In this ongoing “international” frenzy, we tend to forget that the reason Indians and Asians have done so well is that their rigorous training always stands them in good stead.
At Cathedral, we don’t have the space to offer IB on the premises. Besides, ICSE is extremely good. I don’t see any reason to give up something good without moving to something much better. We’re not giving up a tried and tested and proven system just to jump onto a bandwagon. But we are setting up a 40-acre day boarding school near Lonavala, which should be up and running by next year, where we will branch out into IB after Class X.
The IB is a good programme. At the baccalaureate level, one is encouraged to think and question. But there’s a newness about it. The middle years, for instance, have not been worked out well. It’s hard for the average Indian to afford its expensive resources, books and the high cost of teachers.
One has to remember, though, that the reason Indians are appreciated so much in the West is the discipline of their curriculum. It is easy to computerize everything and just punch a few numbers. Eventually, the choice of school and curriculum has to be governed by what the child wants. You have to follow your heart.
We don’t think academics is the final focus. Look at Shiamak Davar—very intelligent, but his first love was always music. Lots of our students are like that. Quite a few people have gone off the beaten track and done well. We have our students participating in the Harvard Model United Nations, in the Singapore cultural exchange programme and in the Australia Science Fair. And we’re involved in lots of activities within India, too. We’ve just come back from a Rishikesh river rafting trip.
Now, with the influx of foreign fee-paying students, education has become, like everything else, a huge marketing exercise creating wants we never thought we had. We have never seen the need for things such as slickly-done posters. Education is much more than the froth and bubble on top of a multimillion dollar mushroom.
(Meera Isaacs is the principal of Cathedral & John Connon School. As told to Sonya Dutta Choudhury)