To Doon or Not to Doon

When I sit in Delhi and look at the educational map of our country, I do not find Loyola. For ours is a city school, not a national one.

In Indian history, the most famous school was located outside India — Harrow, in England, where Nehru went to at the age of sixteen. In prison in the 1930s, Nehru “stuck pictures of Harrow in his diaries and drew up lists of poets and politicians who had been to Harrow,” says Sarvepalli Gopal in his 3-volume biography of Nehru. Those lists of Harrovians would have included the poet Lord Byron, Winston Churchill, and six other British Prime Ministers.

Today, India’s most well-known school is Doon School, in Dehra Dun. Main Building of Doon School. Pic courtesy: Wikipedia
When the school celebrated its golden jubilee in 1985, the New York Times called it the ‘Harrow by the Himalayas’. After all, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had studied there. And now we know that Doon School, like Harrow, has produced not only cabinet ministers and chief ministers, but also men of letters, notably Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh.

For an institution founded in 1935, Doon School has done well. With 500 students in a given year, Doon is smaller than Loyola, but it boasts of an impressive list of alumni and is regularly talked about as one of the best schools in the country. Such popular perception has been fuelled by a mystique of elitism and sustained press coverage. Last year, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the spartan life at Doon, where “to help blur class lines, boys perform menial tasks such as pruning plants or window-cleaning.” If your mind raced to the sweeping of classrooms by students at Loyola, and the absence of press coverage, I will not blame you. All the same, I think it would be better to acknowledge that there is something right in the Doon Valley. Reading articles about the school, and thinking about its students’ achievements, gave me the impression that Doon is Loyola+.

Spot quiz: Name three good schools outside the state you live. Quick!

Doon School, I would argue, is the top national brand among schools in India. Mayo College (Ajmer) and Scindia School (Gwalior) are known in the north, Lawrence (Lovedale) in the south, and the two La Martiniere schools (Lucknow and Kolkata) in their respective regions. Among the alternate schools, Rishi Valley School (Madanapalle) is perhaps the most well-known and appears to be recognised nationally.

Unlike these boarding schools with a small number of students, South Point High School (Kolkata) — with 13,000 students and affiliated to the West Bengal education board — would be vaguely familiar to the rest of India for once being the world’s largest school. The ubiquitous Kendriya Vidyalaya is a stronger national brand than Doon, but here I am talking of the attractiveness of individual schools — there is no particular Kendriya Vidyalaya or DAV branch that I know which appeals significantly beyond its city or region.

Can Loyola become a Doon?

For sure, being well-known is not the only test of a school. But when I ask whether Loyola can become a Doon, or wonder why Loyola is only a city brand, I do not mean replicating every inch of the Doon experience or launching a publicity blitzkrieg for inches of newsprint and pixels. I only ask whether Loyola can become a model of excellence in India and sustain its position over decades. I only ask whether Loyola can become a great school, and figure prominently on the country’s educational map — a school that India cannot ignore.

What should Loyola do to become a great school? Is it the monastic experience of Doon and the boarding culture of brand schools that Loyola should emulate, or better still, innovate for its day-scholar crowd? How can Loyola’s emphasis on the development of all-round personality be strengthened? What would it take for Loyola to become a national brand?

41 Comments

  • Ashok, superb post…you are the first person who has widened the perspective of excellence in Loyola beyond city or at most state parameters. Very often i get carried away by the euphoria of having studied in a very good school…until you put the question to me earlier of, “was Loyola really all that great compared to many other schools in the country?” Loyola wasn’t that much of a fulfilling experience for me but i have glossed over that all this while, thanks to the great friendships that still carry on. I don’t know if I am answering the questions you posed but i believe what i have written is somewhat related.

    Some things about the social profile of loyola

    1- Our parents are very conservative. They are middle-class and look forward to us earning money so that they can take it easy in life. Out of school we are urged to take the route to the shortest path to money. I myself have gone that way, tried to break free, and am back to square one. It takes really intelligent 17-18 year old boys who know what they want very early on, to decide that they should target excellence rather than play safe. Kerala is a closed society and really there is not much exposure to the outer world from kerala. Out of school, every Loyolite feels he is at the top in any college he is studying, slowly he loses this edge caught up in doing the same things his peers are doing. I nowadays encourage every youngster i know to get a college education outside kerala.
    2- How many teachers give students the prod to believe they have it in them to do anything they desire?
    3- In Loyola itself is every student given equal opportunities? In any class 10-15 students are the best at athletics, academics and artistics…being boys and not knowing any better, how many actually try to break out of this rut they find themselves in; then they find great joy in cheering for their mates and appreciating great performances….cant blame teachers either because once in a shell these boys refuse to come out.(i was one of these chickens…so i know!)
    4- I don’t know if it still continues but the boys who are identified in junior school as the best at academics and in rare cases in sports are given the responsibilities of becoming class leader and assistant…when you pass from one class to the next, teachers through discussions in staffrooms take a pre-judged opinion of every student and that carries on.
    5- Discipline. Probably most important. The importance of doing your daily homework is lost on most students by the time they get to high school. Since we are smart in tackling exams and streetsmart in dealing with teachers we get away with studying on exam-eves. Most loyolites i have noticed are lazy, procrastinating and cant stand living life in a disciplined fashion.
    6- Isn’t Loyola a cash-cow for the kerala jesuit province? A jesuit priest once admitted as much to me. Isn’t that the reason they are adding more divisions in Loyola? Do they really care anymore about making Loyola the best school in the country…I knew they once did…but they seem to have given up on that ideal.
    7- I don’t know about going monastic, kids live in a world today of immense connectivity – getting them to think for themselves rather than listen to peers and parents at a very early age would help, but then would society concur? But i wonder how do we develop that kind of thinking while being part of a pseudo-society like kerala?

