Unlamented exit

EducationWorld February 2020 | Postscript

Ten years of uninterrupted British Raj in the blue-chip The Doon School, Dehradun (TDS), routinely voted India’s premier all-boys legacy boarding school in the annual EW India School Rankings, has ended. Citing “personal reasons”, Matthew Raggett, the British headmaster of TDS for the past five years, has resigned and exited India. Prior to Raggett’s appointment, Doon School’s well-furbished Headmasters Lodge was occupied by the school’s Irish-British incumbent Peter McLaughlin for ten years.

The return of the Raj to TDS when McLaughlin was appointed headmaster after the departure of the native born Canada and US-educated Kanti Bajpai in 2009, took observers by surprise because TDS was promoted by S.R. Das, a staunchly nationalist Kolkata barrister as a reaction to several Raj era boarding schools in India reluctant to admit native students. In 1935 Das crowdfunded and established TDS on a 70-acre campus in salubrious Dehradun and recruited Arthur Foot, a physics teacher at Britain’s famous Eton College, to replicate the best practices of Eton in the wholly residential, all-boys TDS. The school received a huge reputation boost when Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi, grandsons of prime minster Jawaharlal Nehru, who famously described himself as the last Englishman in India, were admitted into TDS in the 1960s.

After Bajpai was appointed headmaster, the general expectation was that the school’s tradition of British headmasters had ended. But surprisingly the board of governors chose to appoint Mclaughlin and Raggett, who had headed several second string private boarding schools in the UK and Europe.

However the steady internationalisation of TDS born out of nationalist impulses, discomfited the school’s board of governors and when Raggett disaffiliated TDS — which had already introduced the IB (Geneva) diploma for higher secondary students during Mclaughlin’s tenure — from the Delhi-based CISCE and introduced the Cambridge International (UK) curriculum for classes VI-X, it proved to be the last straw. Raggett was asked to resign. Just as well because there was a trace of disdain in the insouciance with which these expat headmasters disregarded native initiatives in education, including the sui generis EducationWorld.

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