There was a time when some of the best schools were schools run by dedicated missionaries from New Zealand and Britain who had the zeal, zest and passion for selfless service. Admission in such schools was open to all, and of course, even the idea of donations and the payment of a “booking amount was preposterous enough!” These schools, some of them in the Capital, and a few in the interiors of Haryana, Punjab, U.P. were well known once upon a time. Today, some of them are in ruins, such as one once popular school in the middle of a market in Ambala. Unfortunately, that spirit of selfless service service to humanity and a higher cause is missing entirely! Rampant nepotism coupled with favouritism along with a lackadaisical attitude by the managements have ruined what used to be strong edifices of Education. There seems to be a distinct dislike for talented staff members over those who can just be yes men. If the chewing of Gutkha and tobacco can endear a staff member to the management, then God save the rest!
Is it poor management, greed, commercialism and a lack of a strong leadership that has resulted in the degradation of the high standard of education imparted by these once famous Western Missionary lead schools? What marked these schools apart from others was the strict discipline, etiquettes, high standard of education and the presence of a dedicated staff which was morally, ethically and spiritually dedicated towards their calling and profession. Today, hardly any of these once popular missionary schools figures in any of the lists of topmost schools that are published often in the English Dailies!
In many cases I have observed that these missionary schools still get a good number of admissions only because of the goodwill that their missionary founders had earned for the schools during their tenure!Today this goodwill is wearing thin, what with lackadaisical staff, and a rather more commercially inclined leadership. Is it only the earning potential of a school that makes it a good school, or is it the values and the quality of education and the goodwill that it has that makes a school the best in the region?
It is unfortunate, that the once dedicated missionaries who worked selflessly for the upliftment of the common man have now been replaced by those who are more interested in the financial benefits, and in not vacating premises allotted to them during their tenure! While the spirit of selflessness can be found lacking in those who have been given the responsibility of running these school, it is also observed that the teachers are found lacking in a sense of responsibility often going home to have a sip of tea,wash clothes, or even stepping out of the school during duty hours to do their personal work. The use of official transport for personal work at the village that is during the harvest and sowing season, wastage of electricity supply, all paid by the school, are all some of the reasons why these once popular schools are now losing out to other private public schools! Another reason is the appointment of poorly qualified teachers based on familial considerations. I have known of one school where most of the staff members are related to each other. So you have husbands and wives, brothers, sisters…and so on working in the same school! In such situations you have a rather tightly knit community of staffers who would simply not like any change to be introduced in the school, and moreover they are united in their insistence in not being sincere to their professions! So it becomes a rather free for all kind of situation where everyone tries to moonlight and take advantage of a weak administration which exists in fear of the existing united staff of brothers sisters, wives and husbands! The fact the tuition culture is allowed to thrive in these schools makes it difficult for the teachers to teach sincerely in the classes, since they would anyway be teaching the same children at home. A Post Graduate Teacher in Chemistry in one such school runs a Coaching Centre at his residence and the Management seems to turn a blind eye towards this. A Principal once told me about how he once stood before the door of the classroom of this Chemistry teacher who was supposed to be teaching, and the teacher was not aware that the Principal was standing at the door, nor was he aware about the students who were pulling each other's chairs, all this because the teacher was preparing notes for his coaching class! Ultimately the teacher gave the Principal a written apology. In the same school, the Physical Education teacher is known to pursue his side business, which is that of giving physiotherapy massages. Teachers in primary classes are known to pressurise students to take tuitions in English even when they themselves can't speak or write the language properly! Another primary class teacher is known to force parents to buy insurance policies! The Acting Vice Principal of one such school is known to give tuitions to students in biology till class tenth, thus never having taught the subject properly in the school itself lest the students should stop coming to him for tuitions. Even after being told to vacate his premises for the forthcoming Principal he remains adamant about not vacating the same!
The sense of territoriality is so strong in some of these schools in the interiors of Haryana, Punjab that they view outsiders with suspicion, and anything new policies and systems introduced in the school for their benefit are decried. It is because of this inability to move with the times, to learn new things, and to progress with the times that has made some of these missionary schools atrophied and fossilized in time. They have stopped developing since the time that the missionaries left them! I was particularly amazed to notices how one school in particular followed an archaic form of marking attendance, and was ever more surprised to notice how lessons were planned, and the lesson plans were rather vague sketches of lists of topics! In an era where we are talking about rubrics, experiential learning, innovative techniques, research methods, these schools are stuck to what one of my teachers tells me about the “tu padh” method where the student is made to read while the teacher just sits and supervises the whole process!
The missionaries have left a legacy of a very good quality of education, but then they have also left behind a breed of teachers and institution heads who have the very colonial habit of running home for a cup of tea every now and then. Unfortunately they have learnt very little about the dedication, sincerity, and selflessness of their missionary predecessors! It is an age where the clergy is completely divorced from any knowledge of education policies, and how to run such schools, and they are often taken for a ride by those unscrupulous administrators who might just have a little more knowledge than their cleric friends! It is therefore inevitable that some of the famous Missionary School will one day fade away into fond memories! If such institutions are meant to be mere teaching shops or money minting machines, then whatever happened to that missionary zeal that gave these institutions their edge?
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