    The hardest part is making people who are part of the kerala establishment have a relook at themselves…especially when they think there is nothing wrong in the system…loyola has built a formidable reputation within trivandrum/kerala and 95% of people associated with Loyola go forward on the belief of our school’s paramountacy. Only complaint i have heard now is that subject teaching standards are now not on par with earlier times, but nothing related to the questions you posed…so if some creative action begins to be taken on the ground based on your post, i will be really happy as well as pleasantly surprised. Sorry for the long comment.

  • Hi Ashok,
    I think Jiby has summed up most of the points through his comments. But there is one among his view points which I do not completely agree with.

    Firstly, the fact that parents are conservative and have a herd mentality which make their children follow the safest route in deciding their careers (which in the case of Kerala students or in general south indian students happens to be the engineering or the medicine stream). The reason why i disagree is even many of the talented and bright students seem to have the same mentality. For instance one may be especially good in a science subject like Maths or Physics but rather than going for a good B.Sc course to further his career in pure science through research or teaching he takes up any course in Enginerring offered to him at any of the colleges in Kerala.

    Exceptions to this exist in each batch (For example,Anil Shaji in your batch who went to do b.sc physics in Kerala University and is now pursuing a career as a researcher in the field of statistical mechanics in the U.S) but as they say “exceptions cannot be examples”.

    I think putting the blame solely on students or parents does not address the issue. Apart from teachers who teach well, any school in my opinion needs teachers who can also act as good counsellors by explaining to the students (maybe those from Class 9 onwards) the various career options that exist for them after their +2.

    Since you mentioned Doon School i am reminded of a quizbook (MasterMind India) which I had come across few years back. In that Siddarth Basu had listed down the people who had contributed to his success in publishing the book and preparing questions. In that there was a person mentioned (I am sorry I dont recollect the name) who had an impressive array of degrees (starting from a b.tech in iit to a phd in applied mathematics from the prestigious MIT) and his current post was

    “Teacher of mathematics and Principal Counsellor at Doon School!!!”.

    I am not suggetsing that we need people of that caliber immediately to come to Loyola, but the fact is 99% of the students are simply not aware of the opportunites (besides engg and medicine ) that lie before them.

    What i completely agree with Jiby is students/parents at Kerala are simply not aware of the outer world (w.r.t. career options). Probably the fact that unlike in places like Mumbai or Delhi good colleges for pursuing Bcom and BSc not existing in Kerala, also is a cause for this.

  • Just adding to the above statement, I think Doon school gets its popularity from being projected as the “school for the elite” just as the Boarding schools in Ooty and in some extent to the Bishop Cottons school in Bangalore.

    Ashok, did you check out as to whether the quality of the students also matches with the high held name of the school. They have had some brilliant alumni like Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar (who was a classmate of Rajiv Gandhi during those those days) but are the academic results which come each year from that school worthy of the name the school keeps, though i do agree that the all round personality of the student is one the school aims/claims to mould and perfect at the end of his school life.

    • I truly agree with you.Most of the doscos are from the media so they heavily publicise it which unfortunately is not the case with other good boarding schools.Most of the other boarding schools like Woodstock and Welham. are much better than Doon but do not get enough publicity.

  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and when we look back, it is very easy to find areas where Loyola fell short. My respect for their opinions notwithstanding, I feel several important things have been missed by my fellow commentators here.

    Firstly, the job of a school is to lay the (academic, moral and ethical) foundations for a student’s future development. Loyola has done a fantastic job in getting these foundations right in most students. It has achieved this by rightly placing a strong emphasis on rote learning. Many people criticize school systems like the one prevalent in Loyola for their emphasis on rote learning, instead of what they call “creativity” and “innovation”. This is a bogus argument. Here is an interesting excerpt from an interview of Bill Gates by Thomas L. Friedman.

    “When I asked Bill Gates about the supposed American education advantage–an education that stresses creativity, not rote learning, he was utterly dismissive. ‘I have never met the guy who doesn’t know how to multiply who created software… Who has the most creative video games in the world? Japan! You need to understand things in order to invent beyond them'”

    Even with all this rote learning and frequent examinations, the school afforded ample opportunities for extra-curricular activities. I feel that often, the role of a school in helping students with their career decisions is overemphasized. A school is not a career counseling center and should never be.

    Secondly, the conservative nature of our parents was in large part due to the prevalent socioeconomic realities of India. Who would have envisaged 15 years ago that India’s economy would have boomed in the manner it did, resulting in a wide range of lucrative career opportunities? If you ask me, I would say that a lot of good things came out of their much derided “herd mentality”. One such good thing is the fact that by and large most ex-Loyolites are doing well in their lives. Some exceptionally talented ones are doing incredibly well, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one ex-Loyolite who is doing badly in life.

    Most of our parents are themselves pretty well educated. They were not stupid. They knew that taking a ‘different’ career path would also entail a great risk of failure. 15 years ago that risk was much higher than it is now. It is safe to say that the average family income of Doon School students is much higher than that of Loyolites’. So maybe the Doon parents could afford to let their sons take those risks and finance their failures, while our parents couldn’t. Kudos to those guys among us who took those risks and became successful, but let’s not blame our parents or teachers for their perfectly justifiable conservatism.

    Thirdly, I feel that comparing Loyola with Doon is inadvisable. Loyolites are not known by who their fathers are. The simple fact is that any Loyolite who has achieved anything great in life has achieved it by his own abilities. When they went out into those engineering and medical colleges (Oh! How so boring!), they were all part of the “herd”. Yet they managed to stand out, get ahead and create a niche for themselves. No Loyolite was famous the day he was born. Does anyone believe that Rajiv Gandhi got into Doon because he was a brilliant guy? Does anyone believe that his Doon education played any role in his becoming PM? For the many blunders he, his mother and his grandfather made, is anyone prepared to blame the education they received in Doon, Shantiniketan and Harrow? Would we blame Bishop Cotton School, Shimla and St. Stephens College, Delhi for the deeds of Moninder Singh Pandher? So how come some are making a big deal of Loyola’s minor shortcomings?

