India’s top co-ed boarding schools 2021-22

EducationWorld December 2021 | Cover Story Magazine

The incremental promotion of co-ed schools is a socially positive development because as boys and girl children learn together in inclusive classrooms, they develop mutually respectful relationships and male children in particular, learn to respect girls

Surely it is a marker of positive socio-economic progress that the number of sufficiently well-reputed co-ed boarding schools included in the league tables of the annual EducationWorld India School Rankings (EWISR) survey, far outnumber gender segregated all-boys and girls boarding schools. The number of sufficiently reputed co-ed boarding schools (institutions assessed by less than 25 sample respondents are eliminated from the EW league tables) countrywide is over 60 against barely a few dozen gender-segregated all-boys and girl boarding schools.

The incremental promotion of co-ed schools is a socially positive development because as boys and girl children learn together in inclusive classrooms, they develop mutually respectful relationships and male children in particular, learn to respect gender egalitarianism and become empathetic towards girl children who have historically suffered discrimination and less than equal opportunities for learning and career advancement. This is especially true of co-ed boarding schools where male and girl children are educated in close proximity, and learn to practice equality and mutual understanding and acceptance from young age.

Inevitably, the onus of teaching students social and life skills beyond the academic curriculum is greater for principals and teachers of co-ed boarding schools than for their counterparts in day and gender segregated institutions. Fortunately, awareness that co-ed education is more progressive has spread to the Central and state governments. Most government schools are co-educational, including the show-piece 636 Jawaharlal Navodaya Vidyalayas — free-of-charge class VI-XII, CBSE-affiliated boarding schools promoted by the Central government for meritorious rural children.

Rishi Valley School: India's top co-ed boarding school

Rishi Valley’s Dr. Anantha Jyothi (centre):

Against this backdrop, it is also a positive development that ab initio since the annual EWISR survey was initiated 14 years ago, the co-ed Rishi Valley School, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh (RVS, estb.1926), promoted by the indigenous philosopher, educationist and visionary far ahead of his times, J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986), which has been practising his teachings centred around respect for nature, the environment and ecology, has continuously topped the EWISR co-ed boarding schools league table. While the overwhelming number of legacy boarding schools derive their inspiration from Raj era public schools in the UK and India, the CISCE (Delhi)-affiliated RVS has been dispensing uniquely different life skills and co-curricular education respectful of nature, and local communities.
In comparison with traditional boarding — and especially new genre private international — schools, RVS’ infrastructure is modest. There’s no dress code and only vegetarian meals are served. Despite this, RVS has captured the imagination of the SEC (socio-economic category) ‘A’ sample respondents polled annually for EWISR which over the past 14 years since it was instituted, has evolved into the largest, most comprehensive and sophisticated schools ranking survey worldwide. Post-independence India’s elite (SEC-A) sample respondents need to be commended for being prescient in respecting J. Krishnamurti’s education philosophy which has received a new lease of life in the Covid era when respect for mother nature and protection of our diverse and complex environment and ecology is making a strong comeback.

“RVS is a small school of 346 students and 60 teachers which is now almost a century old. So we have never experienced the need to advertise to solicit enrolments. Our reputation has grown over the years by word of mouth through our parents’ community and the continuous good work being done by the Chennai-based Krishnamurti Foundation which has kept Krishnamurti’s philosophy of education alive. Although we were obliged to shut down the school and teach online from March-December 2020 because of government-imposed Covid restrictions, we reopened on-campus classes for higher secondary class X-XII in January, and all students have resumed full school since June while maintaining strict Covid protocols.

“Meanwhile, we gainfully utilised the lockdown period to document our teaching-learning resources accumulated over the decades for posterity, while ensuring that our online lessons remained well-connected with the real world outside. To retain the maximum human element in our online classes, we received excellent support from our parents’ community which willingly collaborated with us to reduce the load on our teachers. The other upside of this testing period is that we deepened our engagement with our seven satellite schools and government rural health centres in the neighbourhood. This pandemic has been a good health and safety management experience for our students and has enhanced their idealism,” says Dr. Anatha Jyothi, an English and linguistics alumna of IIT-Madras with several years of experience teaching English to the English in the UK, who signed up as a teacher at RVS in 1996 and was appointed principal of India’s most venerated school in 2018.

The seating arrangement at top table of the most respected co-ed boarding schools remains the same as last year. Another indigenous values-driven ‘swamiji school’ — the Coimbatore-based Chinmaya International Residential School retains its #2 rank for the third year consecutively with the exceptional Assam Valley School, Balipara set within a 270-acre tea estate retaining its #3 rank of 2020-21 jointly with Lawrence School, Sanawar (#2 last year). The scenic Pinegrove School, Dharampur (Himachal Pradesh) has retained its #4 ranking followed by the Sahyadri School, Pune — another Krishnamurti Foundation institution — at #5 (6) and Selaqui International, Dehradun (estb.2000) promoted to the Top 5 table for the first time.

