International day schools are popular with upper middle class households, because they provide globally benchmarked K-12 education at relatively affordable prices compared with international day-cum-boarding and wholly residential schools
Rising middle class prosperity in post-liberalisation India — by 2025 the middle class will aggregate 583 million citizens — has fuelled a demand surge for schools providing internationally recognised qualifications and certification. To meet this demand from the burgeoning prosperous middle class, a new genre of international co-ed day schools providing curriculums, pedagogies and certification of globally reputed offshore exam boards such as International Baccalaureate (Geneva) and Cambridge International (UK) have sprung up in India’s crowded metros, state capitals, and even tier III-IV cities.
These institutions are popular with upper middle class households because they provide globally benchmarked K-12 education at relatively affordable prices compared with international day-cum-boarding and wholly residential schools, which are obliged to make huge investments in housing and related facilities for boarders. Therefore, within the umbrella category of international schools, the league table of day schools is the largest (117), and lengthening every year.
Against this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that since 2013 when the annual EducationWorld India School Rankings, conceptualised and launched in 2007, were revised and redesigned to rate and rank India’s most admired primary-secondaries in three broad categories — day, boarding, and international — and several sub-categories (to eliminate apples and oranges type comparisons), Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai (DAIS, estb.2003), promoted by the family of legendary business leader Dhirubhai Ambani (1932-2002), founder-chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s most respected, efficient and valuable company (annual revenue: Rs.4.83 lakh crore), has consistently been voted India’s premier international day school.
This year again in EWISR 2021-22, 11,458 sample respondents — parents, principals, teachers and educationists — have voted DAIS India’s #1 international day school awarding it top scores under the parameters of academic reputation, teacher competence, special needs education and also the newly introduced parameters of mental and emotional well-being and online education effectiveness.
“We are honoured to receive this acknowledgement of our teaching-learning capabilities all these years. Right from start our objective was to develop DAIS into a caring and happy school. This objective has been substantially achieved by our extraordinary and dedicated teachers. Their dedication and commitment became visible when DAIS transitioned to a virtual school during the pandemic. All these years we have consistently been top-ranked under the parameters of teacher competence and academic reputation. During the pandemic lockdown our teachers justified our top score under these parameters by delivering effective online education and ensuring the mental well-being of our students as acknowledged by your sample respondents. Through high-quality online lessons, our teachers made digital learning very engaging and rewarding for our children. Credit must also be given to our vice-chairperson, Isha Ambani Piramal for being instrumental in DAIS going virtual in full swing in a short span of time,” says Nita Ambani, founder-chairperson of DAIS and the Reliance Foundation (estb.2010), the philanthropic initiative of Reliance Industries.
Though Nita Ambani is satisfied with DAIS’ seamless and prompt transition to online learning during the pandemic, she is a firm believer in on-campus, in-class teaching-learning. “Our children haven’t played together or interacted in person for many months. Despite our best efforts we couldn’t provide vitally important experiential learning in virtual classes. Therefore, as we reopen the school in phases, our focus will be to provide children with a variety of experiential learning opportunities and participation in sports and co-curricular activities,” says Ambani.
At the apex of top table with DAIS firmly in the chair, there’s been a minor reshuffle in the seating arrangement. Oberoi International School, Mumbai is promoted to #2 (#3 in 2020-21); Ascend International, Mumbai has been given a big promotion and is co-ranked #3 (6) with Aditya Birla World Academy, Mumbai (2); Jamnabai Narsee International School, Mumbai is jointly ranked #4 (5) with Ecole Mondiale, Mumbai (4). The Top 5 table is completed by Pathways School, Gurugram (5) and KC High Chennai (4) jointly ranked #5.
