Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Making history (the ICSE way)


Jaya finished her Class 10 (ICSE) exams last month.

History is one of the subjects she disliked and certainly wasn't good at. So, she was understandably relieved at the end of the paper. She called me - palpably excited - over the phone to say "can you belive it - I'm done with history?" - I teased her, "others finish history, you sound as if you have made history".

Jokes apart, it was a bumpy ride for her. Though she enjoyed every bit her stay in Sahyadri (and is fiercely proud of her school) – academics were an uphill task for her. It wasn’t an easy call for us – there were obvious trade-offs between keeping her at home close to us and putting her in a free and nurturing environment like Sahyadri. Though she would have definitely benefitted from parental guidance, we were equally certain that the competitive pressures of a city school would have crushed her spirit.

No denying we had our moments of doubt and anxiety. But, every time we met the Principal and the teachers – we came back with the realization that, the problem lay more with us than the child. I remember – we once went to meet the young principal concerned about J’s progress (or, rather, the lack of it ) in class. We were quite flummoxed – when he asked us, if we were sure that we weren’t trying to impose our own expectations on our daughter. “Don’t you think – it’s been a great blessing that she has spent 5 very happy years of her life in this wonderful surrounding ?” – he retorted rhetorically. "Don’t tell her what she should do – just help her understand what she isn’t good at. The rest she will figure out for herself." Sound advice – we thought, as we trudged back to the school guest-house.

Now the hunt for a new school has begun – since at Sahyadri they don’t yet have a ‘Plus 2’ (Class XI and XII) section. Our impending move to Calcutta makes the situation a little more complex. Perhaps, having schooled in that city we are a bit biased. We know Jaya isn’t cut out for the top rung old favourites which are high on academics. Other than those, there are the few mass-production education factories (like my old alma-mater South Point and now also DPS) but she’ll be mince-meat in no time there. And, we are quite cynical about the new breed of the so called “international” schools – which promise to make Katrina Kaif of your daughter (through their ‘acting classes’). We have heard some ‘horror stories’ about these places. So the choice is really limited. As Jaya wants to pursue music - someone suggested Shantiniketan. But, without even visiting the place again, we know it’s a non-option. What Jaya needs is a school – that will give her the space to grow and let her progress at her own pace. Sadly, we don’t know of any such place in Calcutta.

Our first port of call was The Valley School in Bangalore – also run by the Krishnamurti Foundation. The parent teacher meeting that, preceded the interviews was itself an education for us. The Director of the school exhorted the parents – “don’t judge us by what we have achieved but by what we are attempting” and then decide if you wish to be part of this adventure. "The real challenge in this journey is not for the child – whose joyfulness we guarantee – but for the educators and the parents." This was followed by a short video of Jiddu Krishnamurti talking on education – which posed some more tough questions for us.

At the end of it – both Jaya and we were convinced that, if she has to go to a boarding it can only be at a KFI (Krishnamurti Foundation) School. One of the senior teachers on the panel quickly sized up Jaya and reading her mind - gently suggested that we shouldn't even waste our time checking out some other schools down south (run on similar lines)that we were planning to visit. That doesn’t mean Jaya will get admission automatically. Being essentially a day school, they have very few vacancies for boarders and the applicants are many. But, I guess the wait and the suspense are also part of the adventure - not just for us but also for Jaya.

We are keeping our fingers crossed !! Either way - it'll be the beginning of a new journey.

Related Blogposts: Masti Ka Pathshala and Back to School