Schools occupy the minds of parents, thinkers and governments as the very basis of a civilized society.  No country underrates the importance of educating their children.  There are advanced countries like the European nations and the USA where schooling evokes strong feelings of warmth and fierce criticisms.  Warmth as schools gives families and children that rare sense of identity and fulfillment.

Criticisms of schools are as fierce in these countries for good schools are rare, even if the material facilities are provided in abundance for it is rare to find schools that are dedicated to nurturing youngsters with a sense of mission and idealism.

After all, good schools, by definition, must nurture a goal, a mission and a set of worthwhile beliefs in the children who go through the portals of learning to go through life.  Having said that much, it is time to look at some schools that claim to be good one in our own midst and surroundings.

In this very issue we have written about some of the interesting institutions.  The Aditi School in Bangalore and the Corpus Christi in Kerala are the two that are noted for their different approach to education.  The two institutions in Mumbai, covered here are also noted for their achievements because of their long standing services.

But then what makes for really experimental education?  How important it is?  Most well endowed schools, the public schools, both the British established ones and the post-independence period public schools are no doubt providing some excellent education goals, by their teaching methods, their extracurricular activities and also by the emphasis on spotting talents in areas, other than academic performance.  But then it is a sad thought, for any serious-minded educator, that most of the ‘rich’ institutions end up at the end of the day, so to say, by preparing their students for the State-directed examinations, be it the State exams or the CBSE and its variations and very routine careers in engineering, medicine etc.

What then is the purpose of these ‘good’ schools?

Very hard to express an opinion! Without inviting strong emotions and conflicting view points!

For instance, the Corpus Christi run by Ms. Mary Roy, the proud mother of the Booker Prize winner Arundathi Roy of the “God of small things” fame, is decidedly an experimental school.  But then the story of that school, from what we could surmise, is a saga of struggle and survival against all odds.  Roy’s haughty “nonsense” to the query “whether your school is recognized by the Government” is a fitting summation of what all experimental schools would face.

We at the SCHOOL magazine had our own experiences in running an experimental school.  The school was launched in a village and was run by an Oxford-returned Indian (who was also a student of Tagore’s Santiniketan).  The school was hailed initially as a path breaker and then in the social, political and bureaucratic milieu, any school with a daring to cross the path of even the petty officials is sure to meet with disaster.  This school also faced with the same end.

In any education experiment, there are so many vested interests to be humored and many established notions to be praised and it is only the rare fortunate person who finally succeeds.  Tagore was one.  May be his high profile social stature saved him in his day.  But now, even that great institution is in a serious crisis.

All these thoughts don’t lessen the responsibilities for those who run good schools to pursue their goals and persist with their visions.

We salute Mary Roy for having produced a genius and thereby proving in these skeptical days and more materialist minded times that good schools are possible. May be such experimental schools have to be appreciated by a more informed and activist public opinion.  In education too public opinion, critical and rational and liberal opinion counts, a great deal!

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