Aditya Patil, director of the IB-affiliated Ascend International School, Mumbai (AIS, estb.2011), is delighted with the 10-year-old school’s “ascent in public esteem” and especially about its top score under the parameter of individual attention to students. “We are thrilled by our promotion to India #3. The management’s greater commitment to teacher training and retention, introduction of design thinking and project-based learning, and extraordinary parent commitment and support are the prime factors behind our improved reputation during the pandemic. I am especially delighted with Ascend’s top score among all international schools under the parameter of ‘individual attention to students’ as during the past year of online schooling we significantly increased one-on-one online teacher-pupil engagement. We developed a system of ‘office hours’ during which every student could speak directly with teachers in non-classroom settings, enabling them to enhance their learning and social-emotional development. Because of this, I don’t expect significant learning loss,” says Patil. Currently, AIS has 420 students and 110 teachers on its muster rolls.
The Top 10 table of international day schools has experienced greater churn. Pathways School, Noida (#6 in 2020-21) and CHIREC International School, Hyderabad are co-ranked at #6 (7) and Mahindra International School (6) and Utpal Shanghvi Global School, Mumbai (8) are jointly ranked #7. Heritage International Xperiential School, Gurugram (HIXS) — promoted by the Delhi-based Heritage Group of schools which has also established the Heritage Xperiential School, Gurugram, ranked India’s #1 co-ed day school in EWISR 2021-22 — has debuted in the Top 10 at #8. Co-ranked #8 with HIXS are Legacy School, Bangalore and JBCN International School, Parel, Mumbai, both of whom have improved upon their last year’s #9 rank. The Riverside School, Ahmedabad at #9 (7) ranked jointly with Podar International School, Santacruz (W), Mumbai (8) and Bombay International School, Mumbai and CP Goenka International School, Oshiwara, Mumbai co-ranked #10 complete the Top 10 table.
It’s pertinent to note that 11 of the schools ranked in the 19-strong Top 10 international day schools league table are sited in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, which hosts the highest number (46,000) of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) countrywide with assets over $1 million. Unsurprisingly, parental demand for high-quality internationally benchmarked K-12 education is surging in India’s buzzing financial capital.
Sandeep Goenka, managing trustee of CP Goenka International School, Oshiwara, Mumbai (CPGIS) is pleased this IB-affiliated school has been promoted from #14 in 2020-21 to the Top 10 table this year. “I attribute our higher ranking to our seamless switch to online classes, which was fully supported by our teachers, students and parents. It was a steep learning curve and everyone worked hard to overcome challenges posed by this transition. As a result, I believe we have transformed the pandemic disruption into an opportunity to build robust online learning capabilities in CPGIS. We have advanced far beyond replicating physical classrooms with technology platforms that deliver engaging online classes. The feedback from our students and parents is very encouraging. Now as we reopen on-campus classes our top priorities are to ensure complete safety of our students and staff, make up learning loss, and encourage teachers and students to continuously upgrade our newly designed hybrid/blended teaching-learning model,” says Goenka.
Beyond the Top 10 table, several primary-secondaries have risen in public esteem in this year’s league table of India’s most admired international day schools. Among them: The Ardee School, New Friends Colony, Delhi ranked #11 (#20 in 2021-22), Garodia International Centre of Learning, Ghatkopar (East), Mumbai #13 (18), M.Ct.M. Chidambaram Chettiyar International School, Mylapore, Chennai #22 (40), and Gems Modern Academy, Kochi #39 (49). Moreover nine previously unranked schools have debuted this year including Prometheus School, Noida at #22; Next Gen International School, Guntur #38; Ambitus World School, Vijayawada #40 and Silver Oaks International School, Visakhapatnam at #52. This is indicative of sustained and growing demand for high-quality international curriculums and certification in tier II and III cities.
While high rank in the national league table of international day schools is important as it enables countrywide comparisons under each parameter, at best it confers bragging rights. For obvious reasons civic rank is most important for all day schools. Thus schools ranked modestly in the national table enjoy high reputation in large, populous cities. For instance, Calcutta International School, ranked India #17 is the #1 international day school of Kolkata (pop.14 million); Fountainhead School ranked #50 nationally is #1 in Surat (pop.6.1 million) and Eastern Public School, all-India #88 is #1 in Bhopal (pop.1.8 million).