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India’s top day-cum-boarding schools 2021-22

EducationWorld November 2021 | Cover Story Magazine

Promoters and managements of day-cum-boarding schools deserve special appreciation for making the additional investment to accommodate out-of-town students who but for this consideration would be denied high quality primary-secondary education

Dr. Silpi Sahoo and Dr. Bijaya Sahoo, Sai International School

Dr. Silpi Sahoo (right centre) with the late Dr. Bijaya Sahoo: valuable legacy

Among the various categories of primary-secondaries ranked in the annual EducationWorld India School Rankings (estb.2007), day-cum-boarding schools occupy a special place. The approximately 100 schools that are sufficiently well-reputed to be included in the national league table of India’s best day-cum-boarding schools are a cut above top-ranked day schools which are accessible only to residents of the city in which they are sited. On the other hand, day-cum-boarding schools make high-quality education accessible to children from other educationally under-served geographies.

Their promoters and managements deserve special appreciation of the public for making additional investment in hostels and dormitories to accommodate out-of-town students who but for this consideration, would be denied high-quality primary-secondary education. Therefore, their multiplication should be encouraged by government policies and excellent day schools should be incentivised to transform into day-cum-boarding institutions which would confer the additional benefit of student body diversity upon them.

Presumably because all schools countrywide were under an 18-month lockdown — unprecedented in living memory — for fear of Covid-19 infection, during which schools ranked in this survey resorted to providing online classes, there are only marginal changes in the EW league tables of the country’s most admired day-cum-boarding schools.

At top table, the Sai International School, Bhubaneswar, DPS, R.K. Puram, Delhi, Emerald Heights, Indore, Modern School, Barakhamba Road, Delhi, Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, Greenwood High, Bengaluru, Pallikoodam School, Kottayam (Kerala), DPS, Noida and Sanskaar Valley, Bhopal have all retained their Top 5 2020-21 rankings with few rearrangements of seating.

Also read: SAI International School, Bhubaneswar

Jointly ranked #5 with DPS, Noida and Sanskaar Valley, Bhopal, this year is DPS, Bhadbhada Road Bhopal promoted from #7 last year. That the country’s Top 5 day-cum-boarding schools are spread across seven states of the Indian Union is revealing testimony that excellent primary-secondary education is no longer confined to the industrially advanced states and metropolitan cities.

Royal Global. Guwahati students: Assam

As usual, the Top 10 table is dominated by owned and licensed schools of the Delhi Public Schools Society (estb.1949) promoted by senior public servants 72 years ago, with eight DPS schools — the majority sited in Delhi NCR — awarded seats at the Top 10 table. Yet one wonders to what extent the sample respondents quizzed for the EWISR were impressed by the high-ranked DPS institutions, and the brand rub-off impact of the DPS Society which has established 222 owned and franchised schools in India and abroad.

As at top table, further down the Top 10 table as well, there is a minor readjustment of seating. Among the schools that have improved their ranking are Neerja Modi School, Jaipur, The Mann School, Delhi and Ebenezer International School, Bengaluru which is co-ranked #9 with Daly College, Indore, moved from the co-ed boarding schools to this category because the number of day scholars by far outnumber boarders.

Neerja Modi School, Jaipur: Rajasthan

The year 2021-22 was especially poignant for the top-ranked Sai International School Bhubaneswar (SIS). Dr. Bijaya Sahoo, the visionary promoter-director of SIS, became a victim of the Coronavirus and despite being flown to Hyderabad by a specially chartered jet for expert treatment, passed away on June 3. This is a tragic loss not only for SIS stakeholders, but also for the people and children of the eastern seaboard state of Odisha (pop.46.8 million). A highly successful chartered and cost accountant, in the new millennium Dr. Sahoo travelled the world studying the best practices of globally admired K-12 schools prior to establishing SIS in 2006.

Within 15 years since then, SIS, which debuted in the annual EWISR in 2011-12 at #84, has steadily risen in public esteem. In 2017-18, it was ranked among the Top 3, joint #1 in 2020-21 and in 2021-22, the 11,458 EW sample respondents have ranked it undisputed #1.

In addition to SIS, during his tragically shortened lifetime, Sahoo also promoted the fully-equipped Sai Angan Preschool reputed to be Asia’s largest pre-primary (1,200 children) and the state-of-the-art, globally benchmarked Sai International Residential School (SIRS) on a scenic 40-acre green campus on the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Road (450 students).