    Fourthly, we must take a hard look at the presumption that these over-hyped educational institutions are really as good as many people claim they are. I am currently a student at a much admired business school in eastern India (Quizzers: that’s a big clue). It too has a cart load of famous alumni. Though it is a fantastic institute, I would not place the quality of teaching and facilities I have here, even one rung above those I enjoyed at Loyola. The sad part is all the hype leads even the graduates of these schools to believe that they learned something really great at their schools that they wouldn’t learn in a ‘city school’ like Loyola. I read the WSJ article about Doon school quoted in this post. Among other things it said:

    Some graduates, like Ravi Sinha, say they got their first primers on deal-making at Doon. As a 13- year-old student, he bartered breakfast goods with the other boys. Milk and bread “had no trading value” because they were ubiquitous, recalls Mr. Sinha, now a 43-year-old partner at Goldman Sachs. But the less-available “butter and eggs were tradable,” he says.

    Is this ‘knowledge’ that Mr. Sinha gained a whole lot different from the ‘knowledge’ our boys got by trading those popular (in the 90s) WWF cards at Loyola? Hey juniors, didn’t a Hulk Hogan card have a great trading value? I mean, come on WSJ!

    Finally, there is criticism that Loyola is taking in too many students. I beg to disagree. I feel that at the time I was a student, too few students occupied our sprawling 11 acre campus. I feel that Trivandrum city has enough brilliant little minds to populate those three divisions, and if we pay them well, there will be enough brilliant teachers to impart them learning – real learning – of the maths, science, social science, and languages kind. I’m really not upset that they didn’t teach me deal-making and CPA-level accounting problems in Loyola.

    Deepak M.
    ISC 1996

    • I completely agree with you.It is more a matter of individual rather than his alma mater.Doon is the most hyped school.Sometimes it is called Eton of India other times Harrow.I wonder what it is.

  • Hi Deepak,
    Probably we disagree on the aspect of parents/students being conservative in deciding their careers in school. But if you noticed my last comment even i agree with you on the point that Loyola cannot be compared to Doon School. That is specifically why i also posed a question to Ashok as to whether the results achieved by students of Doon School are held in equal stature as the name of the school.

    By no means are any of us suggesting that Loyola was not a good school but it can certainly be made better.

  • Deepak, are you saying that Loyola is a great school, even if it is not nationally known?

    All, I had tried to clarify in the article itself what I meant by the poser ‘Can Loyola become a Doon?’. Defending or attacking Doon would be fruitless.

    To me, the key questions are: Is Loyola a great school? (How) can Loyola become a great school?

    In that exercise, to figure out what is great/education, why Loyola stands where it is, etc., Jiby’s, Karthik’s and Deepak’s comments have been useful.

    Thank you for the long comments. Looking forward to more. Considering the topic, anonymous posts too are welcome.

  • Ashok, firstly congrats on selecting such a topic. I myself have often wondered if Loyola IS truly Sabse aage as we so often and VERY vocally claim. After coming to college, I see that many people know of Loyola and you’re more often than not given that “Oh!! Nee Loyolaya alle!!” look. People here, in Kerala accept that Loyola’s a great school. But are we? Frankly, I feel that we Loyolites are currently living in the shadows of former glory. We speak of how one Santosh Sivan has reached such great heights or of how one Jayendran S swept clean all quizzes even at the national level. I’ve said this once before, at the school assembly, and I say it again. Today’s Loyolite is just a show off living off past glory. (The period I was in school is included in the timeline implied by ‘today’)

    While there are 9 or 10 gems in a class, most Loyolites today are just average guys. Most of the Loyolites today, can’t even speak properly in the assembly. Speeches today have been reduced to mere reading sessions of the morning’s newspaper or the previous week’s Metro Plus. We Loyolites assume ourselves to have transcended into this superior existence. We’re satisfied with the small glory we achieve here in local circles. When it comes to the big stage, most Loyolites are AFRAID to participate. I’ve heard a million times the phrase, ‘Oh! Frank Antony Debato? Enthinu veruthe Vandikkooli kalayunnathu?’ We often disguise this fear such that we present to others this reluctance of ours to participate as our way of being ‘cool’; cos we dont consider ourselves too geekish to participate.

    Then of course, there is the consistency angle. As you’ve pointed out, schools such as Doon maintain their level of excellence. I do not believe that any Loyolite can claim Loyola to be consistent. We are on a progressively declining curve. Standards at Loyola have definitely dipped, more so over the past 4 to 5 years. The worst thing is, seniors like me, just sit in front of a computer screen and say this and don’t actually do anything!!

    The only reason Loyola’s assumed to be great is because of past glory and because we project it to be. It’s true that a Loyolite stands out from a crowd, but only when the crowd is derived from a St. Thomas or a Holy Angels.

    So, Ashok, if you ask me, “Is Loyola the best school?” I’d say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Yes cos my heart says it is and No cos facts say otherwise. To the question, “Can Loyola be the best?” I have no answer. But one thing’s for sure… I’d just LOVE to see that day.

  • Very interesting discussion we have going on here. Doon School is any day a better brand than Loyola. I accept. But Loyola is unique in its own ways.

    The democratic, egalitarian and family like atmosphere is something I have always been proud of.

    I beg to differ with Jiby chettan on us being denied equal opportunities. Be it in athletics, youth festivals or academics, all of us had the same starting point. The best in each finished earlier and higher. And naturally when it comes to showcasing the school at an inter-school event, we need to select the best. Supporting and cheering for them is also part of learning to live – accepting and supporting each other. There was nothing stopping us from flourishing if we were really good in something. Though most teachers don’t bother to bring the introverts out of their hiding, DP was an exception.

