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In my blogpost last month on evaluating the school, I had surveyed the readers to know their views on the Great School Campaign. Here are the results of the two-question survey.

1. Do you feel there should be a Campaign to make Loyola a great school?
86.7% (52 votes) said “Yes, I am in favour of a Great School Campaign.”
“No. Loyola is already a great school”: 10% (6 votes)
“I don’t care”: 3.3% (2 votes)

2. Who should lead the Great School Campaign, if there is one?
The top preference was for Loyola Old Boys’ Association (LOBA) to lead the Great School Campaign.
LOBA: 38.3% (23 votes)
The Principal or Vice-Principal: 18.3% (11 votes) 18.3% (11 votes)
None of the listed options: 13.3% (8 votes)
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA): 8.3% (5 votes)
School Leader: 3.3% (2 votes)

Many of those who chose “none of the above” favoured a combination — for example, LOBA and PTA, or the authorities and PTA. Other candidates proposed to lead were “a former teacher”, and “a senior and distinguished alumnus”.

60 people participated in the survey. Thank you, guys!

Will LOBA take the next step?

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I feel that there should be a Great School Campaign, and that the PTA should take the lead. Let me explain why I (still) favour the PTA, and not LOBA.

Due to the aura around Fr C.P. Varkey’s reform efforts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many of us believe that the Jesuits lead the school. But that seems to have been an exception as much as exceptional. I feel that the Jesuits are led by parents and the prevailing social environment. That’s why I favour the PTA to lead the Great School Campaign.

When Fr Kuruvila Cherian became Principal (around 2000), he tried to bring back the emphasis on extra-curricular activities. But the pressure from parents was such that the school turned around to place a premium on academic study. According to a reliable source, when the academic result was not so glorious one year, parents expressed concern at the damage to image — a school producing poor results — caused by increased emphasis on extra-curricular activities. The Jesuits panicked, and Fr Cherian was forced to leave, goes the story.

Though there has been a crackdown on Loyola teachers taking private tuition, the school itself has not shied away from organising extra classes. A few years ago, I was witness to extra classes being held for a Plus Two class, when several sports day competitions were going on in the main field. More shockingly (for me), when student interest in the youth festival declined — initially in the late 1980s, but significantly in the 2000s — the Jesuits responded by slashing the number of festival days. Instead of convincing parents and students why the youth festival should be held the way it used to be, the Jesuits even okayed in-camera competitions — three judges and the competitors in a room — thereby signalling that extra-curricular activities are “extra” in Loyola. The merits of participating in an event or reciting a poem before the school were ignored; festivals were organised as rituals to select winners and write certificates.

Didn’t Fr Varkey face pressure from parents? I am sure he did. He explained his reform philosophy to the parents of the day, and won them over. His charisma may have helped, but he also benefited from the prevailing social environment. Fr Varkey may not have succeeded among today’s Loyola parents.

Consider the parents of today. Most of them grew up in a competitive era, and they believe that competition has only intensified since then. Also, most of them enjoyed reasonably good, private-school, English-medium education, and for their kids, they set a higher standard of success. Add to this today’s social values — the worship of wealth (the hype surrounding salaries emanating from an IIM diploma), and a tacit acceptance of getting what you want by hook-or-crook (result-oriented actions). All this is a planet afar from the Loyola parents of the 1970s and 1980s, and the environment they raised their kids in. Is it any wonder that Baker is out and big is in? Is it any surprise that children should play less and playgrounds should be fenced because cars have to ply on the school’s road?

For good or bad, the parents are more powerful than the Jesuits — he who pays the Piper calls the tune. If you wish to make Loyola a great school, I believe that your best bet lies in convincing the parents and letting them lead the Great School Campaign. What happens in Loyola happens because the parents let that happen.

Postscript: From my LOBA experience, I would say that the worst group to lead the Great School Campaign would be the LOBA. Its leadership lacks the intellectual strength and commitment to lead such a campaign, and the organisation is powerless in the school’s scheme of things. That’s hardly surprising, since all of us have left it to the rest of us to run the organisation. But if you insist that LOBA should lead the Campaign and make it a success, I suggest that you get enough friends from various batches to turn up at the next General Body Meeting, capture the organisation’s leadership (the six key posts and the Executive Committee) and settle down to business. The real poll is offline, not online.