Selaquin International: India's top co-ed boarding school

Selaquin International: Rashid Sharfuddin

“I’m delighted that Selaqui International has been promoted to the Top 5 table. During the past few years, we have been investing heavily in teacher training and development with 21 days of formal training per year mandatory for all teachers. In addition, online pedagogies were given impetus during the past 16 months’ lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, I believe we have the best teachers in the country. I am also pleased with our nearly top score under the parameter of ‘online education effectiveness’. It’s proof of the dedication and innovation capabilities  of our teachers who in addition to maintaining learning continuity of our students, have ensured their mental and emotional well-being. The pandemic was a testing time for Selaqui, but the upside is that we have been able to compress a decade’s new digital technologies-enabled teaching-learning into one year,” says Rashid Sharfuddin, an alum of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and the University of Bath (UK), former teacher at Lawrence, Lovedale, and The Doon School, Dehradun (2003-14) who was appointed principal of Selaqui in 2014 at age 35.

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Pinegrove School: India's top co ed boarding schools

Pinegrove School promoter-principal A.J. Singh

Beyond top table, there’s some realignment of the pecking order in the Top 10 in the pandemic year. The low-profile Sherwood College, Nainital has impressed this year’s sample respondents who have promoted the school to #6 from #9 in 2020-21. Miles Bronson Residential School, Guwahati at #6 (7) and Lawrence, Lovedale, Ooty #7 (8) have also risen in the esteem of the informed public. While the superbly furbished Jain International Residential School, Bengaluru has ceded rank despite its excellent (96) score under the infrastructure parameter, co-ranked #8 (5) with Kasiga School, Dehradun (11), Punjab Public School, Nabha #9 (10) and New Era High, Panchgani #10 (14) complete the Top 10 table.

Ajay Singh, a psychology postgrad of Benares Hindu University and former housemaster at the blue-chip Mayo College, Ajmer (2003-12) and the globally benchmarked Genesis Global School, Noida (2012-20) who was appointed principal of PPS; Nabha after Dr. Jagpreet Singh was press-ganged by the top-ranked The Doon School in 2020, is more than pleased that PPS-N has moved up the EWISR co-ed boarding schools league table during his first year in office. In particular, he is enthused that PPS-N has retained its Punjab #1 rank.

“Compared with most boarding schools, PPS-N with 820 boys and girls is a large school. Therefore, we had to stop and restart several times during the pandemic. However, all our children have been back on campus since July and the school is fully operational with our vaccinated teachers and staff enforcing detailed Covid SOPs. Therefore, we haven’t had any Covid positive cases since reopening. This lockdown period was a testing time for us, but the excellent response of our teachers and parents has ensured that students’ learning loss has been minimal and is being urgently addressed. And one of our major achievements is that the good cheer and mental and emotional balance of our children now back on campus, has been maintained,” says Singh.

PPS, Nabha: India's top coed boarding schools

PPS, Nabha’s Ajay Singh

Beyond the Top 10, several co-ed boarding schools have risen in public esteem in the current year despite the disruptions caused by Covid-19. Among them, the Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi (affiliated with the Krishnamurti Foundation, Chennai) promoted to #11 from #13 in 2020-21; Amber Valley, Chikmagalur (Karnataka) at #13 (21); Sai International Residential School, Cuttack #16 (20); The Blue Mountain School, Ooty #20 (31) co-ranked with the previously unranked Billimoria High School, Panchgani.

Beyond the Top 20 also some schools have dramatically risen in the esteem of the informed public. Among them: River Dale International, Pune #21 (26); Laidlaw Memorial, Ketty Valley (Tamil Nadu #22 (25); De Paul International Residential School, Mysuru #23 (28) and the Dr. KKR Gowtham Happy Valley School, Tadepalli (Andhra Pradesh) #25 (249) which has been moved from the co-ed day schools category to co-ed boarding this year, and Usha Martin World School, Patna #30 (35).

Moreover, with the fast mutating novel Coronavirus showing no signs of exiting from the subcontinent and inter-state travel having become more difficult and cumbersome, state rankings of boarding schools have assumed greater importance as parents are reluctant to send their children to faraway schools, even if top-ranked. Therefore, it’s pertinent to bear in mind that co-ed boarding schools that are modestly ranked nationally are often top-ranked in their host states, most of which are more populous and larger than European countries.

Thus, the Krishnamurti Foundation-promoted/affiliated Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi (estb.1934) is the #1 co-ed boarding school of Uttar Pradesh (pop. 215 million). Likewise, the Sai International Residential School, Cuttack (estb.2018) ranked #16 India, is the premier co-ed boarding school of Odisha (48 million); the Sagar School, Alwar #18 nationally, is #1 in Rajasthan (82 million); Himali Boarding School, Kurseong #28 in India is #1 in West Bengal (91 million), and the Usha Martin World School, Patna ranked #30 nationally, is the premier co-ed boarding school of Bihar state (105 million). 

Also Read:India’s premier boys boarding schools 2019-20

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