org.
Puja Rawat (Lucknow)