Going through a survey of the best schools in Delhi printed in a leading national daily, I am sad, disappointed – but not really surprised. The said mix of emotions arises from the absence of my own alma mater, the Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan, from even the ‘special mentions’ amongst the schools adjudged as the top sixty or so in the city by the newspaper. The sadness and disappointment is twofold, since it is my own old school, and is run by the organization I served in for twenty years. But the lack of surprise is because I am already aware of the current standards and reputation of the school thanks to the enquiries I made when I got posted into Delhi and wanted to get my children admitted to it. Consequent to my findings, I allowed my concern for the future of my children override my loyalty for my old school, and I opted out of admitting them there. And got my son admitted to Sanskriti School.
It is less than twenty years old, and is acknowledged as one of the best schools in the country. The same survey places it as second in the city, and amongst the first five in the country. So what is it that makes it race ahead of the much older school of ours located in its close vicinity? Agreed, it is run by the Civil Services Society and therefore has the accompanying benefit of resources and wherewithal. But then, the forces have no dearth of resources and wherewithal either. Why is it so difficult for us to make our schools into centres of excellence, ensuring that there is no need for our own people to go elsewhere seeking a brighter future for our children? If
the Civil Services Society can do it, why can’t AWES, or for that matter AWWA? What better welfare can there be than providing opportunities for excellent education for our children?
One aspect that comes to mind is that our schools are more inclusive and heterogeneous, with the children coming from across the spectrum of backgrounds within the forces. But is that such a big stumbling block? I don’t think so, because I know for certain that the brightest students in these schools are from no particular end of that spectrum. The infrastructure of our schools is also more than adequate. Probably what we need to do is to make conditions such that we attract the best of talent to work in these schools. In my perception, Sanskriti’s management is doing things differ
ently than AWES.
It has had some of the leading educationalists in the country as the Principals. And, having hired eminent people to lead the school, they have provided adequate resources without interfering in the running of the school as such. This used to be the case in Army Public School too, back when I studied there. Mr Hari Dang, a leading educationalist of the country of the time, was the Principal. And although no such surveys were carried out at that time, I am certain that had that been the case, the school would definitely have not been absent from the notables. Another case in point is the Air Force School Subroto Park, which has seen a drastic change for the better since the present principal took over two years back.
Another way of balancing between the necessity of providing inclusive education and creating a centre of excellence is earmarking one out of the three Army Public Schools as such. Admissions to this particular school should be strictly on the basis of merit, irrespective of the rank of the parent. Let this be the first among equals. Yes, it will create a bit of a divide amongst the schools themselves, but in the long run, I think this will serve to bring up the overall standard of all of them.
It is about time we realized that by merely constructing buildings and commencing classes the organization is not rid of the responsibility of providing quality education to its member’s wards. The quality of these institutions needs careful nurturing to enable them holding their own in today’s competitive environment. And failing to do so, despite enjoying the organizational backing and resources of the magnitude that they do, requires some deep introspection amongst those tasked with running these institutions.