For those of us who graduated from schools of hard knocks — the undersigned survived eight years in a boys boarding school in which forced learning, cold showers, frequent caning and bloody face-offs behind the chapel, were normative — the liberal culture of new-age co-ed alternative schools seem like very heaven. Although routine corporal punishment is mercifully outdated, it has been replaced by the heavy academic burden that latter day children bear in the overwhelming majority of the country’s primary-secondary schools. Whereas in the old days, a first class pass (60 percent plus) and distinction (75 percent) in school-leaving board exams were celebrated as excellent, these days children who average less than 90 percent in the boards are labelled mediocre.
The prime cause of the heavy academic load that latter day children have to bear on a daily basis is the bottleneck in higher education. The number of undergrad colleges, universities and vocational institutes dispensing acceptable quality tertiary education is too small to accommodate the 30 million school-leavers who stream out of the country’s 1.20 million government and 320,000 private schools every year. Therefore, competition for admission into the country’s Top 1,000 undergrad colleges offering quality higher education is intense. And to manage the annual stampede for admissions, premier colleges and universities are obliged to set the bar high and demand sky-high cut-off percentages in board examinations.
The proverbial silver lining of the cloud of obsolete syllabuses and curriculums and mugging for exams that children in mainstream education have to suffer, is the rise of alternative schools promoted by progressive educationists who have little faith in the efficacy of highly-disciplined, rigorous Theory X schooling which has drained the joy of learning from school education. These new-age schools offer children the opportunity to learn at their own pace in liberal, unstructured environments, and in close communion with nature. And the body of evidence which suggests that children in alternative schools learn as well and develop better life skills than their peers in drill-and-skill mainstream schools, is growing. In this issue’s cover story, managing editor Summiya Yasmeen trains an illuminating spotlight on new-age alternative schools.
Our special report feature reports the EducationWorld India Higher Education Rankings 2018-19 Awards Nite (June 23), a sequel of the detailed league tables we published in May ranking the country’s Top 100 private universities, private engineering institutes, B-schools and multi-disciplinary arts, science and commerce colleges. On this occasion, we not only celebrated and feted top-ranked institutions, but also conducted a seminar featuring knowledgeable educationists and visionaries who presented brilliant keynote addresses. Abridged versions of these keynotes are included in this issue. Check them out. They are excellent and offer deep insights into the malaise and maladies of 21st century India’s flailing higher education system.