International Schools: Twilight Time

 Recently I was in conversation with few of my acquaintances, including a veteran teacher, who work in reputed international schools i...

 Recently I was in conversation with few of my acquaintances, including a veteran teacher, who work in reputed international schools in the Delhi-NCR region. At the first mention of the phrase 'international school', a flowery idea of futuristic classrooms come to our mind. Being in the twenty-first century, it is essential to come to terms with globalisation at an early age. However, there is something she put in my ears, that had my alarm bells ringing: a serious lack of virtues, crippled ethics, and a dominant trait of immorality prevails wide in such schools. I had a talk with them to understand what actually goes on behind the veil of glitters. 

The first and foremost striking difference between missionary schools and international schools is that the latter is more diversified in terms of culture. Students and teachers from different ethnic backgrounds intermingle here. These schools are established where there is a mass influx of brains: primarily, tier one cities. This consequently gives rise to new brands of ideas, a hybrid between the oriental and the post-modern. This, in all respects, has a consequential positive impact on the minds of the students enrolled. However, here lies a good irony. Despite having a blend and the best of cultures from around the world, many students have complained of a cultural identity crisis because of the failure to associate or relate oneself with one's roots.

     The number of such institutions has swelled exponentially over the last couple of years, across the length and breadth of the country. In doing so, a vast majority of the private managerial and executive heads responsible for these schools have opted for an algorithmic approach to modern schooling: input, load with data, and output. Befuddled with such a method, I felt apoplectic at how primary schooling has taken a turn into just another domain of profitable venture for businessmen. After all, these people only understand green on financial reports, don't they?

When asked about whether there is in force the practice of fudging of marks, the response was surprisingly affirmative. One of them says, with visible regret written on the face, "Yes, indeed because everyone needs to be projected as good. Authenticity is a big issue." We must take to account the fact that where the integrity of the marking system is being questioned, there is a serious question mark on the way the management has put the functional controls in place. Why should the administration put the academic roots of potentially bright students in jeopardy? What this essentially does is that it weakens any form of self-evaluatory assessments that a person must acquaint himself with right from early days. A failure to assess and learn from one's failure would only serve to hinder any future prospects. 

    In essence, the parents are treated like customers in such schools. To cite yet another instance, teachers are instructed to prepare coffee for the parents when they walk in for parent-teacher meets. Working in a plethora of schools during her career span, every such school branding itself as "international" has had a similar string of concerns following the diabolical pattern. A serious lack of discipline is in stark contrast to that of missionary schools run by the Salesian community, and the Church of North India. There is an urgent need to realise that manufacturing students with a mere touch of academic perfection is of no use to a nation: India rests on the foundation pillars of oriental virtues- and that, precisely, is being eroded by malpractices in these schools.

Another facet of the debate extends to the line where values propagated by the school is subject to change as per the needs of the business. This is perilous to the impressionable minds of the children, who absorb anything that is provided to them. In my opinion, and I believe this applies to all rational people out there, schools need to be freed from the chains of private greed. Compromises must not be made where education comes into question. The lamentable fact is that this is the cornerstone of the glaring business today.

Incidents of a tragic nature are also increasingly finding its way through the annals of the international schooling structure in India. More often than not, irresponsibility on the part of these international schools has led to catastrophic disasters which could have been avoided. In an odd event, a student of a famed school met her death because of negligence on part of the official school travel bus. In another incident, carelessness and laxity on part of an international school from Mumbai cost a child her fingers for life. The worst part is, the management of both the schools tried to take the matter behind curtains and hush the voices of the growing dissent against such malpractices.

   A unilateral focus on percentages brings fame for the school, but at the end of the day, the students remain as shallow as ever: for a man without a personality is a man of void. As justified by surveys across the world, the future performance of a student is dependent on his all-round activities and not his academics alone. I hope this issue gets its due share of attention: such a narrow-minded prioritisation of marks over morals is condemnable and should be castigated to the last degree. If businessmen do not look to rectify their ethical errors, the legislature should. The Ministry of Human Resource Development should take up this matter on an urgent basis and formulate necessary laws so as to ensure that students (as well as parents) are not exploited in the name of futuristic education. After all, education is of no use unless the behavorial components of the character complement them. 

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