Impressed by his success in placing academically peripheral Odisha state on the education map of India, in 2019, Naveen Patnaik, five-term chief minister of the state, awarded Dr. Sahoo cabinet rank and commissioned him to establish 314 contemporary CBSE-affiliated government K-12 schools — Odisha Adarsh Vidyalaya — in all 26 districts of Odisha. Working with characteristic speed, Sahoo had established 214 schools before he was struck down by Covid-19 in the prime of life.

“We are delighted to learn that we have retained our #1 national ranking in this very momentous year for SIS. I believe the major factor behind SIS retaining public faith and confidence is that we comprehensively adapted to online learning after the pandemic lockdown of March 2020. We were successful not only in providing academic, but our full school programme including co-curricular, yoga and physical education to all our 5,500 children. This was achieved with the full cooperation and involvement of our parents’ community. Our parents are very satisfied with the holistic education SIS children have received during the past 18 months of the pandemic. They have given us tremendous word-of-mouth publicity and enhanced the school’s reputation. For this, full credit must be given to my late husband who worked tirelessly to take our entire teaching-learning system online. I think this effort took its toll and made him vulnerable to the virus,” says Dr. Silpi Sahoo, a history and women’s studies Ph D alumna of Utkal University and co-promoter of SIS, SIRS and Sai Angan, on whom the responsibility of managing these top-ranked 21st century schools has devolved.

“It was my husband Bijaya’s vision and ambition to provide excellent quality, globally benchmarked K-12 education to the children of Odisha. I am determined to work relentlessly to build on his legacy and retain the top ranking of SIS and all our schools,” says Dr. Silpi Sahoo.

A similar determination to harvest the unforeseen gains of the Covid-19 pandemic — forced recourse to digital teaching-learning — is discernible in Siddharth Singh, an economics, finance and business management alum of Stony Brook University, New York and currently director of the fast-track Emerald Heights International School, Indore (EHIS, estb.1982), which has retained its India #2 and #1 in Madhya Pradesh and Indore ranks of 2019-20 and 2020-21.  

EHIS Indore students

Cheerful EHIS, Indore students: modernisation opportunity. Inset: Siddharth Singh

Top-ranked nationally for its superb infrastructure and with high scores under the parameters of leadership, co-curricular education, curriculum and pedagogy and the newly-introduced parameter of mental and emotional well-being services, EHIS has comprehensively bested its city rival, the once top-ranked Daly College, Indore (estb.1882).

“I believe that we have been successful in retaining our #2 national and #1 MP ranking because of continuous investment in improving our infrastructure and teacher training and development. With our quick switch to online learning platforms, I am confident that none of our (4,100) students has suffered any loss of academic or co-curricular and even sports education. On the contrary during the pandemic, we have transformed into a fully digital school by adding MUN, quizzing, STEAM and robotics labs and a unique high school research centre. Our transformation of the Covid pandemic threat into a modernisation opportunity has enhanced our reputation,” says Siddharth Singh, who adds that 350 EHIS students have donned India colours in several sports, and that the school has 700 boarders including students from the UAE, Nepal, Singapore and Ethiopia.

Beyond the Top 10 table, several schools have risen in public esteem in the disruptive pandemic year. Among them: the splendidly-equipped Royal Global School, Guwahati ranked #11 (cf. 13 in 2020-21) together with The Choice School, Kochi; and Hyderabad Public School, Ramanathapuram #11 (12). Yadavindra Public School, Patiala #12 (15); L.K. Singhania Education Centre, Nagaur (Rajasthan) #13 (23); ODM Public School, Bhubaneswar #14 (22); the previously unranked Raj Kumar College, Raipur debuting at #15 co-ranked with Sunbeam Suncity, Varanasi.

Other schools among the Top 20 that have improved their ranking in 2021-22 include the Geekay World School, Vellore at #16 (21), Springdales School, Jaipur #18 (19), Shri Ram Centennial, Dehradun #19 (24). It’s also encouraging that three institutions of Varanasi-based Sunbeam Group are ranked among the country’s Top 21 co-ed day-cum-boarding schools and the Top 3 in Uttar Pradesh — India’s most populous (215 million) and perhaps most educationally under-served state.

