By Dr Shyam Ganguli
The history of Indian School Education is incomplete without mention of Dehradun, a beautiful town which has fulfilled the educational aspirations of thousands. The soil of this town has accommodated numerous schools that hold national importance.
Besides its natural charm, it would not be wrong to say that Dehradun is synonymous with education, as it has emerged as a prominent educational hub over time. The beautiful Himalayan town is rightly dubbed the ‘School Capital of India’.
Ironically, however, the misconception hypothetically drawn by some thinkers has been to attribute the quality of education imparted or offered by the city to a handful of some leading schools. To enlighten people, it was in 1853 when the American Presbyterian Mission Boys’ High School popularly known as AP Mission started by Mr Woodside, with his assistant Gilbert McMaster, that gave the town a good beginning in school education. The AP Mission Girls’ High School followed soon, around 1859, spearheaded by Rev D Herron. Woodstock in Mussoorie was an outcome of the reflective minds of the same missionaries. The latter school, till date, has been able to sustain its glory. The former, however, for some reason, could not keep up with the pace and was seen dwindling and declining, in word and spirit. I, like many like-minded readers, am in agreement with their passionate concern over the downfall of such exceedingly good schools. Perhaps, when such queries knock our minds, we look for solutions, and finding solutions requires tremendous introspection at many levels of civil society.
In 1901, Dehradun was blessed with the Convent of Jesus and Mary. Interestingly, when Christian Missionaries were establishing schools in Dehradun, with almost a charity motive, it evoked a concern among other religious groups. People like Jyoti Swarup, understanding the growing imperative to spread the doctrine of Hinduism, initiated schools like DAV. A large population of the residents preferred to send their wards to this school that met with their desires for quality education, imparted with the set of required values.
Around the same time, Smt Mahadevi, wife of veteran visionary Jyoti Swarup, took keen interest in the education of women folk. Dehradun, in 1904, witnessed another academic endeavour, when Mahadevi Kanya Pathshala, colloquially addressed as MKP by the residents, started. In 1906, Princess of Wales, Victoria Mary, having visited the school gave a historic commendation in the Visitor’s Book, “It gave me a great pleasure to visit the Kanya Pathshala”. Having set an exemplary standard, a chain of good Hindi medium schools was established in the pursuit. Schools like Sadhu Ram Inter College, Nari Shilp Mandir, Jain Kanya Pathshala, Hindu National Inter College and Kendriya Vidyalaya (FRI) flourished and gave Dehradun its pride, name, fame and glory in the field of education. The elite public schools co-existed, drawing a strong parallel to the above schools. However, the charm of the latter wasn’t dampened. The very strong reason or logic behind the high level of performance, matching with the elite schools that drew the attention of the residents, was the educational offerings from such staunch supporters of ‘vernacular’ schools. There were individuals like Sadhu Ram Mahindroo, an aggressive participant of the Non-Cooperation Movement, who initiated the Oriental Anglo Vernacular School in 1925, which was later shifted to Raja Road, the present site of the Sadhu Ram Inter College.
These schools gave tough competition to the English medium private and missionary schools, with some people glorifying them as Public Schools. The spirit of competition in co-existence amongst all these schools opened a plethora of avenues for residents to choose and single out any one best school for their wards, with each school catering in the best possible way with their strong value systems and perspectives. Parents were more than content to send their children to the Hindi medium schools. Boys, after finishing the Senior Cambridge (class XI), from St Thomas’ School, St Joseph’s Academy, The Doon School, Cambrian Hall, etc., happily sought admission in DAV Inter College and graduated from DAV Post Graduate College. Being an alumnus of DAV College has been a dream come true for me. Our professors could impress upon our minds with their in-depth knowledge and intellectual skills. Scholars of our age, then, never ever thought of leaving Dehradun and going out for greener pastures because the greens offered by our mentors at the post graduate colleges was deeper in its shades. We were never lured by other cities, as students of today. The same was true for the girls. Students from Convent of Jesus and Mary and Welham Girls’ took admission in MKP Post Graduate College. Such was the endowed capacity of Dehradun schools and colleges, to keep not only the locals drawn but also students from nearby towns and cities like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Saharanpur, Roorkee and Chandigarh. The campus and infrastructure of these schools and colleges was at par with the colleges in other parts of the country. The present scenario, with the mad race among the pass outs to rush towards the metro cities saddens many locals today. With the passage of time and having seen the exodus growing in numbers, year after year, makes me and many others nostalgic about our town losing its glory in the name of glamour offered by the big cities.
I talk of the recent past, whereby I, having availed the education locally, 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 Colleges. Our professors were not only competent in Hindi but were equally competent in English, some even in foreign languages. Have our institutes lost their ability to hold back our scholars and retain them locally? Why must they have to leave at all…needs to be pondered!
Why is it that the old schools and colleges with fame and repute have lost their glory, that the parents have to run after a few public schools and colleges?
The need of the hour is to arouse, awaken and evoke a positive thought process among our own people, the students, parents, teachers, administrators and school managements to realise and recognise the pitfalls that have led to the downfall of some of our prestigious institutions. Let us wake up, rise above petty interests and raise the standards of all our schools. Let us pledge to revive the reputation of our old schools, some of which have gathered dust over a period of time. Let us not pull down the standard of good schools. Instead, raise more such schools which would improve the quality of education in our country.
A joint effort alone can help us think afresh and turn a new leaf, in our concern for education in our own lovely city, soon. We need to work selflessly and contribute meaningfully to bring the past glory and see that the vernacular schools rub shoulders with other privately managed prestigious schools.
(Dr S Ganguli is Group Advisor, Education, Aditya Birla Group)