Although in Western countries, girls-only schools are becoming increasingly rare, in 21st century India some women’s rights champions argue that girls-only boarding schools enable girls to uninhibitedly develop into confident young women.
Although around the world and in Western countries in particular, girls-only day and boarding schools are becoming increasingly rare, in 21st century India where patriarchy continues to rule, and gender segregation and imposition of social restrictions upon girl children are the rule across all cultures and communities, girls schools — especially legacy girls boarding schools which provide high-quality academic, co-curricular and sports education in safe and secure environments — continue to serve a socially beneficial purpose. Contrary to the popular belief that they shelter and mollycoddle students, not a few women’s rights activists argue that they enable girl children to uninhibitedly develop and mature into well-educated and confident young women equipped with excellent life skills to excel in adult workplaces and sports arenas.
Indeed even in the gender egalitarian West, there is revisionism on the advantages of gender segregated schools. For instance, members of the US-based National Education Association are divided on the issue of the social costs and benefits of gender segregated schools. A rising number of members argue that single sex schools enable students to focus on their studies and cognitive development without distraction, and discourage premature precocity and sexual gratification.
Nevertheless although greenfield girls-only boarding schools continue to be promoted, the general preference of middle class parents is for co-ed education which teaches gender equality and respect for girl children from early age. The list of co-ed boarding schools sufficiently well-known to be included in the annual EducationWorld India School Rankings is substantially longer than of boys and girls boarding schools, a telling commentary on the trend in away-from-home boarding school education which is gaining popularity again, because the country’s wealth-generating metros and larger cities are becoming increasingly polluted and hazardous for growing children.
Be that as it may, in this year’s league table of India’s top-ranked girls boarding schools there is considerable rearrangement of seating at the Top 5 table. Mayo College Girls, Ajmer (estb.1988) second ranked since 2016, is India’s #1 girls legacy boarding school of 2019-20. Moreover, while Scindia Kanya, Gwalior retains its #2 rank of 2018-19, two newly-promoted girls boarding schools in Dehradun — Unison World School (estb.2007) and Ecole Globale International (estb.2013) are ranked higher than last year’s top-ranked Welham Girls, Dehradun (estb.1957).
“I am delighted to learn that Mayo Girls is ranked India #1 girls boarding school in EWISR 2019-20 by your 12,000-plus sample respondents. It is the outcome of the high level of commitment and hard work of our teachers, students, administrative and support staff. We are an institution committed to holistic development and empowerment of our students and teachers, and our continuous investment in people has paid off. It’s also important to note that our #1 ranking would not have been possible without the encouragement of our managing committee and supportive parents body,” says Kanchan Khandke, a history and education alumna of Calcutta and Pune universities with teaching experience in the National Defence Academy, Pune, Welham Girls, Dehradun and Indus International, Pune, who was appointed principal of Mayo Girls College in 2011. Currently, MCG has 745 girl children mentored by 96 full-time and 20 part-time teachers on its muster rolls.
EWISR 2019-20 has also boosted the morale of the relatively newly-promoted Ecole Globale International Girls School, Dehradun (EGIG, estb.2013). This class IV-XII CBSE and Cambridge International-affiliated all-girls boarding school is ranked #3, a big jump from its # 5 position last year. “This is great news. All of us in EGIG who have been working 24×7 to establish this all-girls boarding school as the best in the country, are encouraged that well-informed people countrywide are becoming aware of our efforts in institutional development. I am very pleased that there is rising awareness and appreciation of the uniquely different preparation for life education we offer our children in an environment-friendly and pollution free 40-acre campus. But although sports education is given high priority with excellent facilties provided for swimming, shooting and horse-riding, we accord highest importance to academic excellence. In this year’s CBSE class XII board exams our children were awarded top honours,” says Tarunjyot Juneja, an economics and law graduate of Symbiosis, Pune and Garhwal universities who served as director of the Asian School, Dehradun (2008-2012) prior to being appointed director of EGIG in 2012.
Although Maya Norula, principal of the Hopetown Girls School, Dehradun (HGS, estb.1999), is satisfied that this low-profile school has made a great leap forward from #13 last year to the national Top 5, she is measured in her response to the good news. “While we are delighted about Hopetown Girls’ impressive advancement in your latest rankings survey, we are also surprised why our thoroughly contemporary school was low ranked in all the preceding years. The defining characteristics of HGS are our excellent teachers, continuous in-house teacher development programmes and institutional focus on developing the multiple intelligences of our children. We provide our girls a state-of-the-art 50-acre clean and green campus and supportive infrastructure designed to develop their talents in academics and co-curricular and sports education,” says Norula, an English literature postgrad of Delhi’s prestigious
Lady Shri Ram and Indraprastha colleges who acquired a wealth of teaching and admin experience in the Woodstock School, Welham Boys, the British School, Delhi and Pathways International prior to her appointment as principal of HGS in 2010. Currently, this class VI-XII CISCE-affiliated school has 480 girl children mentored by 69 teachers.
On the other hand Tulsi Bhatia, principal of the new Heritage Girls School, Udaipur (Rajasthan estb.2014), is more enthusiastic about the public approbation that Heritage Girls ranked a modest #15 in 2015, #11 in 2017 and #9 last year is receiving. In EWISR 2019-20, HGS is ranked #6 nationally and #2 in the border state of Rajasthan (pop. 68 million).
“The parameters according to which schools countrywide are evaluated in the annual EWISR is an excellent roadmap for institution development, a gold standard for school education. As a relatively new girls boarding school, we are encouraged by the recognition given to us, and our inclusion among the country’s Top 10 girls boarding schools. We are a standalone school that sees the masterpiece within every block of stone, i.e, in every student. That is our distinguishing characteristic, and our strength,” says Bhatia, an alumna of Patna University with teaching and admin experience in St. Joseph’s Convent, Patna and Good Shepherd International, Ooty, who was appointed founder-principal of the class IV-XII CBSE and Cambridge International (UK)-affiliated Heritage Girls which has 120 children and 35 teachers on its muster rolls, five years ago.
Further down the league table of sufficiently well-known girls legacy boarding schools, most of them have retained their last year’s ranks or ceded one or two places, the exceptions being the Mody School, Lakshmangarh, Rajasthan and Guru Nanak Fifth Centenary, Mussoorie which have yielded considerable ground. However, Chaman Vatika School, Ambala has made a noteworthy leap ahead from #16 to #13.