Hyderabad Public School Begumpet

HPS Begumpet, Hyderabad: India

“I am delighted by the huge promotion given to LKSEC by the EW sample respondents this year,” says Ramesh Chandra Joshi, principal of the L.K. Singhania Education Centre, Nagaur (Rajasthan) which has been promoted to India #13 (23) in 2021-22. “I believe this is largely due to our excellent pandemic management record. 99 percent of our 1,400 students including 600 boarders have been back on campus since October 1, and we have not had any student infected by Covid-19 since March 2020, when we successfully transformed into a Microsoft online school providing not only academic but also co-curricular and sports education. As a result, we are unlikely to suffer more than 10 percent learning loss which we will quickly recover through remedial education. This smooth and successful management of the pandemic has received widespread publicity and has improved our reputation and ranking. For this, I must thank our trustees who gave the school management full support and spared no expense to transform LKSEC into a fully digitally-enabled school. This has been a positive outcome of the Covid pandemic,” says Joshi, an economics postgrad of Lucknow University and author of several economics textbooks for school children, with valuable teaching experience in several Birla Group schools prior to being appointed principal of LKSEC in 2008.

Deepak & Bharti Madhok, Sunbeam Schools

Deepak & Bharti Madhok: accelerated modernisation benefit

Deepak Madhok, chairman of six owned and 18 associate English-medium schools in India’s most populous state, is perhaps more satisfied that three Sunbeam schools are ranked among the country’s 162 most admired day-cum-boarding schools. Nor is he dissatisfied that the thoroughly contemporary Sunbeam Suncity, Varanasi (SSV, estb.2010) ranked #15 has overtaken Sunbeam, Bhagwanpur, Varanasi (estb.1974) #19 in EWISR 2021-22.

“Sunbeam Suncity sited on a 30- acre campus 5 km from the heart of the ancient city of Varanasi has a larger campus with seven science labs and three libraries, whereas the Bhagwanpur school has less space to grow. The Covid pandemic accelerated the modernisation and digitisation of all our schools, especially of Sunbeam Suncity. There is widespread awareness especially in UP, that SSV is a model for pandemic management and smooth switch to online teaching-learning. The comprehensive digitalisation of SSV has enabled our students to build strong ties with schools in Japan, Sweden and Canada and greatly improved peer-to-peer learning,” says Madhok, an alum of Benaras Hindu and Allahabad universities who chucked up a promising career in the civil service to take charge of two Sunbeam schools in Varanasi. Since then, the Sunbeam Group of Education Institutions have multiplied to 26 English-medium schools with an aggregate enrolment of 26,000 students mentored by 3,000 teachers, transforming the education landscape of India’s most populous state.

Further down the 100-strong day-cum-boarding national league table, while most schools have retained or marginally improved their rankings, several previously unranked schools have debuted in EWISR 2021-22. Among them: Jain Heritage, A Cambridge School, Secunderabad at #30, DPS, Rau #34, Birla Open Minds, Warangal (Telangana) #44, Pankaj Global Public School, Jalgaon (Maharashtra) #46.

However, it’s pertinent to note that all 100 co-ed day-cum-boarding schools listed and included in the EWISR 2021-22 are excellent institutions and well-known in their regional zones. Under the C fore institution evaluation rules, schools ranked by less than 25 respondents aren’t included in EW league tables. Moreover, it’s important to bear in mind that schools modestly ranked in the national league table are usually highly ranked in their host states and cities.

KC Public School Jammu

KC Public Jammu Students

For instance, Pallikoodam School, Kottayam ranked #4 (4) is the #1 day-cum-boarding school of Kerala (pop.32 million), consistently acknowledged as India’s most literate state. Similarly, Sunbeam Suncity ranked #15 nationally is the premier co-ed day-cum-boarding school of Uttar Pradesh (pop.215 million). Likewise, the Sanjay Ghodawat International School, Kolhapur #17 India is #1 in Maharashtra (pop.115 million), the country’s most industrialised state, and the Vallabh Ashram’s MGM Amin & V.N. Savani School, Valsad ranked #42 nationally is #1 in Gujarat (pop.63 million). Moreover, some schools even though modestly ranked overall may be highly ranked under important parameters such as leadership & management, online education effectiveness, and mental and emotional well-being services.

Therefore, parents looking for an aptitudinally suitable day-cum-boarding school which usually offers greater student body diversity and superior infrastructure — and teachers looking for philosophically compatible schools to teach in — are advised to study these league tables carefully.

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