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Here come the new contenders

Abhijit Patnaik, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 19, 2012


Children special needs education at Step by Step school at Sector 132 on Noida - Greater Noida Expressway. Photo: Mohd Zakir / Hindustan Times

Three years ago, according to the HT- C fore Top Schools Survey, Delhi schools were sitting pretty, with 17 out of the Top 20 schools across Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida being from within the capital city. Schools in the four latter cities were distant challengers, sitting on

the fringe.

But in the short span of time since that survey, the education landscape has dramatically changed. The number of schools from Delhi’s neighbouring towns in the Top 20 this year has doubled, to 6. There is a non-Delhi school in the Top 5 for the first time — Step by Step school(SBS), Noida.

Parents are no longer looking only for academic excellence. A look at the Top 20 confirms that. Many of the Top schools lay a stress on over-all development. Crammed classrooms have given way to lower teacher-student ratios -- individual attention to students is the USP of many schools. And fees? Many schools are firmly in the Rs. 1 lakh plus bracket. Affordability has taken a hit.

The Top 20 schools display other interesting trends. The average age of these schools is a mere 32.5 years, less than half the age of some of Delhi’s most well known schools such as St. Columba’s and Presentation Convent. It is these schools that are the big losers.

“The whole funda has changed,” said Abha Adams, education adviser, SBS. “The difference between old schools and new ones is in the understanding of skills required for the future,” she said. New schools have tailored curricula, a high degree of professional development and stronger engagement with parents—essentially, do better at building a ‘school community’. Many older schools, however, continue to be textbook driven. The mantra is: evolve or die.

A geographical shift has occurred from north and central Delhi. The most sought after schools—Shri Ram, Mother’s International, Vasant Valley -- are in south Delhi.

Many schools in the NCR are run with corporate backing, rather than educational institutions such as those which run Mother’s International or Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. “In Gurgaon, there is space. Delhi schools were established years ago, newer schools don’t find infrastructure to be limiting,” said Sudha Goyal, principal, The Shri Ram School, Aravali.

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