    We always have had elections for electing class leaders, LaFest Co-ordinators, School Leaders and even Best Outgoing Loyolite. Which other school lets its students elect their own leaders? And if there wasn’t such a system I wouldn’t have become Class Leader couple of times (I failed miserably. I never was able to control the class and had to finally ‘resign’… maybe teachers are correct when they select their ‘favourites’ 😉 ) and LaFest Co-ordinator in my final year. I was always a ‘quiet’ guy with no special talents worth mentioning and I doubt whether I would have got these opportunities elsewhere (LaFest co-ordinator was special.. it gave me the confidence to face challenges)

    And the freedom we always enjoyed in decision making and the unity with which we have done things is something other school students have always been jealous of. Team work and involving everyone in all the activities – that is the single most important thing Loyola has taught me. On, “Isn’t Loyola a cash-cow for the kerala jesuit province?”. So is Doon and all those elitist boarding schools being run for charity?

    Now for some quotes from Deepak chettan,

    “Thirdly, I feel that comparing Loyola with Doon is inadvisable. Loyolites are not known by who their fathers are. The simple fact is that any Loyolite who has achieved anything great in life has achieved it by his own abilities. When they went out into those engineering and medical colleges (Oh! How so boring!), they were all part of the “herd”. Yet they managed to stand out, get ahead and create a niche for themselves. No Loyolite was famous the day he was born. Does anyone believe that Rajiv Gandhi got into Doon because he was a brilliant guy? Does anyone believe that his Doon education played any role in his becoming PM? For the many blunders he, his mother and his grandfather made, is anyone prepared to blame the education they received in Doon, Shantiniketan and Harrow? Would we blame Bishop Cotton School, Shimla and St. Stephens College, Delhi for the deeds of Moninder Singh Pandher? So how come some are making a big deal of Loyola’s minor shortcomings?”

    Exactly.. many of the famous personalitites who attended these schools were already famous. And if you leave those ‘already famous’, are there many left? And don’t we have a Santosh Sivan; IAS and IPS officers; MBA and law grads from the best instis in the country? Loyola is young compared to Doon, and hopefully one day we will have world famous writers and politicians too. The brand ‘Doon’ was able to attract the best and affluent. An elitist image would have attracted many such students to Loyola too; but how many of us could have afforded such a Loyola? Don’t we pride ourselves in the fact that our school uniform is simple, that the students are selected solely on merit and so on?

    Another quote from Deepak chettan, “Is this ‘knowledge’ that Mr. Sinha gained a whole lot different from the ‘knowledge’ our boys got by trading those popular (in the 90s) WWF cards at Loyola? Hey juniors, didn’t a Hulk Hogan card have a great trading value? I mean, come on WSJ!”. Clap ..Clap… Clap…:-) Couldn’t have put it in a better way. BTW Richard Hadlee was card No. 1 but there were others which earned more in a barter coz of their rarity. Anyone remembers card No. 15 in which we had Azharudin in a sweep shot. That one was rare to get hold of.

    Trivandrum International School has many teachers who left Loyola and other city schools. Does their place of work alone make them better if they weren’t already? In most cases the brand greases and hides the defects in other parameters and gives a false sense of excellence.

    Till now I had been defending my school like one of the Swiss Guards – “sworn sentinels of the Vatican City”. Time for me to scold in private.

    The teaching standards can definitely improve. There is tremendous scope for improvement. Teachers and students are getting firmly aligned to the general flow in Kerala society. Majority pursuing Engineering and Medicine isn’t a bad thing as long as you reached there without short cuts. Enjoying and thoroughly understanding what you are studying should be the aim of each student. For that, the initiative has to come from the teachers at school and not those at the tuition classes. And for that we don’t need teachers with 5-6 degrees tailing their names; just someone who can relate to the students and teach the subject with a beauty it is supposed to have. Of late, I find the students more interested in studies and tuitions with little or no time for other activities. Whatever opportunities are there for all round development are being squandered while trying to finish first in the rat-race. I still remember, among our seniors of 5-6 years, hardly anyone had tuitions.

    Whatever be the justifications for increasing the student strength, I feel it was a big mistake. The school now looks overcrowded and the I-know-everyone-else factor seems to be missing. In a family there shouldn’t be strangers.

    Doon or any of the elitist boarding schools, have a strong focus on extra-curricular and sports activities. While senior students rarely find enough time for these, it’s my belief that the school too has to take part of the blame for the situation. Support and encouragement for such activities is certainly on the decline. During my final years, Youth Festivals were reduced to a mere ritual. Dramas were cancelled and most events lacked quality (and attendance). This is mainly because most teachers and the management don’t realise the importance of such activities. An awakening is needed among them too.

    Loyola can, and needs to, improve its standard of teaching and excellence in other fields. But I don’t want it to be an elitist, monastic one. And so I guess Loyola won’t become a brand either.

    Cheer Loyola sons!!

  • Some of you might be wondering “What’s the point of such discussions?”

    The idea is to first develop a plan for Loyola and then act on it. The old boys’ vision(s) of Loyola, at present scattered, can be collectively articulated as a Great School Campaign. Thereafter, we can do whatever we can to make Loyola a great school.

    So, please share your thoughts on how Loyola can be made a great school, i.e. what should be the features of Loyola, say 5 years from now. Please share your expectations from the school — its management, its staff, its students, its parents, or its alumni. And yes, please disagree and provoke to help all of us reflect and re-reflect.

    I am not worried that the discussion here flies off tangentially at times. Some of the attacks on Doon, for instance, also reveal the commenters’ expectations of Loyola. And in a few weeks, I hope to create a wiki page to take the Great School Campaign forward.

    Join. Spread the word. Take Loyola forward.

  • “Whatever be the justifications for increasing the student strength, I feel it was a big mistake. The school now looks overcrowded and the I-know-everyone-else factor seems to be missing. In a family there shouldn’t be strangers.”

