Cover Story

India’s Most Respected Schools

The notable feature of the EW-C fore Survey of Schools 2009 is that last year’s top three in each category — day, boarding and international — have maintained numero uno ranking. Dilip Thakore reports

Although government grandees and Left intellectuals, who over the past half century have all but destroyed post-independence India’s education system, are unlikely to agree, the country’s estimated 82,000 private (aided and unaided) primary and secondary schools — and a sprinkling of army, air force and Central govern-ment (Kendriya Vidyalaya and Jawahar Navodaya) K-12 schools — are the backbone of the nation’s primary-secondary education system. The overwhelming majority of India’s business, professional, legal and bureaucratic, if not political, leaders who for all their faults and wrong-turns have ensured the unexpected survival of independent India as a functional democracy, owe their vital foundational education to private schools, beleag-uered islands of excellence within India’s moribund education system crippled by the excesses of Left-inspired licence-permit-quota raj.

Therefore to encourage growth, development and striving for excellence in critically important K-12 education, since 2007, EducationWorld (estb.1999) has been publishing annual league tables of the country’s most respected day, boarding and international schools in the public interest. The EW league tables rate and rank 250 of the country’s most well-known schools (short-listed by EducationWorld) across 12 parameters of excellence viz, academic reputation, co-curricular and sports education, competence of faculty, individual attention to students, value for money, institutional leadership/management, parental involvement, infrastructure provision, quality of alumni, institutional integrity and admissions transparency.

Selected day, boarding and international schools across the country were rated and ranked on each of these parameters and awarded scores out of a maximum 100 (except for the critical parameter of competence of faculty which is given a weightage of 200) by a carefully chosen mix of 2,066 parents, principals, educationists, and teachers countrywide, representing informed opinion, with fees-paying parents constituting over 60 percent of the respondent samples.

Again this year, a carefully constituted SEC (socio-economic category) A sample respondents (median income Rs.30,000 per month) mix comprising graduates and postgraduates was polled by the Delhi-based market research and opinion polls agency C fore (Centre for forecasting and research), which specialises in appraisal of educational institutions at the national level. C fore has been rating and ranking professional education institutions, including B-schools for the past decade for corporates and publications including Hindustan Times, Times of India, Mint and Outlook.

To mine data for the EW-C fore Survey of Schools 2009 league tables, the agency’s field researchers fanned out across 15 cities countrywide inclu-ding the four metros (Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata), almost-metro cities (Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bhopal and Jamshedpur) and in education hubs with high concentra-tions of schools (Darjeeling, Dehradun) to conduct perceptual surveys relating to the 250 selected schools.

“Every respondent was asked to evaluate schools in his/her own region — north, south, east, west — on the assumption that they would be more knowledgeable about proximate education institutions, on a ten-point scale across the same 12 parameters as last year. The points awarded under 11 parameters were multiplied by ten — and the critical teacher quality/ faculty competence by 20 — and totaled up to award an aggregate score out of a maximum possible 1,300, to each institution. Schools unknown to less than 20 respondents in each zone have been excluded from the league tables,” says Premchand Palety, promoter-director of C fore, admitting the possibility that rankable schools which maintain below-the-radar media and social profiles could well not figure in the league tables.

The notable feature of the EW-C fore Survey of Schools 2009 is that last year’s top three in each category (day, boarding and international) —  Shri Ram School, Delhi; Doon School, Dehradun; and Woodstock, Mussoorie  — have maintained their ranking at the top of the league tables. However down the ladder, this year’s tables exhibit a dramatic churn, indicating that institut-ional managements are raising their profiles and/or that the parent and educators’ communities are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about quality issues in primary and secondary education.

Moreover, with growing dissatisfac-tion with Indian education’s traditional memory-based rote learning systems, schools with intensive focus on academics and board examination results seem to have fallen out of favour. Quite obviously respondents who constit-uted the sample survey have become aware that there’s more to education than academic excellence.

“In this year’s league tables, the rankings of academics-focused schools with reputations for board exam results and little else, have fallen sharply. For instance, South Point School, Kolkata, and Patha Bhavan, Kolkata, which were highly ranked in previous surveys, have been pushed down the league tables in the 2009 survey. This is because they have done little to change the popular perception that they are primarily academics oriented. Such institutions should not only reinvent themselves, but also communicate their changing profiles to their stakeholders. Young parents are increasingly opting for schools such as Shri Ram, Delhi and Step by Step, Noida which give individual attention to children and facilitate their overall personality development,” says Palety, an alumnus of the Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh and Fore School of Management, Delhi who has over 15 years experience of market research and promoted C fore in the year 2000.

In the  following pages of this detailed annual cover feature, we present comprehensively researched national, regional and parametral perceptual ratings and rankings of India’s most admired schools in 2009. Moreover this year we present an additional Facts Sheet of schools which responded to our appeal for hard, factual data. Read together, they provide parents, teachers, principals and educationists a wealth of information about future trends in primary-secondary education.