Fr. Agnel Multipurpose School, Mumbai
Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of FAMS which sets it as a school apart, is its conviction that supplementary technical and life skills education is a vital ingredient of secondary schoolingNow on the threshold of celebrating its silver jubilee, the K-XII Fr. Agnel Multipurpose School (FAMS, estb. 1982) sited in Mumbaiâ€™s far-flung suburb of Vashi (Navi Mumbai), has acquired an excellent reputation for providing supplementary, vocational/technical education to its 4,816 students instructed by 100 teachers. The Agnel Ashram Fathers Group which originated in Goa and has branches in Delhi, Noida, Ambarnath and Pune as well another branch in Mumbai, has an inspiring history. Its founder Fr. C. Rodrigues, a prominent freedom fighter in the Goa Liberation Movement fled persecution from the Portuguese regime in Goa and took refuge in Mumbai where he set up a small school for street children in 1952.
Thus was born the Father Agnel chain of schools. Today the co-educational FAMS, Vashi, affiliated with the Maharashtra state secondary and higher secondary school certificate (SSC) examinations board, is widely acknowledged as one of the benchmark schools of the board which has 1,200 schools across Maharashtra (pop. 96 million) with an aggregate enrollment of over 1.5 million students, affiliated with it.
FAMS offers K-XII education in English and Marathi mediums with students studying in English (4,100) by far outnumbering Marathi medium students, at rock-bottom tuition fees (see box). Moreover in a society where lip service is paid to inclusive education for physically and mentally challenged children, FAMS actively practices inclusive education giving children with disabilities every opportunity for mainstreaming. To this end FAMS has tied up with the National Open School (NOS) besides the Maharashtra state education department, to allow children unable to cope with the class X SSC examination to write NOSâ€™ school-leaving exam.
"We welcome children with disabilities," says Fr. S. Almeida, a history and education alumnus of Goa University who served in Agnel Ashram Fathers institutions for over 25 years before taking charge as principal of FAMS in 1999. "To the maximum extent possible we ensure that children with disabilities learn with regular students. Our practice is to bring three-four special educators into classrooms to help and aid special needs children as they learn side-by-side with all children. We believe in admitting every child regardless of economic status or disabilities whom the Lord brings to us and give them our best." Unsurprisingly, FAMS also runs an attached orphanage for 100 boys who receive free education in the school.
Inevitably admission applications are disproportionate to capacity available. Last year the FAMS management received 900 admission applications, from which only 350 children were accepted into nursery school with the management practicing positive discrimination in favour of children from poor and underprivileged households. Yet despite the heavy pressure of admission applications, immediately after taking charge as principal, Almeida abolished the system of admission interviews for nursery and kindergarten children.
Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of FAMS which sets it apart, is its conviction that supplementary technical and life skills education is a vital ingredient of secondary schooling. Therefore from class VIII onwards students are taught engineering draftsmanship, workshop technologies and geometry drawing, during regular school hours and after school hours at their option. This not only qualifies them for immediate employment but also prepares them for admission into institutions of further education.
Moreover in common with faith-driven education institutions, the FAMS management accords top priority to teaching children good values. "Explaining the importance of values such as honesty, compassion, hard work etc is perhaps the most important aspect of education we impart to our children," says Almeida. Again in keeping with the hallowed tradition of missionary schools, extra-curricular, particularly sports education is actively encouraged. According to Almeida, 55 FAMS alumni participated in national level games this year with a number of them representing the country in the recent SAF (South Asian Federation) Games as well, with two girl swimming champions bagging nine gold medals.
Co-curricular education is not neglected either. Elocution, theatre and public speaking are actively encouraged and FAMS has a well-equipped library with 20,748 volumes and numerous journal subscriptions as also a computer centre with 40 PCs.
The outcome of the balanced, holistic education that FAMS students (who include 2,271 girls) receive is that they routinely top the school-leaving exams of the Maharashtra state board. In 2006, of the 293 students who wrote the SSC in English medium, 208 passed with distinction, 78 passed in the first class and ten received a second class. In the Marathi medium, of the 56 candidates who wrote the class X exam, 24 passed with distinction while 16 passed in the first class. Likewise in the higher secondary Plus Two examination of the state board, of the 128 students who wrote the exam, 114 received distinction while 13 got first divisions.
Now in its silver jubilee year the FAMS management believes that it has found the formula for balanced holistic education and the consolidation period is over. Therefore the schoolâ€™s management has drawn up ambitious plans for the future. While work is poised to begin on constructing a swimming pool (financed by willing parents) on the campus, celebrations are planned through the year with each month being dedicated to a particular activity like music, sports, literary events etc, in which FAMS students will actively participate.
Admission and feesFr. Agnel Multipurpose School, Vashi, is affiliated with the Maharashtra state secondary and higher secondary school certificate (SSC) examinations board and offers kindergarten-class XII education in the English and Marathi mediums. Children with disabilities have the option to write the class X examination of the National Open School.
Admission application forms are available in the month of October/November. No admission interviews for nursery and kindergarten children are held, with the management practicing positive discrimination in favour of children from poor and underprivileged households. Admission is on the basis of a draw of lots. Siblings of already enrolled children are automatically admitted.Gaver Chatterjee (Mumbai)
Tuition fees are highly subsidised at Rs.450 per month. For further information contact The Principal, Sector 9 A, Vashi, Navi Mumbai 400 703. Tel: 022 7661924; Fax: 022 7660619; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vassar College, USA
Ranked among Americaâ€™s best liberal arts institutions and â€˜happiestâ€™ college by the Princeton Review, Vassar was an exclusive womenâ€™s college until 1969 when it went co-edSited on a sprawling 1,000 acre campus in lower New York state, Vassar College is among Americaâ€™s most prestigious and high-profile liberal arts colleges. The US News and World Report (2007) ranked it 12th among Americaâ€™s best liberal arts institutions and the 2002 Princeton Review described Vassar students as the "happiest" countrywide. Founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, a self-educated businessman and philanthropist, Vassar was an exclusive womenâ€™s college for more than a century. But in 1969 it became the first of the â€˜Seven Sistersâ€™ colleges in the US to go co-ed after declining an offer to merge with Yale University. Today this private and highly selective college boasts an endowment corpus of $885 million (Rs. 3,717 crore).