    I completely agree with Sreejith chettan. That was one factor which always differentiated us from others. When we said, “Loyola is a family”, we really meant it. Today, however, Loyola’s like any other school. Even I, who passed out barely 2 years ago, find myself a complete stranger in school. I dont even recognise half those guys I see in black and white over there. Increasing seats may have made the school richer, but is that Loyola’s primary concern? Has it ever been? You could even say that increasing seats have given more students an oppurtunity to be in Loyola. But what’s the point of allowing more students in Loyola if, in the process, ‘The Loyolite’ itself is driven to extinction?

    • I think Loyola is a very fine school much better than the doon school which is more of a double standard school and publicity hungry.The school projects itself as something but in reality is something else.

  • By the way, Ive just come to know that even excursions are ancient history nowadays in Loyola. Another development is that students of 11th and 12th are barred from attending the youth festival cos, apparently, they’re already having too much fun with LAFest!!! 😮

  • Hi Ashok,
    Thanks for the mail. I ve some friends from another loyola school in jamshedpur and also from doon actually. I ve forwarded your blog link to the doon friend (Aditya) so that he could give the Dosco point of view, since I dont know much about doon school apart from one visit a few years back. Based on what Aditya used to tell me I guess Doon school was one rocking monastry indeed!

    Our parents probably did well in terms getting us the best education around town. My amma for one chose the school based on the school bus colors.

    Personally I think, there is only so much a school can do. But exceptional friends and exceptional teachers can be long lasting influences. The latter comes in many varieties, from the “we also teach” to the “we only teach”, but eitherways it comes within the responsibility of the school. Apart from painting their buses wavy sky blue and white, what a great school does is, provide the students and teachers the groundrules and attitude with which the game of education is to be played.

    When Krishnadev and Sreejith write about what the youth festival is like these days, I feel that the school seems to be saying, from now on you can play only straight drives. Remove the excursions and then you have no powerplays. Remove the school plays and then you cant hook or pull. Remove the basketball tournament and there goes the late cut and the lofted drive. Ignore the assembly speeches and you loose the reverse sweep and the leg glance. The school seems to say: run your singles hard, thats the only way to make sure that you are giving the best till the game is won.

    Herd mentality is a non issue. its the kind of generic response a generic survey of the scene begets. Look into the details and probably people are doing really interesting things. Otherwise we are all part of someone elses notion of herd mentality, just like we are all laymen with respect to someone elses field.

    Career counselling is one thing, but being aware of opportunities, frankly, quite another. I think, unfortunately in India, schools need to make up for lack of institutional flexibility at the university level.

    Taking in more students is fine, but divide them into different schools and then its a different story. I dont know whether thats an inevitable consequence of a school growing/transforming.

    There was talk about falling standards in loyola. I ve heard that tune in loyola since I started caring about things other than the merry-go-round. To such notions I can only say that school is also what you make of it. The unreasonable ones go ahead and try to change the ground rules of the game when they are aware of its limitations. Thats when things like LA Fest happen. The much talked about golden age of Loyola is here and now, as long as you are willing to play your shots.

    Krishna
    ISC98

  • Really interesting comments on a very important question. Adding some of my thoughts on what might help us get there..

    1. If we want to be among the best, there should be an intense and structured effort to try and learn what the best schools do differently. We might also be looking at totally different scale of operations, budgets etc. Some questions to ask might be – ‘what do we want to be (another doon?)’/where do we want to go/are we prepared to invest time, money and energy on this process?

    2. Be actively involved with national events and programs. Give talented Loyolites the resources and opportunities to develop, compete and win with the best in the nation in all areas (beyond quizzes or selected sports). This has to be actively encouraged. There has to be a concerted effort to ‘build confidence’ among students.

    3. Actively encourage and provide avenues for students to think beyond engineering, technology and medicine. Are there enough avenues and discussions to get students to think about the various possibilities, global events and their potential impact on life around the world..

    4. Invest on developing students and teachers outside conventional learning/teaching. How do our teachers compare with teachers in the best schools? Are they given opportunities to interact with their counterparts, update their skills and latest teaching methodologies around the world? Collaborate with other institutions (educational & professional).

    5. Invest more on developing ‘soft skills’ (esp. communication) for future success.

    6. Last but not least, provide access to technology for every student – As we know, technology is a great ‘enabler’ and ‘flattener’. Build awareness of how the internet can be used effectively – like anyone else sitting in any other part of the world.

    Not sure if the school does very well in finding, highlighting and celebrating the great successes of its alumni.

    Best regards,
    Tojo

  • My views on Loyola are based on the Loyola I knew from 79-93, so clearly it might be dated and inaccurate.

    Nevertheless, based on my time there, and what I have learnt since then, here are a few things I would haved liked to see. Would love to hear what others have to say about this:

    1. More reasoned emphasis on sports and physical activity, rather than a regimented, boring one.

    2. Making Loyola co-ed.

    3. Career counselors and regular seminars for 8th grade -12 grade kids to learn about all possible career opportunities out there.

    4. 25% of admission to poorer children from the neighborhood with scholarships to these children. More the diversity, better our world-view and appreciation for it.

    5. Shorter distance to any point in TVM for children to be bussed to school. I remember having to drop out of many weekday evening and weekend activities because I had to walk too much from the bus stop to my house. Maybe this is already taken care of today.

    6. Encourage better use of time outside of school. Not sure how this can be achieved, but having multiple tuition classes for each subject does not seem to be the best use of time for anyone. Maybe we can remove attendance requirements and let students choose to attend tuition classes or regular classes based on what they perceive is better. I think more independent learning helps in the long term, though I do understand the short term benefits of cramming for standardised tests.

    7. More emphasis on languages and arts. Maybe this was there and I didn’t notice it enough, but great leaders come through a well-rounded education.

