Arguably, boarding schools are additionally nurturing for girl children because they offer more liberal and modern environments than conservative households in which girl children routinely suffer overt and covert gender discrimination
Although gender-segregated education is going out of fashion worldwide, in India, a uniquely heterogeneous nation with citizens practicing almost all major religions, speaking 121 languages in 19,500 dialects thereof and observing widely divergent social interaction norms and traditions — including full veiling of women in some communities and castes — exclusive girls schools serve a positive nation-building purpose. But for such schools, millions of girl children would be deprived of vitally important primary-secondary education in a society in which female participation in the labour force is among the lowest worldwide.
Low female participation is not in the national interest because during the past 74 years since independence, educated middle class women citizens have demonstrated equal capability and productivity with males in all vocations and walks of life. Therefore girls education plays a crucial role in our society, even if their household and societal norms are at variance with modernisation ideals.
Arguably, boarding schools are additionally nurturing for girl children because they offer more liberal and modern environments than conservative households in which girl children routinely suffer overt and covert gender discrimination vis-à-vis male siblings. Moreover in boarding schools girls get greater opportunity to avail co-curricular (communication, music, dance, theatre) and sports education which are prerequisites of balanced, rounded K-12 education.
Therefore, ab initio since the pioneer annual EducationWorld India School Rankings league tables were introduced in 2007, your editors have accorded equal, if not higher, importance to all-girls day and boarding schools by rating and ranking them inter se on the same parameters as boys and co-ed schools. Moreover despite gender segregated schools becoming passé around the world, in India the number of all-girls boarding schools has continued to grow modestly. Progressive, capital intensive greenfield girls boarding schools continue to be promoted, giving older, vintage institutions in this category stiff competition. Therefore seating arrangements at the Top 10 table of the country’s girls boarding schools tend to change every year.
This year the Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior and the Welham Girls School, Dehradun, ranked first and second in 2020-21, have traded places at top table with the former co-ranked #2 with Mayo Girls, Ajmer which retains its last year’s #2 rank. They are followed by Mussoorie International, Uttarakhand at #3 (4), Hopetown Girls, Dehradun #4 (5) and Birla Balika Vidyapeeth, Pilani co-ranked #5 (6) with Ecole Globale International, Dehradun (3). It’s perhaps noteworthy that four of India’s six top-ranked girls boarding schools are sited in Dehradun.
Beyond top table there is a rejig of the Top 10 table. Unison World School, Dehradun and Vidya Devi Jindal, Hissar have ceded ground while the newly-promoted Avasara Academy, Pune (estb. 2015) has risen to #8 (10). The Top 10 table is completed by Convent of Jesus & Mary, Mussoorie #9 (8) and Heritage Girls, Udaipur #10 (9).
With Welham Girls School (WGS, estb. 1957) restored to its “rightful position” as India’s #1 girls legacy boarding school, principal Padmini Sambasivam, who questioned the adequacy of EWISR 2020-21 sample respondents (11,368) when WGS was co-ranked #2 (with Mayo Girls, Ajmer), has no such reservations despite the almost similar 11,458 sample respondents base this year.
“I am delighted with the news that we have been restored to our rightful position of 2017-18, even if belatedly. In particular I am very pleased to learn that we have been awarded the highest score under the parameters of competence of teachers, online education effectiveness and individual attention to students. This is proof of the dedication with which our teachers smoothly transitioned to online teaching-learning during the pandemic lockdown. Credit for our #1 ranking this year is entirely due to them and also to our parents community which has been very supportive in these difficult times. I’m also happy about our top score under the value for money parameter. During the pandemic lockdown we voluntarily reduced our fees by 20 percent and also gave further fee concession to parents in need. This was made possible by the generosity of our Board of Governors and financial contributions from our alumni,” says Sambasivam, an alumna of Madras University and former principal of Arsha Vidya Mandir, Chennai, appointed principal of WGS in 2016. Currently the class VI-XII CISCE-affiliated WGS has 540 girl students and 75 teachers on its muster rolls.
Although she welcomes the promotion of Mussoorie International School (MIS, estb.1984) to #3 (4) this year, Meeta Sharma, Head of School, believes that given the numerous modernisation and upgradation initiatives undertaken at the school, MIS deserves higher ranking.
“Somewhat prompted by the pandemic, MIS has transformed into a fully new technologies enabled school which accords high priority to our children’s happiness quotient, socio-emotional learning and community and international outreach. Therefore I am very pleased, though not surprised, that we have been awarded the highest score under the parameters of safety and hygiene as also community service. In MIS we believe that it is our obligation not only to educate our students, but also tangibly benefit the local community in the vicinity of the school. During the past two years, several momentous initiatives have also been taken to upgrade and internationalise our curriculum and pedagogy. We introduced the diploma programme of the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate for our class XI-XII girls in 2016 and the IB board’s PYP (primary years programme) last year and plan to introduce the MYP (middle years programme) next year. This will transform MIS into India’s first international girls boarding school,” says Sharma.
An alumna of the North-Eastern Hill University and the Institute of Education of University College, London, Sharma has brought valuable teaching and admin experience acquired at the top-ranked The Doon School (2003-16), principal of the Mody School, Laksmangarh (2016-18), principal of Maharaja Sawai Mansingh School, Jaipur (2018-9) to the office of Head of School to which she was appointed in 2019. As such she is well-qualified to transform MIS into a globally benchmarked international school. “We are set to go from strength to strength as a collective endeavour that will impact our local and the global community,” vows Sharma.
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Promotion to top table of the low-profile Birla Balika Vidyapeeth, Pilani (BBV-P, estb.1941) has also enthused Dr. M. Kasturi, an alumna of Osmania University, Hyderabad and Karnatak University, Dharwad and former principal of St. Edmunds School, Jaipur (1991-2005) who has been at the helm at BBV-P for the past 16 years. “We had been stuck at #6 for the past three years. Therefore, the overdue promotion is very welcome. We are also very pleased about the high scores awarded to BBV-P under the parameters of safety and hygiene, and mental and emotional well-being because these are priority focus areas for the school. Our teachers responded quickly to the pandemic closure by switching to Microsoft Team programme and our academic results are good despite all the learning disruption,” says Kasturi.
Beyond the Top 10, almost all girls boarding schools have ceded rank in the pandemic year. Among them Vantage Hall Girls, Dehradun is ranked #11 cf. #9 in 2020-21; Mody School, Laksmangarh (Rajasthan) #12 (7); MCM Kothari International Girls, Valsad (Gujarat) #15 (10), while Chaman Vatika School, Ambala has retained its #19 ranking. Unsurprisingly, given the waning popularity of gender segregated education institutions, the EW league table of girls boarding schools comprises less than 25 sufficiently well-reputed institutions (schools rated by less than 25 sample respondents are not ranked).