EducationWorld-IMRB International Survey
India's most respected schools
EducationWorld (estb.1999) commissioned IMRB International — the country’s pioneer market research firm — to construct a league table ranking India’s most respected schools. Dilip Thakore reports
|Delhi Public School, R.K Puram||Average score|
The Doon School, Dehradun
Delhi Public School, Mathura Rd, Delhi
South Point High School, Kolkata
St. Kabir School, Ahmedabad
City Montessori School, Lucknow
|Apeejay School, Saket, Delhi||7.57|
La Martiniere Boys’ School, Kolkata
Seth M.R. Jaipuria School, Lucknow
La Martiniere Girls’ School, Kolkata
Independent rating and/or ranking of institutions of learning is a controversial subject around the world, particularly in Britain and the United States whose academic systems have considerably influenced education institutions in India. Expert opinion is divided as to whether rating and ranking exercises which generate considerable excitement in academic campuses and beyond — and help to boost media sales and ratings — serve a socially beneficial purpose.
On the one hand there is the majority of educationists and academics who believe that measurement of institutional learning outcomes and publication thereof is in the public interest as it assesses teacher perfor-mance, infuses a spirit of competition within academia and keeps parents and the public informed about the best performing schools and colleges within countries, states and particular geographies. Ranged on the other side is a growing minority of liberal educationists who argue that publication of league tables of schools, colleges and universities tend to generate institutional anxiety, accord excessive importance to scholarship and provoke teachers to impose unwarranted and unreasonable pressure on students to excel academically.
Despite the rising intensity of this debate in Britain, the United States and the English speaking nations of the Commonwealth, league tables ranking high performing schools and tertiary education institutions continue to be published worldwide. In Britain publication of the annual league tables of the country’s best performing secondary schools and universities, published by the Times Educational Supplement and the Times Higher Education Supplement are media events which provoke great enthusiasm in the island kingdom. Ditto the annual ranking of America’s best universities published by the US News and World Report and the Princeton Review. And in recent years the annual ranking of the world’s 500 best institutions of higher education researched by the Jiao Tong University, Shanghai has started to receive wide global publicity.
Back home in India as well, league tables which assess and rank academic institutions have become de rigueur in recent years. Every summer before the start of the new academic year, the Delhi-based weekly India Today commissions and publishes the outcome of an annual market research study which ranks the country’s top arts, science and commerce colleges. And some three years ago its rival Outlook published a somewhat amateurish and incredible survey of the country’s top schools, after which it threw in the towel. Moreover the country’s business magazines and pink newspapers routinely publish league tables ranking the country’s 950 plus B-schools.
Yet it’s important to note that while the British school league tables restrict themselves to measuring academic performance, Indian media — following the example of the US News and World Report — tend to evaluate and assess academic institutions on a wider range of parameters including quality of faculty and leadership, infrastructure provision, quality of alumni etc. This broader evaluation methodology adopted by Indian market research firms and the media makes more sense as standardisation is conspicuous by its absence in Indian education characterised by vast differences in infrastructure provision (labs, libraries, dormitories, sports facilities etc) and quality of faculty. Moreover another distinguishing characteristic of domestic institutional league tables is that given the paucity of hard data published by schools and colleges, they tend to be based upon the perceptions of carefully weighted samples of lay people and academics.
In the circumstances selection of sample respondents reflective of public (middle class) opinion is a matter of crucial importance and an expert skill, which the country’s top Indian market research firms pride themselves upon. This self-confidence of India’s best market research professionals is justified, because every year Indian industry invests heavily in market research prior to rolling out billion dollar product launches and advertising campaigns based upon their research output. Moreover market research professionals routinely (and usually correctly) predict the outcomes of general elections involving the world’s largest electorate on the basis of the responses of small, carefully selected and weighted samples of eligible voters.
Consequently for the purpose of constructing a league table ranking India’s most respected secondary schools, EducationWorld (estb. 1999) — India’s pioneer education news and analysis magazine — commissioned Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB), the country’s oldest (estb. 1971) and most respected market research firm, to constitute a nationally representative sample comprising fees-paying parents, school principals, teachers, and collegiate-level teachers with domain knowledge of the education system to which universe was added a sprinkling of eminent educationists (list provided by EW) with a policy perspective of the system. Following this brief, IMRB International architectured an urban representative sample of 908 respondents from the categories enumerated above, spread across 15 cities in the north, western, eastern and southern regions of India. Thereafter people comprising this representative sample were asked to rank 250 high-profile selected (by EducationWorld) secon-dary schools affiliated with the Delhi-based CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), CISCE (Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations) and IB and CIE affiliated international schools inter se on 12 parameters of excellence. The parameters were academic reputation, co-curricular education (music, dance, social work etc), sports education, quality of teachers, teacher-pupil ratio, value for money, leadership/manage-ment quality, parental involvement, infrastructure, quality of alumni, reputation for integrity and selectivity (ease and transparency) of admission.