    8. More emphasis on world history, tradeoffs between development among different populations and the environment etc. Instead of a highly monochromatic set of alumni, I think this will create a larger diversity of careers among the alumni.

    9. More emphasis on service – volunteer with local non-profits, schools. We did have some of this when I was there, some more would definitely help. Ambition and the desire to affect change come from a wider perspective of reality, and this will help towards that.

    10. Exposure to participatory democracy – for example, have student-elected and student-run committees for class 9-12 to make decisions on issues that affect them, in conjunction with teachers and other school staff. The ability to question authority is as important as the ability to exercise it, and we need both to creat great leaders.

    Will stop with 10 points for now and let others chime in.

    Anand
    ICSE ’91, ISC ’93

  • Hi Ashok,
    I think Anand had brought some practical thoughts through points 2, 3 and 12.
    I dont know how we can brush off the importance of career counselling for pre-senior and senior students??
    Why should guest lectures be only at the under-graduate and graduate levels??

    Making the school co-ed definitely brings in a most welcome change.

    Something like student committees also augurs well at school level since it infuses a sense of leadership and pro-active nature among students.

    Ashok, on volunteering/service there should be programs like Helpage India (which used to be very prominent in St.Thomas) which could bring about a sense of willingness to help others.

  • @jiby
    5- Discipline. Probably most important. The importance of doing your daily homework is lost on most students by the time they get to high school. Since we are smart in tackling exams and streetsmart in dealing with teachers we get away with studying on exam-eves. Most loyolites i have noticed are lazy, procrastinating and cant stand living life in a disciplined fashion.

    i agree wholeheartedly.. im one of that gang … now in college(ur college btw)… im putting off assignments to beyond the last dates ]

    @anand
    about your point two
    when Fr. C.P. Varkey visited us last year, a student asked him if he were the principal now what would he do to the school
    he replied that first thing he’d do was to make it a coed.

    @everyone
    I had a friend who studied in doon school. She claims its the strictest place in the country. Now in Loyola i always felt it was a place where most people got away with most things. Heh no offense to the teachers, but i always did anyways 😀
    Answer me this,
    Where else can you go to the school staffroom , sit on DP’s desk and play games on her mobile?
    Where else can you click pics with your hands around VP’s shoulder and the other rubbing his belly 😀

  • Doon alumni are a mostly unremarkable bunch. Of course, for a school that celbrated its golden jubilee in 1985, it will have its fair share of exemplary leading lights. But as someone pointed out earlier, the exceptions cannot be examples. For every Vikram Seth, Doon would also have produced a hardened junkie. Why not show them as examples??

    Loyola is still a very young school. Clamouring for “taking loyola forward” should be carefully thought out unless it turns out exactly like the demand for “development” that we hear these days from governing bodies at all levels. If we do not let our school develop organically, and instead insist on the satisfaction of certain extrnal indices drawn from fruitless comparisons with Doon, we might end up in a situation where we hope to go forward, but are unsure of our footing.

  • Like all Loyolites I feel really irritated when someone says that another school is better than ours… even if he does give adequate proof. Regarding the Doon issue, yes it ‘appears ‘ they have a culture similar to ours. But after going through the article that came in the WALL STREET, besides having a former Prime Minister and a few well known writers i don’t see anything “special” about the school.
    The article mentions that the school’s alumnus are now conquering the US corporate ladder. It also mentions about the ‘humble’ culture they inherited from the school. I don’t have to comment on where we stand to any of the Loyolites, especially to those who are holding top bureaucratic posts or to those management gurus in India and abroad.
    In the end I have to agree with my fellow Loyolite when he says that we don’t have any media coverage and such. But Loyola and Loyolites were never known for publicizing their achievements. I don’t have to provide any proof for this either.

  • Krishnachandran, Tojo, Anand, it is wonderful to hear your views. They made me think again and reminded me of the difficulties any campaign of this kind will involve.

    Aju, I wonder what you mean by developing “organically”. As old boys, when we share our thoughts on developing our school, would it not be organic development? And frankly, I would be happy to hear even non-Loyolites chipping in with their thoughts/ideas on what makes a great school.

    Bashing Doon is fruitless. Even if all of us agree that Doon is inadequate, or that Doon is media hype, would it mean that there is no scope for making Loyola a great school? I think we are fooling ourselves – achievements, personalities, culture – if we insist that Loyola is already a great school.

  • Ashok,
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with this thread here. It is an independent exchange of ideas, and it can only be good. What is more, it provides the administration with a set of options to look at.

    My problem is that this same debate will change complexion when it comes to implementation. This is inevitable once the pressure to “change for the better” sets in. The focus somehow shifts to what looks and sounds good (shoes, ties, swimming pool, vast manicured lawns, a clocktower, Queen’s English) rather than what is actually good.

    At the end of the day, we must all continue to respect the current administration, students and parents as the best placed to make a decision on the matter. We have much less to lose.

  • Someone said that we tend not to diversify but stick to engg etc up there. right?
    I was talking to this guy whose in NLS. (met him at la fest couple of years back)

    Friend: except for this year,,all mallu boys in nls are from loyola…
    Syam Nath: is that so:? amazing
    philip: the biggest stud here..who passed out last year….anandpadmanabhan also is a loyolite…

    say what?

  • Syam:

    since you chose to give NLS as an example, and being a Loyolite currently in NLS, I thought I’d tell you, that while its true that there was a time when a significant number of the mal boys in college were from Loyola, you forget the fact that all of us are exceptions to the general rule. Loyola does not, not as an institution, but as a culture, allow you to think beyond engineering and medicine. Figures from the only batch that I am sure of them, namely mine, suggest that 3 people(2 NDA, 1 NLS), from a class of 45 did not do engineering or medicine. What happened to the journalists, the accountants, and most other liberal non-science professions? Sya, I hate to agree with whoever said we tend to stick with engineering and medicine. But my personal opinion, which i belive the facts will also support, is that we are more inclined to doing med or engineering than most other kids our age.

