In the bad old days, boarding school education was hard grind. Born in British-ruled East Africa where my sire was a plantations tycoon, I was despatched to boarding school in India at young age and spent almost a decade enduring cold showers, authoritarianism and arbitrary caning, not to mention gating, face-offs behind the chapel and pummelling by school bullies. Therefore I wasn’t surprised that given the hard traditions of legacy boarding schools, they lost some of their shine in the 1970-90 years. The great majority of households in post-independence India preferred to retain children in their formative years at home and educate them in neighbouring day schools.
But with the ubiquitous neta-babu brotherhood hijacking the State and the Indian economy under the alluring cover of socialist ideology in the 1970s, high-potential free India was plunged into the rut of the “Hindu rate of growth” of 3.5 percent per year for two decades until liberalisation and deregulation of the economy in 1991-92. Unsurprisingly, with economic refugees from the continuously neglected rural hinterland pouring into the country’s 8,000 haphazardly planned cities, the latter have gone to the dogs. According to the World Health Organisation, of the world’s Top 20 most polluted and hazardous-to-health cities, 14 are in India.
Therefore, legacy boarding and new genre international residential schools normatively established in India’s famous, cool, green hill stations and/or in carefully selected environments which offer children all-important unpolluted air, clean water and generous playing spaces, apart from excellent academic syllabuses and curriculums, are becoming popular again with the country’s fast-expanding middle class.
Moreover — despite the catcalls and jeers of self-styled socialists and jholawallahs — a new generation of edupreneurs driven by the spirit of enlightened self-interest, philanthropy and/or urgent need to develop the country’s abundant human resource, are establishing new-style, liberal and environmentally-friendly boarding schools to enable children to realise their full potential. Our cover story in this issue traces this evolutionary socio-economic development.
And our special report in this issue is a pictorial essay of the two-day event at which schools top-ranked nationally, in the states and cities/towns in the EducationWorld India School Rankings 2018-19 — the world’s largest and most comprehensive school rankings survey (see EW September) — were awarded, rewarded and celebrated at the lavishly-endowed Leela Ambience Hotel in Delhi NCR. The awards jamboree attracted over 1,200 promoters, principals and senior faculty of the country’s Top 1,000 day, boarding and international schools which were rated and ranked by 12,214 stakeholders in primary-secondary education countrywide. This celebratory event was fitting tribute to K-12 education leaders who are somewhat belatedly, addressing the huge problem of preparing the world’s largest child and youth population for the formidable challenges of the 21st century.