Jones Joseph, IMRB International’s Bangalore-based associate vice president and research services director who signed up with the bureau (which is now a constituent company of the London-based WPP Group plc) after stints in the Middle East and North Africa in 1997, is satisfied that the carefully constituted respondents base is representative of middle class India. "The respondents chosen for the survey are spread across 15 cities including smaller hubs of school education such as Dehradun, Darjeeling and Jamshedpur and from SEC (socio-economic classification) groups A/B with an average monthly household income of Rs.16,255. Therefore the respondents base is representative of middle and upper-middle class urban India. Moreover parental opinion is balanced by principals, teachers and carefully chosen educationists," says Joseph.
Although ex facie the sample size of 908 respondents may seem much too small for a country with a population of 1.2 billion, IMRB’s project directors are confident it is representative of middle class India’s opinion of rated schools and their ranking inter se. "It’s important to bear in mind this survey is reflective of middle class — rather than national — opinion because of the presumption that other classes are ignorant about most of the schools short-listed for the survey. Therefore the sample size is adequate. Moreover the parents sample is representative because it also includes knowledgeable parents whose children are enrolled in state board schools which are outside the purview of this survey," says Nirupa Subramanyan, an alumna of Miranda House, Delhi and the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon and associate project director of IMRB.
Of the 250 CBSE and CISCE schools shortlisted by EducationWorld for evaluation and ranking, only 83 have been included in the master league table for ranking (available only in the print copy). "Schools which were unknown and /or not respected by a minimum of 25 people in the respondents base were eliminated from the survey for purposes of rating and ranking," says Jones Joseph who supervised this path-breaking survey of India’s most respected schools.The Top 10 most respected schools
One of the assumptions of this survey of India’s most respected schools is that public awareness of education institutions is restricted to schools in their region (residential schools excepted). "Therefore for instance respondents based in Delhi were asked to rate schools in the northern states, i.e Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. If a respondent was aware of more than ten schools which she considered ‘good’ she was asked to rate ten of them on the 12 specified parameters. Moreover each respondent was asked to rate only ten schools on each parameter to reduce respondent fatigue and ensure quality in response. Subsequently ratings under each parameter were aggregated to arrive at a total score for all schools of which there is adequate base (awareness)," explains IMRB’s Subramanyan.
The highlight of the EW-IMRB survey of schools is the high ratings and top ranking given to the two pioneer Delhi Public Schools (DPS), R.K Puram and Mathura Road in the national capital. Notably there was high awareness (base 130) of these secondaries which are specially respected for their academic reputation, co-curricular education, sports education, quality of teachers, value for money and also teacher-pupil ratio. Comments Dr. Shyama Chona principal of DPS, R.K Puram (Delhi): "The top ranking we have received is not unexpected. For over half a century this pioneer DPS School has strived to excel with our staff putting service before self. In this school all teachers and students are ignited with a passion for excellence."
Expectedly the highly reputed Doon School, Dehradun (estb.1935) which numbers some of the country’s top people including former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi among its alumni, also received top billing in the EW-IMRB International survey. It was probably pipped to the top spot because located as it is in the relatively small town of Dehradun. Nevertheless the public perception is that on the crucial parameters of quality of teachers and alumni, Doon is the most highly rated school in northern India and by far the most respected boarding school countrywide (see page 36 for rating/rankings of boarding schools). "Periodic publication of such league tables are useful as they encourage schools to better themselves. But purely perceptual surveys don’t present an accurate picture," comments Dr. Kanti Bajpai principal of Doon School.
A surprisingly high rating was given by respondents in eastern India to the South Point High School, Kolkata which despite a relatively low awareness base (55) was accorded the highest rating (8.65) for academic reputation countrywide. This low-profile school is also perceived to offer excellent infrastructure and produce high quality alumni. Undoubtedly South Point’s faculty is likely to derive particular satisfaction that it has bested Kolkata’s more high profile La Martiniere Boys’ (base 85) on all parameters except teacher-pupil ratio.
"I’m delighted by the public acknowledgement of South Point as India’s top school in terms of academics. We are an unpretentious school with sound middle class values, according to which academic achieve-ment is accorded top priority," says Jayati Solomon, principal of South Point.