    In General:

    I’ve known people from schools all over india. And I’m wondering why noone mentioned something like DPS RKpuram as a benchmark. This one is the complete antithesis of Doon. They are more like a factory, with up to 16 divisions in each class and they produce results. In one particular batch in NLS 11 out of 57 who came through the national entrance test were from that one school. Thats just one batch. They have similar results for every top level instiution in the country.Doon, and all the schools mentioned in the post, are elitist, residential schools. Loyola operates on a different level, and draws its students from a very different social background. Both schools cater to different expectations. And as far as living up to the expectations of it, Loyola is in no way worse than any school I know.In my opinion, we are doing just fine at what we do best, which is to collectively do very well academically, and produce engineers and doctors. Lets face it, thats why most of our parents sent us there too. And dont get me wrong, I dont think there’s anything wrong in it.

    But I just dont think thats enough. If you pick the school diary and read the first few pages about what jesuit education and particularly studying in loyola are supposed to do, then you will get the idea that the system is geared at the holistic development of the person. Which, I feel sad to say, is not being done as it should. My greatest worry about the Loyola way, and whether it will continue to be successful is that the worldview that it provides its students. We are way too conservative, way too stuck up and way too proud as a school. It is true that a child of enterprise and determination can take what loyola gives and make himself a world beater. But its time we did the same for every student. Its time the school provided the students with more information about careers, its time the school had some sort of sensitivity training, and its high time it paid a lot more emphasis on soft skills. Its time the school took its social studies history and civics courses and revamped them completely. Its high time someone taught young loyolites what a girl is and how you should behave around them. I know thats expecting too much from the school, but at least include a bit about feminism and gender studies in that moral studies class which throughout my loyola life was just some unremarkable bull shit by Suman Publishers. Teach them about art appreciation, about theatre, about films, about the media, about manners, about diction etc..And dont laugh, include sex education too.

    Frankly, some of the stuff I mentioned up here were admirably covered by DP’s angsty speeches and Titus sir’s immensely engaging way of teaching history and civics. But these were just two individual teachers, both of whom are not there anymore. The school neds to adopt this as an institution. There’s so much about life that a good school can teach, and teach early. Loyola needs to do these things if it aspires to live up to its mandate of aiding in the holistic growth of the person.

  • Jian, thanks for chipping in. What you wrote under “In General” is exactly what I had in mind. I did not mention DPS because my impression too is that of a “factory”, but one that Loyola should not try to emulate.

  • Ashok,

    Sorry for the late reply. Motivation being a trip to Loyola.

    Personally I agree that we shouldnt emulate the DPS model either. In fact I think we should stay as far away from it as possible. The reason I used that example was to prove that there is another way of doing things too. But that sort of education is far too impersonal and businesslike. I’ve been thinking about this particular issue for some time now, and I think that unfortunately, we seem to be going that way. The time when the Principal knew most students personally, I think, is far gone.

    In my opinion, the original Loyola model, which was characterized by fewer students and far more personalized education imparted by experienced teachers is the ideal way out. Stop adding new divisions and place more emphasis on what you have. What I’m suggesting might not make much business sense, but I think that the Jesuits, of all people, can afford to have the luxury of not worrying about being financially solvent.

    Geting into the particulars, Scrap that general moral science course and include something more socially relavant. Lest I be misunderstood, there’s no use teaching an 8th standard kid that lying and stealing are bad, those values must have been imparted a long time back. In middle school at least, when the civics course starts, a social awareness subject might be a good idea. Workshops on art, music and film appreciation are a brilliant way to enliven a student’s life and to provide him with valuable information that could do wonders to his worldview. When I studied in Loyola, the teachers who taught me english were very very special people and I have retained a love for the language which has helped me greatly in life. I wonder if Loyola places the same premiuim on the excellent english curriculum it did anymore.

    Hindsight is always wiser than foresight, and today I sure wish I had someone who told me about career oppurtunities in school. Thankfully there was someone (DP) who instilled me the courage to question my parents’ long entrenched ideas of making me an engineer. In fact, with no disrespect meant, Loyolites should be made aware that the Loyola-CET path is not THE logical progression, but just one of many good/not-so-good/bad choices available. While i beleive that the school should provide all the information thats required for a student to make this choice, it shouldnt automatically make one choice seem the right one, which is something I fear the Loyola culture tends to do. Its one of the most tragic things in life that a person should choose a path of life based on imperfect or incomplete information.

    Another issue I have with Loyola is that it does not support extra curricular activities to the extent it should. Having represented the school in basketball,athletics, quiz, debates etc, my experience was of a frankly uninterested school administration. A little more encouragement for those ISC meets, for those Frank Antony Debates, and we might be able to change a lot of lives for the better.

    And if this seems a tad too critical, forgive me, because that’s all I’ve tried to be. I’ve sung enough sincere glories to my school and I’m proud to be a Loyolite. I love the school, the teachers and the administration that played a big part in making me what I am today, and its out of this feeling that I point out these chinks in the armour. I think that we tend to be overly jingoistic when it comes to the school, and I’m gld to see so many frank opinions here. And agreeing with Aju on respecting the current administration, still think that we still DO and will always be a part of Loyola, the institution, which is enough for me to think that our opinions should be considered too. And because he’s expressed it far better than I can dream of, I think I’ll sign off quoting a particularly well expressed quote from Krishnachandran (ISC 98)’s reply to the same entry:

    “When Krishnadev and Sreejith write about what the youth festival is like these days, I feel that the school seems to be saying, from now on you can play only straight drives. Remove the excursions and then you have no powerplays. Remove the school plays and then you cant hook or pull. Remove the basketball tournament and there goes the late cut and the lofted drive. Ignore the assembly speeches and you loose the reverse sweep and the leg glance. The school seems to say: run your singles hard, thats the only way to make sure that you are giving the best till the game is won.”

