India’s top residential schools

There was widespread dissatisfaction with last years league tables and ranking of boarding schools within the public, and within the offices of EducationWorld. Presumably because of a predominantly SECB (socio-economic category ‘B) respondents sample who tend to prefer day schools, some of the countrys most well-known traditional boarding schools such as Mayo College Ajmer, Rishi Valley School Chitoor, Scindia School Gwalior, and Maharani Gayatri Devi Jaipur, didnt figure in the league tables at all. On the contrary several predominantly day schools with small boarder contingents such as DPS, R.K. Puram, Delhi and Bishop Cotton Boys, Bangalore ranked high in the Top 10 table of residential schools. Therefore wiser for the experience, while conducting the EducationWorld Schools Survey 2008, the C fore management took special care to include only such institutions in which the great majority of students are boarders in lists shown to sample respondents to rate and rank residential schools. Moreover genuinely international schools, i.e institutions offering foreign examination board syllabuses plus international standard facilities and infrastructure, were distinguished from traditional British-inspired boarding schools and rated and ranked separately.
Consequently this time round, the league table of residential/boarding schools is much more compatible with informed public opinion. The Top 10 list is headed by The Doon School, Dehradun (estb.1935), which was also ranked first last year and is generally acknowledged as the countrys best boarding school, particularly for the quality of its management and alumni. But there isnt much of a difference in the aggregate score awarded by sample respondents to Doon (1094) and the vintage (estb.1875) Mayo College, Ajmer (1088). Indeed on several parameters of excellence — academic reputation, co-curricular activities and selectivity (in admission) policy, Mayo has been rated higher than Doon.

Weve been fortunate in being blessed with visionary headmasters who have recruited dedicated teachers, many of whom have given their lives to the development of this school. A compact campus of 70 acres gives us the advantage of being able to maintain our grounds, buildings and infrastructure well. Moreover we take special care to choose our students through thorough and provenly fair procedures, after which we ensure they develop their personalities and extra-curricular skills. All this plus a large and distinguished alumni base have contri-buted to our status and reputation, says Kanti Bajpai, a former Union external affairs ministry bureaucrat who quit government service and took charge as headmaster of Doon in 2003.

Pramod Sharma, principal of the second-ranked Mayo College, Ajmer is also encouraged by the high ratings and ranking received by Mayo, which was conspicuously absent from the EW Survey of Schools 2007. This poll survey reaffirms our faith in our students, faculty and systems. We are particularly encouraged by the high ratings we have received on the parameters of faculty competence and infrastructure. We are perhaps the only school in India with our own horses and active polo playing students, and a nine-hole golf course. These facilities are testimony to the importance we accord to sports education, says Sharma.

The construction of a credible league table of the countrys best traditional boarding schools (cf. the new genre of high-end international schools) and their perceived strengths and weaknesses inter se, has also had the beneficial fallout of inclusion of other highly respected residential schools. Among them: the well-regarded Rishi Valley School, Chitoor (Andhra Pradesh) which offers alternative boarding school education based on the principles and teachings of the educationist-sage J. Krishnamurthy (1896-1986); the indigenously-rooted Scindia School, Gwalior; the vintage Lawrence School, Ooty, (Tamil Nadu) and St. Josephs, Darjeeling, none of which figured in the all-India or the regional league tables last year. Moreover, also included among the Top 20 residential schools countrywide is Mayo Girls, Ajmer (ranked 14) whose exclusion last year, provoked a cri de couer (published in EW November 2007) from senior girls protesting the ratings and rankings methodology adopted last year.
Although within informed circles, boarding schools tend to have national reputations unlike day schools whose name and fame is generally limited to parochial, or at best regional levels, nevertheless on the presumption that parents dont usually enroll their children in faraway boarding schools, and teachers and educationists (who have been given heavier — 40 percent — weightage in the latest schools survey) are better informed about schools in their regions, C fore was requested to also compile regional rankings of residential schools.

Northern Region
With the desert state of Rajasthan being placed in the western zone for the purposes of this survey, the northern region Top 10 boarding schools table is headed by the Doon and Scindia schools followed by Welham Girls, Dehradun; Bishop Cotton, Shimla; Sherwood, Nainital and the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun. Also making it into the Top 10 table is the hitherto low-profile Daly College, Indore (estb.1882) which under its new principal, Sumer Singh, has broken out of its self-imposed isolation. Moreover the relatively new Vidya Devi Jindal Girls School, Hissar, Haryana (estb.1984) has quickly acquired a good reputation, especially for faculty quality and leadership/management to be ranked 17th.

Southern Region
With the entry of Rishi Valley and Lawrence, Lovedale which have been rated the most admired/respected residential schools in the southern zone, St. Johns International, Chennai (SJIRS), which headed the 2007 rankings has been pushed down to third position. Also included in the new, more credible southern regional league table 2008 are the capital intensive Jain International Residential School (rated highest in the south for infrastructure provision), the Sarala Birla Academy, Bangalore (estb.2004), Chinmaya International, Coimbatore, the low-profile Kotagiri Public School, Kodaikanal, and the newly-promoted Trivandrum International School (estb.2003) and Peevees Public School (estb.1993), both in Kerala.
Comments Dr. R. Kishore Kumar principal of SJIRS (estb.1993) who is unfazed by the minor slippage in the schools southern region ranking. Such independent assessment processes not only help schools to address perceived weaknesses, but also create awareness about the relative merits of schools within the public. We are quite satisfied with our steady progress on all parameters indicated in the survey, which highlights that academic excellence is not the sole objective of SJIRS, says Dr. Kishore Kumar.

Western Region
With the state of Rajasthan (pop.56.47 million) included in the western zone for the purposes of this survey, the top boarding school is Mayo College, Ajmer, followed by Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls (top-ranked in the western zone on the parameter of academic reputation) and Mayo College Girls, in that order. Respondents were also sufficiently aware of the newly-promoted Riverdale International School, Pune (estb. 2002) and the Orchid International School, Nashik (estb.2006) to rank them high in the western league table.
The EW survey of the top schools which has declared Orchid International as the fifth most respected boarding school in the west region of the nation, and the 19th best all over India is a scintillating gem in the schools tiara considering we are just two years old. Yet we are ranked alongside the oldest schools of the country! This is very encouraging, says Dhirendra Patil, director of Orchid International, Nashik.

Eastern Region
The practice of sending children away to boarding schools is evidently less popular in the eastern region than it is in other parts of the country. Nevertheless the eastern zone boasts two vintage residential schools with awesome pan-India reputations — the very pucca St. Pauls and St. Josephs, North Point, both in Darjeeling. Inevitably they head the eastern league table of seven highly respected boarding schools. However the newly promoted (estb.1995) Assam Valley School, Balipara, Assam, has quickly risen high in the public esteem to be ranked third in the eastern zone.
Another boarding school of relatively recent vintage, the high-profile Himali Boarding School, Kurseong (estb.1978) has fared well to be ranked fifth in the eastern zone. The students, principal, staff and founders of the school are delighted with the high eastern zone ranking of HBS. For over three decades we have worked relentlessly to improve our teaching-learning standards by pioneering the introduction of multiple intelligences education and foreign board curriculums in north-east India. The latest EW survey ratings and rankings are confirmation that we are moving in the right direction, and that our endeavours are being noticed, says Robindra Subba the promoter-director of HBS.

Download Residential Schools Zonal League Tables
Download Parameters of Excellence: India’s Top 10 Residential Schools
Download India’s Best Residential Schools League Table

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