Vassar confers its highly prized BA degree in over 50 majors. As a liberal arts college it does not offer any professional and/or business education programmes. With an aggregate enrollment of 2,400 students and 260 faculty, it boasts an enviable teacher-student ratio of 1:9. More than 70 percent of the faculty lives on or contiguous to its green and leafy campus.
"The world and its problems keep evolving, and addressing them requires continually new ideas, methods, approaches, and also a desire, a passion to search for them. This is what a Vassar liberal arts education does so extraordinarily well. From the very beginning, Vassar students have been encouraged to experiment, create, take risks, and realise that learning about what we already know simply is not enough," says Dr. Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College.
Poughkeepsie, Hudson Valley. Vassar is sited in Poughkeepsie in the Hudson River Valley of lower New York state. The greater Poughkeepsie area houses about 100,000 people and is located 120 km north of New York city. The Metro north commuter train provides a reliable rail link to New York and this picturesque town is home to a large campus of the information technology behemoth IBM. Hosting several theatres, shopping malls, pubs and restaurants, Poughkeepsie is just over an hourâ€™s train ride to New Yorkâ€™s Grand Central station.
The weather in Poughkeepsie is akin to New Yorkâ€™s. Average temperature in the winter months is about -1Â°C; while in the summer months it rises to a mean 24Â°C. During winter the town experiences modest snowfall.
Campus facilities. Vassar College sprawls across 1,000 picturesque acres ranging from the manicured lawns and formal gardens of the main campus to the meadows and woodlands of Vassar Farm. A designated arboretum, the campus hosts over 100 academic and residential buildings ranging from collegiate gothic to modernist and includes two national monuments â€”Main House and Vassar College Observatory.
The most recent addition to the Vassar campus is the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, providing state-of-the-art screening rooms, studios, and production facilities. The collegeâ€™s libraries include the main, art, music, and special collections, housing over a million print volumes, 3,500 serial titles and 607,000 units of microform; multiple electronic resources and databases.
Sports facilities at Vassar are excellent. Waker Field House, the main athletics building, offers facilities for volleyball, soccer, fencing, baseball, tennis and swimming. The Athletic and Fitness Center, next to Vassarâ€™s nine-hole golf course, houses a state-of-the-art gym and an indoor all-purpose running track.
There are over 100 student-run organisations at Vassar. Moreover nearly a dozen student publications are published on campus. Approximately 1,650 events are held annually including guest lectures, performances by visiting artists, athletic events, and concerts.
Admission. Vassar College is highly selective. The prime criterion for admission is academic ability as demonstrated by superior performance in secondary school; about 90 percent of admitted students ranked in the top 20 percent of their high school class. The minimum eligibility requirement for admission into Vassarâ€™s undergrad degree programmes is successful completion of Plus Two. Additionally Vassar College requires all applicants to submit standardised test results â€” the SAT Reasoning Test together with two SAT subject tests and TOEFL. Moreover the committee weighs personal strengths, motivation, and potential as evidenced in essays, recommendations, and out-of-class involvements.
The deadline for submitting applications together with a fee of $60 (Rs.2,570) is January 1. For further information write to the Office of Admission, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604; e-mail email@example.com; website: www.vassar.edu.
Accommodation. Almost 98 percent of Vassar students live on campus in one of the eight co-ed residence halls and/or the one womenâ€™s hall of residence. Accommodating between 169 and 352 students, each house has a separate and unique personality that drives community development. Student rooms are furnished with basic needs (bed, dresser, and desk). An ethernet connection is provided in each room, and computer clusters for general use are available in all houses. Halls of residence also offer kitchen facilities, multipurpose rooms, television lounges, and other amenities. Apartment style accommodation is also available.
Degree programmes. Vassar College awards the bachelor of arts (BA) degree in over 50 majors. At the end of the sophomore (first) year, students have a choice of four divergent paths of study: concentration in a department; an interdepartmental programme such as biopsychology or geography/anthropology; a multidisciplinary programme such as urban studies, American culture, science, technology, and society; or an individually tailored course of study known as the independent program (see box).
Scholastic options at VassarVassar College offers its highly prized BA degree in over 50 majors. As a liberal arts college it does not offer any technology and/or business programmes. Students may major in a single discipline, an interdepartmental or multidisciplinary program, or they may design an independent program.
Departments. Anthropology, art, biology, chemistry, Chinese and Japanese, classics, computer science, dance, drama and film, economics, education, English, French, geology and geography, German studies, Hispanic studies, history, Italian, mathematics, music, philosophy, physical education, physics and astronomy, political science, psychology, religion, Russian, sociology
Interdepartmental Programs. Biochemistry; earth science and society; geography-anthropology; medieval and Renaissance studies; neuroscience and behavior; Victorian studies
Multidisciplinary Programs. Africana studies; American culture; Asian studies; cognitive science; environmental studies; the independent program; international studies; Jewish studies; Latin American studies; media studies; science, technology and society; urban studies; womenâ€™s studies
Bill of costs (per year). Tuition fees: $35,520; Room and board: $8,130
NB $=Rs.42Summiya Yasmeen