    Cheers..

    Jian
    ISC 03

  • Happy to see you share with us several ideas, Jian. I second all of them.

    In 2003, when I mentioned the introduction of Plus Two and the expansion of the school as ‘mistakes’, I was given a cold stare and dismissed. I was talking to Std 12 🙂

    In those days, I thought that the school tripped itself — it lost its old character because it was forced by external conditions to start Plus Two, begin CBSE, etc.. But now, it looks like all that was a deliberate shift to a new set of values. Instead of retaining the old values (small, personal, extra-curricular), the school sped towards new values (big, impersonal, academic).

  • Ashok,

    Glad to see you are quite prompt with the replies, even on old entries. You know, there’s hardly much that we as alumni, even in our organized form, that of LOBA can urge the school to change directions from this path that we both agree the school administration seems to have chosen. But dont you think that out of the issues, some, at least the ones about the workshops and such easliy implementable stuff should be highlighted by the LOBA? Even though a member, I’m still in the fourth year of an college course that has prevented me from ever being active, but what do you think about the idea of drwaing up some concrete suggestions and conveying them to the administration through LOBA? Since the question of importance here seems to be what we can do, why not try? What say?

    regs

    Jian

  • Definitely, communicating the ideas to the school will happen. That can be done through LOBA or PTA or directly.

    Some of these things can be implemented by old boys and the school, working together. For that, LOBA (in my opinion) is a poor route because it is a social club with vested interests; you will be lucky to find open-minded, intellectual (yet pragmatic), do-good Loyolites there. Of course, one hopes that things might change for the better some day. But, I wouldn’t waste my time there now — much can be done outside the LOBA.

  • Your school is the best school.Our principle mam have meet your school recently.Thier name is Dafney Unger.

    I HOPE YOU WILL KEEP YOUR SCHOOL THE BEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD.

    KEEP IT UP

  • I read and enjoyed each and every word above.

    And yes, I’m from Doon. 🙂
    See, the fact that there are sooo many Loyolas (Universities and Colleges included) that once someone mentions the name, it does not register as THE Loyola, wherever it may be.
    Firstly, Doon has a totally different setting. It was established way back by prominent people who had contacts with prominent people who in turn sent their celebrity sons to the school. Just for the record, there is a Hyderabad House on campus, donated by the Nizam of Hyderabad (in the 40s), whose son studied there, there is a Tata House, donated by the Tatas, an Oberoi House donated by the Oberoi Hotels Group (MS Oberoi studied in Doon), a Jaipur House by the Maharaja of Jaipur, and a Kashmir House, a lot of which was funded by the Ruler of Kashmir then (Karan Singh studied in School too). So after I have stated all this, you can draw a clearer picture. For Doon, it was not difficult to be famous. The first headmaster was a teacher from Eton, who in turn recruited another teacher from Harrow as his deputy.

    So Loyola does not have that kind of backing. For those who say that it must not be advertised, I need to ask them to think again. Advertisement need not be in the form of print media. There are better and more positive ways. Take social service for instance. Doon has been doing social service (very rigorous) for years in the local villages surrounding DDun. It has received a lot of media coverage for that. So the need to advertise is there. Also, I would urge someone from you to meet Dr. Kanti Bajpai, current Headmaster. He is the right man to approach for this kind of aid. He described his tenure as headmaster on one of the lunches (sitting on my table) as: I have been an excellent administrator, not an amazing headmaster. But he has controlled the school amazingly well.
    Loyola has a long way to go. At this pace, I am afraid it will not make it anywhere near where people want it to. Schools today are advancing at a very riotous pace. Take Pathways School as an example. It has earned a name for itself in a relatively short period. It roped in the best faculty of Modern School (another good school I had the privilege of attending) and incorporated its trustees on its board of control. It was always cash rich. Now it is recognized too.
    Actually, worried at the pace which other schools were moving, people at my school were worried at our progress. Though we were producing good people, others were coming at par. And therefore, a few steps were taken to increase endowment etc. and construct frantically on campus. Today, we are on the verge of becoming India’s first green school with environment friendly and energy saving buildings.
    Another very important part of our school is our Alumni Association. The Board of Governor is the body which runs the school, takes major decisions etc. It has very powerful and influential people in its ranks, most of whom are old boys. Until Loyola gets A LOT OF HELP from old boys, its not going to break too much of ground in regard to becoming a better school.

    Thats all I want to say. I just want to state (and over-emphasize on) one thing – You have said before that you don’t want to become like DPS RK Puram. Trust me, that is one of the wisest decisions that you will ever take.

    Good Luck.

    Doon School Batch of ’09

  • Thank you MV for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you almost entirely.

    It is true that Loyola is different from Doon in its financial muscle/backing. But to be famous and respected, pedagogy triumphs financial power. Loyola’s Principal of the 1980s toured various parts of India and advised schools and teachers. Today, Loyola is richer, but with a different set of values ruling Loyola’s management, and exam-oriented coaching being the norm in Loyola, there’s nothing to make Loyola respected or famous.

    I know Kanti Bajpai (he taught me at JNU), and I wouldn’t hesitate to seek advice. Loyola needs to be transformed, and I wonder whether a Doon headmaster can offer lessons.

    Your comment triggered ideas for blogposts. Hope you’ll revisit these pages, even though I may not be writing about Doon in the near future. Did you notice how agitated some Loyolites were when I dared to compare our school with another? 😉

  • I feel there should be a succession planning mechanism at Loyola. Staffing should be done in such a way that no more than 1 or 2 teachers retire any particular year. This will ensure that half of Loyola doesn’t retire with any particular teacher and things that make Loyola Loyola, remains in the campus.

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