By Dr S GANGULI
The comparison between education imparted by privately managed schools and government run schools has been going on for over a century and will continue. Both have their own pros and cons, though the aim continues to produce and nurture future global leaders.
It is generally held that privately managed schools have an edge over government and government aided schools not only for better infrastructure, hygiene and accountability but imparting education in the English medium.
English medium education to their children is the dream of a large number of parents in India. Many of them are ready to spend a substantial part of their income to obtain quality education for their children in English medium schools.
The recent announcement of the Uttarakhand Government to set up two English medium schools in every block of Uttarakhand is a welcome initiative to usher in sweeping reforms in school education. If implemented in the right spirit, it would bring not only transformational changes in the education sector but the privately managed schools will have to battle the competition offered by government run and aided schools. It is a democratising step as it will level all educational inequalities over a period of time.
It needs to be recollected that Uttarakhand, in general and Dehradun, in particular, boasts of being a hub of quality school education over many decades, irrespective of the school status – privately managed or government sponsored, Vernacular or English medium. Dehradun is rightly called the School Capital of India.
Dehradun has a long and glorious history of more than 160 years of launching the best educational institutions. It was in 1853, when American Presbyterian Mission Boys High School, popularly known as AP Mission was started by Mr Woodside and his assistant Gilbert McMaster. After a few years, the AP Mission Girls’ School was established. This was a good beginning, widely acknowledged by civil society.
In 1901, Dehradun was blessed with the Convent of Jesus and Mary. Interestingly, when missionary schools were being established, it evoked concern among Hindus. Philanthropists like Jyoti Swaroop initiated schools like DAV. Within a short span, the school was one of the most sought after in town for its value based education.
Around the same time, Srimati Mahadevi, wife of the veteran missionary, Jyoti Swaroop, took keen interest in education of women folk. The result of this vision was Mahadevi Kanya Pathshala, established in 1904. Princess of Wales , Victoria Mary, placed on record, “It has given me a great pleasure to visit Kanya Pathshala.” Having set exemplary standards, a chain of quality vernacular schools was established. Schools like Sadhu Ram Inter College,Nari Shilp Mandir, Jain Kanya Pathshala, Hindu National Intermediate College, Gandhi Intermediate College and Kendriya Vidyalaya (FRI) flourished and brought Dehradun on the global map of quality education. The beauty was, government and government aided schools rubbing shoulders with elite privately managed schools, exhibiting healthy competition. In fact, these schools gave tough competition to the then English medium private schools, with some people glorifying them as public schools.
Parents were more than happy to send their wards to the Hindi medium schools despite parallel offering from private and missionary schools like St Thomas’ College,St Joseph’s Academy, The Doon School, Cambrian Hall, etc. The same was true for girls. Girls from schools like Jesus and Mary and Welham Girls took admission in institutes like MKP Inter College and boys from The Doon School in DAV Inter College.
One of the strong reasons behind the high level of performance of Hindi medium schools was the educational offerings from some staunch supporters of vernacular schools like Sadhu Ram Mahindroo, who initiated the Oriental Anglo Vernacular schools in 1925.
When I talk of the recent past, having obtained education locally, I feel an edge above many in terms of my own growth and development over time. I owe it largely to my faculty at DAV Inter and Post Graduate College. Our faculties were not only competent in English and Hindi but some of them would make German, French and Persian allusions while teaching.
However, over a period of time, these glorious institutes lost their sheen and the rat race towards so called Public Schools ensued. For whatever reasons,the government and government aided schools ceased to attract students, and the mushrooming English medium schools flourished.
The recent announcement of government to open English Medium schools in each block reminds me of the words of Rajiv Gandhi , at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of The Doon School in 1985 , when he said, “Let’s not pull down the standard of good schools…. instead, raise more such schools which would improve the quality of education in our country.” This is how the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas were born.
This initiative of government is to be welcome. I am sure that government run schools will revive their past glory and parents, once again would prefer government or government aided schools for their children. The time and energy invested in private schools will be diverted to government schools for better growth. Those private schools which survive the competition will sustain. Parents will be freed from the complex exercise of choosing a school, generally inspired by their social and cultural aspirations. Mass migration to private schools will definitely come to a halt, a parallel quality education hub will be created.
I pray and hope that the proposed initiative turns a new leaf in a journey towards quality education.
(The author is Chief Education Officer, Aditya Birl Group, and manages 52 schools across 14 states of India.)