Yet perhaps the most startlingly high rating/ranking (5th) in the EW-IMRB International survey of India’s most respected schools has been given by respondents in western India to the little-known St. Kabir School, Ahmedabad. Despite its low base (29) this low-profile school was rated above 7 on all parameters and above 8 on two — quality of teachers and value for money — to score an impressive average of 7.77 out of a perfect 10. "St. Kabir School has won widespread public respect because during the past 20 years we have created a unique synergy between academics and extra-curricular activities, bonding between teachers and students and among students themselves," says Col. Vinod Kumar, managing trustee of the school.
Although its combative and outspoken promoter-director Dr. Jagdish Gandhi isn’t in the least bit surprised, the No.6 ranking accorded to the City Montessori School, Lucknow which with its aggregate enrollment of 32,000 students spread over 20 campuses in the city which bills itself as the world’s largest school, has bemused several knowledgeable academics countrywide. City Montessori is right up there among the country’s top-rated schools in terms of academic reputation (8.16) and quality of teachers (7.95), while being rated 7 plus on all other parameters to average 7.72. "While it’s an honour to be rated so high among India’s most respected schools, it’s hardly a surprise to our faculty since the quality of education provided in City Montessori is respected beyond Indian borders," says Gandhi.
Ranked No.7 (average score of 7.57) in the league table is the Apeejay School, Saket, Delhi. This school (estb.1988) is also highly rated for its academic reputation with respondents in north India awarding it a 8.16 rating on this parameter. The other parameters on which it has received a commendable rating are co-curricular education and integrity/honesty of its management. "We are a small school which has heavily invested in building relationships of trust between teachers and students. Our teachers encourage students to be enquiring, creative self learners. There is growing awareness of this in the public mind," says Anita Paul, principal of the school.
In the No.8 position in the first-ever detailed ranking of India’s most respected schools is the hallowed La Martiniere Boys’ School, Kolkata (estb. 1836) which is one of the country’s better known schools (awareness base 85). La Martiniere Boys’ has been highly rated on the parameters of academic reputation (8.11), quality of alumni (8) and infrastructure (7.99) scoring 7 plus on all other parameters to average 7.54. "This school has a heritage stretching over 150 years. Ultimately a school is judged by the quality and contribution of its alumni. And since almost all our former students have done well in life, it’s not surprising we are held in high esteem," says Sunirmal Chakravarthi, the principal of La Martiniere Boys’.
Another low-profile school which has received widespread endorsement by academics in the north is the Seth M.R. Jaipuria School, Lucknow (estb. 1992) which in terms of average score (7.51) is ranked 9th among India’s top 10 secondaries. With highest ratings of 7.87 and 7.81 on parameters of quality of teachers and academic reputation and an average score of 7.51, despite low awareness (base 33), this school obviously has the full-throated endorsement of parents and academics familiar with its learning outcomes and modus operandi. "Inclusion in the list of India’s top 10 schools is a happy surprise given that we are a relatively new school. Our emphasis upon researching each student’s unique aptitudes and nurturing them is obviously paying off. We know we are on the right track and the high ranking we have received will inspire us to try harder," says P. Arvindakshan principal of SMRJS.
Ranked 10th — and first among all exclusively girls schools in the country — with an average rating of 7.50 is La Martiniere Girls’, Kolkata (estb.1836) which like its brother school enjoys high awareness (base 80) in the eastern states. Moreover like La Martiniere Boys’ it is highly rated on the parameters of academic excellence (8.04), infrastructure (8.08) and quality of alumnae (7.72). "I am honoured that La Martiniere Girls’ has been voted India’s top girls school and included in the top 10 countrywide. I’m particularly glad this survey has rated schools on several parameters. We pride ourselves on providing more than a mere academic education to our students," says Mrs. H. Peacock, principal of the school.
Other highlights. A curious anomaly of the pioneer EducationWorld-IMRB International national survey of India’s most respected schools is that not a single institution from southern India which is more literate than other parts of the country, and which has an excellent reputation among the cognoscenti for its high quality education institutions, has made it into the top 10 list. However IMRB’s Jones Joseph has an explan-ation for this anomaly. "The structure of the survey is such that respondents in each region — north, south, west and east — were asked to rate and rank schools in their own region. Quite evidently respondents in the southern states have been more conservative in assessing their schools than their more satisfied and generous counterparts in the other regions. Of course the southern states have excellent schools with national reputations of which people in other parts of the country are more appreciative than southerners them-selves. This is indicated by the high ratings southern boarding schools have received in the survey," says Jones Joseph.
