I live near ECIL Kapra area and I really liked one of the discussion thread which questioned the efficacy of the elite branded schools. It inspired me to share my story of how I found the perfect school for my daughter and son. This is my story of school hunting.
I started searching for a "good" school for my children from 2007-2008 when they were not even born. My daughter was born in 2011 and son in 2013. The reason why I was so paranoid about finding the "perfect" school for my child was my own experience as a student in an elite school. I studied in a "branded school" (It was a Birla school in one of the Metropolitan cities in India) which had excellent infrastructure (very similar to the international schools in Hyderabad now) two huge play grounds, basketball court, a huge football ground and many other extracurricular activities (no swimming though). The teachers were good, the results of the school was excellent both in ICSE and ISE (12th). Most of the students of our school got through IITs and other prestigious engineering and medical institutions. Those who didn't prefer these also got very well placed in life. The school did not burden students with too much homework or projects etc. till class 7. It was a new school then and I was only the 4 ICSE batch.
Even though the school I studied in has a very good reputation and is indeed a very good school by normal standards I had harrowing experiences and memories of adolescence. Just like some of you have mentioned though we had all facilities (AC labs, AC library, AC computer lab, big play ground etc) how much time could we actually spend freely in experiencing the beauty of sports or even reading good books?Most of our time was spent in the classroom sitting on the benches listening to teachers and taking notes. Sports period was twice a week for 30 mins each. Is 30 mins enough to play for a child who is a kinesthetic learner?We used to be punished if we were found "loitering around" in the school. The feeling was always of "fear" of punishment because of breaking "rules". It was a suffocating environment for me. Though I participated in debates, elocution, drama, school annual function, sports yet I was never very happy with my school. The teachers were also extremely partial and biased.
I used to wonder can't we have schools were children are given freedom and trusted by adults? Can't we have schools were teachers don't always TELL, Instruct or force students to do what THEY feel is right for them? Can't children just be allowed to explore, learn and grow in an environment of love and natural enthusiasm and motivation which comes from within rather than artificial force from outside?
As a research scholar working in Education I was determined to find a school where my child's mind would not be restricted but allowed to bloom naturally, where students could play in the play ground or paint or do music classes if they really wanted to or do Math or Science or languages according to THEIR interest, where teachers would respect their students and not be objects of fear, where joy of learning would be the primary goal!
So I started my research from 2007 even before my children were born. I thought of Vidyaranya school, Chinmaya, Mission, NASR school, DPS Nacharam, St. Anns Convent Secunderabad, Bhavans, Kendriya Vidyalayas, The Waldorf schools etc. I ruled out the international schools because many of my friends worked as teachers in good international schools and I knew how these schools mint money from the parents and focus on increasing their business. They want to sell education to make profit. What values can I expect from the products of such schools. When we grow up, who cares if we had swimming or horse riding in school or not? What matters is whether we can respect people for what they are and form good relationships at work, personal life, with children, parents and so on. A successful person is always positive, optimistic and happy.
Vidyaranya suited my requirements to a great extent but they do not encourage any kind of competition at all. This was a little unacceptable for me. Then in 2011 my daughter was born. I still was not sure about which school would be good for her. She also turned out to be a receptive and sensitive child like I was in school. She started speaking at 7 months (her very first words being Leela, Thatha, flower etc.) She could tell her name on her first birthday when someone asked her "what is your name?" and started speaking in complete sentences at 1 and half. She could narate her own stories by 2 years! I was all the more convinced that "normal" education would stifle her creativity and natural inquisitiveness to learn.
So i started visiting schools personally, spoke to parents and teachers of the school and tried to figure out how the school would be. I ruled out St Anns because of the strict discipline, pressure on students and inflexibility. I ruled out Bhavans because I did not want the teachers to speak in Telugu, I ruled out Kendriya Vidyalayas again because they were very structured and did not offer much space for creativity and freedom, NASR was ruled out because it was a girls school and I wanted co-ed. Shloka waldorf was too far from my house and was out of the question.
DPS Nacharam looked exactly like the school I had studied in. From outside it looked perfect: big campus, good infrastructure, presence of extra-curricular activities good results etc. But from experience I knew that these schools are like a book with a nice cover, maybe even the preface and first few chapters are interesting but when you actually read the book till the end you would be totally disappointed and feel its a complete waste of money!
I was left with Vidyaranya, Abhaya Waldorf and Diksha waldorf. Again Abhaya Waldorf was too far from my house (as I said I live near ECIL) So I was thinking of putting my daughter in Vidyaranya or Diksha Waldorf. Then I read a post from Mikey on this site about Pebble Creek Montessori for parents who live near sainikpuri, Neredmet, Tirumalgiri, ECIL area. She said that the children from this school were out performing children from other schools even though the school followed a Montessori method of teaching and was very different from the normal schools. So I attended the Annual seminar called "Parvarish" conducted by the school every year on Dr. Maria Montessori's Birthday to spread awareness among parents, teachers, gradparents and caregivers about the beauty of the Montessori environment for a child. In this seminar I was convinced that this was the school for my children.
It was started by a lady who was unhappy with the education system prevalent in Hyderabad and believed that a good school must "Follow the child" instead of forcing the child to follow the school (as is the case in most schools). She started the school with a few students in her house. She was convinced that what she believed was practically possible to achieve with the Montessori method. The school has now grown into a full fledged CBSC school till class 10 (though the first batch has not passed out yet) and has some excellent students and parents patronizing it to do better and grow bigger. They have two campuses now one at Dr. A.S. Rao Nagar (Montessori till grade 3) and high school at Thumkunta (8 km from sainikpuri, half hour drive).
I can vouch for this school as it is the most beautiful experience of learning that any child can ever get. The infrastructure is good but not like international schools. It has a 2 acre campus. 1 Acre for the school building and play ground and 1 Acre for a sports complex (which will come up in another 2 years time). This is the link to their website http://www.pebblecreeklifeschool.in/
So this was my experience of searching for a "GOOD" school for my children. In my opinion those parents who are sensitive to their child's needs and want their children to be happy and yet learn well and do well in CBSC exams and then do well in life alternate schools like Waldorf, Diksha (Thumkunta), Prerna(Gacchibowli), Shloka (Jubilli Hills) and Abhaya(Kompally, Sec'bad), Vidyaranya, Chaitanya Vidyalaya, Chinmaya (for a little more focus on competitive exams) and good Montessori schools are very good options.
Thanks for reading! I hope you find the "perfect school" for your child too!