India’s unique budget private schools reportedly educate a staggering 60 million children from low-income households. Despite their being unpopular with government, EW has been ranking and celebrating them in the public interest.
With awareness dawning on the vast majority of bottom-of-pyramid households that quality education (especially learning English) is the passport to upward socio-economic mobility, budget private schools (BPS) — low-priced privately promoted primaries which are affordable alternatives to the country’s dysfunctional 1.20 million state and local government schools — have mushroomed countrywide. Sited in urban slums, tier II and III towns and rural India, BPS, whose number is estimated at 450,000 countrywide, are typically crammed into small premises — often rented—and levy monthly tuition fees ranging from Rs.100-150 in rural areas, and Rs.800-1,700 in urban India.
India’s BPS, which reportedly educate a staggering 60 million children from low-income households, are unpopular with education officials at the Centre and in the states. Thousands have been issued closure notices for non-compliance with s.19 and Schedule of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (aka RTE Act) which stipulates minimal infrastructure and teacher-pupil ratio norms that are discriminatory, and deliberately target them. However, your editors believe that instead of forcibly shutting down BPS, their promoters should be provided soft loans and official encouragement to upgrade their schools to comply with s.19 norms.
Therefore, to facilitate and celebrate the country’s best private budget schools, we have been rating and ranking them for the past four years. As in previous years, the BPS league table is compiled by the Delhi-based market research and opinion polls company C fore with the assistance of Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Civil Society (estb.1997) and the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA, estb.2011), a representative organisation of 55,400 budget private schools in 20 states of the Indian Union. Together CCS and NISA shortlisted 32 well-managed BPS in five major cities. Subsequently, field representatives of C fore interviewed 1,038 SEC (socio-economic category) C, D and E parents and teachers to rate and rank BPS on 12 parameters of school education excellence.
In the fifth EW Budget Private School Rankings 2019-20, the 1,038 sample respondents have voted the Muni International School (MIS), Delhi, ranked #1 in 2016 and 2017 and #2 last year and numero uno in 2019-20. SR Capital Public School, Delhi ranked #3 in 2018-19 is promoted and jointly ranked #2 with St. Mary’s High School, Mumbai, top ranked last year. Little Flower Matriculation Hr. Sec School, Chennai (#4 in 2018) and Pragathi Vidyalaya, Hyderabad (5) are co-ranked #3 with Don Bosco High, Dombivli, Mumbai #4 (5) and St. Theresa’s Convent High School, Mumbai, constituting the Top 5 table.
“We are delighted to be voted India’s #1 BPS for the third time in the annual EW survey. After we lost our top-ranking last year, MIS teachers worked hard to improve our performance on all parameters of school education excellence. I am glad our combined efforts have borne fruit. Our model of education is being used in many government schools. Unesco has also recently recognised our school. Our plan is to replicate the Muni model of affordable education across the country,” says Ashok Thakur, a former soldier in the Indian Army (1984-1992) and businessman who promoted MIS (estb.2002) with his personal savings and a first batch of 26 children. Today, the co-ed K-X, CBSE-affiliated MIS (tuition fees: Rs.1,000-1,700 per month) has 635 children including 254 girls and 34 teachers on its muster rolls.
Likewise, John Xavier Thangaraj, a commerce and business management alum of Periyar University, Salem, and Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu and promoter-chairman of the Little Flower Matriculation Hr Sec School, Chennai (LFM, estb.1994), is pleased with the rising appreciation this class K-12 school affiliated with the Tamil Nadu state board (annual tuition fees: Rs.16,000-21,000) is receiving from the informed public.
“I am honoured and proud that LFM is ranked India’s #3 budget private school, a promotion from last year. I thank our teachers who have made this promotion possible and all your sample respondents who have acknowledged our sustained efforts to provide children a conducive learning environment for academic and life skills education at affordable tuition fees. Most of our parents can offer little academic support to their children at home. Therefore, our teachers, who provide classroom and remedial teaching throughout the year, are our biggest strength,” says Thangaraj, who was awarded the Tamil Nadu government’s Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Best Teacher Award in 2014 for his services to school education. Currently, LFM has 1,519 children, including 695 girls, and 50 teachers on its musters.
Beyond the high-end of India’s Top 30 budget private schools shortlisted by CCS and NISA, St. Mary’s English High, Kandivali, Mumbai (promoted by Mumbai-based BPS champion Bharat Malik, also the promoter-chairman of St. Mary’s High, Kalyan ranked #2) has improved its 2019-20 ranking to #6 (8) while St. Xaviers English High, Panvel (Mumbai) has made a great leap forward to #6 (14). Likewise, the previously unranked St. John’s High School (SSC), Mumbai and R.N. Shah School, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai have risen high in public estimation to be included in the national Top 10.
Janhavi Rai, a chemistry and education alumna of Mumbai University and trustee of St. Xavier’s English High, Panvel (Mumbai) which has moved up in public esteem and is ranked #6 (14), is greatly encouraged by the school’s promotion to the Top 10. “It’s an indication that we are heading in the right direction. I am glad that our efforts to provide a rigorous academic programme with values-based and sports education is appreciated by the informed public,” says Rai. Currently, the co-ed class K-X XEHP has an enrolment of 1,400 children and 60 teachers (annual tuition fees: Rs.12,000-13,000).