Another conspicuous lacuna in the survey is the almost complete absence of post-liberalisation India’s much-hyped ‘international’ schools affiliated with foreign examination boards such as IBO and CIE from the list of most respected insitutions. Quite obviously given their stratospheric fee structures and the low profiles they tend to maintain, they have not registered on the radar screens of middle class India. In this connection it is pertinent to note that the average monthly income of the households surveyed by IMRB is a mere Rs.16,255 per month. Even assuming that the incomes of households surveyed ranged from Rs.10,000-50,000 per month, the new genre of international schools which demand — and get — annual tuition fees of Rs.1-4 lakh per year are beyond the contemplation of middle class India. IMRB project directors acknowledge that in next year’s survey, the median income of households surveyed will need to be substantially higher so that the country’s newer, more upmarket schools also fall within the penumbra of the survey.
India's best schools: zonal rankingslthough the great majority of school principals across the country tend to strut the stage in their own bailiwicks with considerable aplomb, one of the definitive conclu-sions of the pioneer EducationWorld-IMRB International survey of India’s most well-known schools is that their fame and prestige is largely a localised phenomenon. Except for a thin upper crust which is aware of the country’s British-style ‘public’ schools such as Doon, Mayo, St. Paul’s and North Point Darjeeling; Woodstock, Mussoorie; Bishop Cotton, Shimla and the new genre of world class international schools by way of word of mouth publicity, the great Indian middle class is largely unaware of their existence.
IMRB’s project directors Jones Joseph and Nirupa Subramanyan recommended regional surveys so that some of the schools which have acquired great reputations within the drawing rooms of the thin upper crust are also assessed, rated and ranked. Moreover to provide a more informed assessment of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of schools in each region (north, south, east and west), the schools shortlisted were independently assessed across 12 stipulated parameters of academic excellence by principals, teachers and educationists. Only those schools which respondents were aware of, were rated and ranked. The regional league tables indicate that the degrees of separation between the top rated schools and the also-rans aren’t many (see pgs. 28-31).
The most notable highlights of the zonal rankings is that while in the north the most respected schools are the institutions that dominate the national rankings, in other parts of the country schools which aren’t highly rated in the national rankings have received high ratings. The zonal rankings endorse IMRB researchers feedback that because school managements under-promote their institutions and/or brands, the reputations of mainstream schools tend to be limited to their zones or regions.
Thus the notable feature of western zone ratings is the high ranking of Ryan International School, Goregaon (Mumbai), Don Bosco and the Podar World School. "Effective leadership of our 107 schools across the country is the most important element behind the reputation of Ryan International. We render all the due credit to God almighty, our chairman Dr. Augustine Pinto for his dynamic vision and strategic planning, which has culminated in Ryan schools carving a niche in the field of education. It was just a small seed which God planted in our hearts, which has now grown to project Ryan International into the ranks of India’s most respected schools," says Dr. Grace Pinto, promoter-director of the Ryan International School chain.
Another institution which is highly rated despite being recently promoted is the Podar World School, Mumbai — ranked 4th in Maharashtra and 22rd countrywide — a commendable ranking, given it was promoted as recently as 2004. "Today’s students have developed to an extent where they need a new genre of teachers. It’s well known that we invest substantial amounts of time and money in developing and continuously training teachers with regular training programmes to keep them updated with new advancements in teaching-learning pedagogies. As a result we offer truly quality education to our students," says Vandana Lulla principal of Podar World School by way of explanation.
In eastern India where the league tables are dominated by South Point (ranked 4th on the all-India list) and La Martiniere Boys’ and La Martiniere Girls’, other highly rated institutions include Loyola School, Jamshedpur, Ramakrishna Vidya Mandir and Loreto Convent, Darjeeling.Parameters of excellence: India's top 10 schools
In the south which boasts a legion of schools well known in haute bourgeois circles, two schools in Hyderabad have fared surprisingly well — Hyderabad Public and Nasr School (alma mater of tennis star Sania Mirza). DAV Boys Secondary School was voted the top school in Chennai, a surprisingly high rating which Dr. C. Satish, principal, attributes to "committed management, dedicated teachers and hardworking students". Inevitably upscale institutions such as Bishop Cottons Girls, Bangalore and Good Shepherd International, Ooty have also been well rated.
To constitute india’s first comprehensive league tables of nationally and regionally ranked schools, over 250 schools short-listed by EducationWorld were assessed by a carefully constituted respondents base comprising parents, principals, teachers and educationists across 12 parameters or attributes. On the reasoning that there is more to education than academic or scholastic excellence (on which conventional league tables published abroad are based), respondents across the country were asked to rate schools on 12 parameters — academic reputation, co-curricular education, sports education, quality of teachers, teacher-pupil ratio, value for money, leadership/management quality, parental involvement, infrastructure, quality of alumni, integrity/honesty and selectivity (ease and transparency) in admission. The ratings awarded under each of these dozen parameters were then averaged to rank India’s most respected schools according to middle class parental and academic perceptions.
Tables of schools which are ranked among the top 10 under each attribute or parameter are set out below.