The Missing X Factor

“If this is one helluva school, why have we not broken into the Big League? Fifty years of sifting and nurturing talent in Trivandrum, and none of international repute,” observed Rajkin in his article on Loyola’s Specialness. I invited Vijayaraghavan V (1993 ISC) to share his thoughts on why Loyola does not produce stars and whether schooling has anything to do with it. This is the second in the Reflections on Schooling series. Featuring guest posts by Loyolites, the series aims to deepen our understanding of ourselves and Loyola.  Editor


To say that each of us is proud of being a Loyolite and to an extent positively arrogant about it, is no surprise. After moving out of the school I have many a time tried to objectively assess the greatness of this school. One of the parameters that many would use is the number of influential or famous alumni who have passed from  the institution. In a way, it also means the number of alumni who have been able to make a significant impact in society and in turn are recognised by society.

Closer home in India, two of the institutions which are known for their influential alumni are the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad in the business space and the St Stephen’s College, Delhi in the political and bureaucratic domains. (I have not taken an example from schools for want of authentic data.) Where would Loyola rank against this measurement index? Probably very low.

While it can be argued whether there is a need for this kind of measurement, it can be reasonably concluded that Loyola does not figure highly in this index. The next obvious question would be the reason for the same. Loyola, as a school, provides the basics of education and values very efficiently and this sets it apart from other schools in the area and region. In terms of academic results, it ensures that the students perform well above the average. Over a period, this became a tradition and got institutionalised. Typical role models when I grew up in the school were the “Best Loyolites,” who went on to become engineers and doctors, some of them going for higher studies abroad and settling down there.

Typically, students who become stars or influential in the positive way, are ones who have the X factor and have the ability to go beyond the known in whatever way. As a school, Loyola does not seem to instill that trait in any specific manner nor is there a history of former students who the current crop can look up to. Loyola does produce good and amazing students, but it does not produce students with the trained ability to be influential or become famous. A few exceptions have not helped change that view. I do, however, endorse the argument that a school’s responsibility is not to make star students and that there are many things beyond the school environment which leads to greatness and fame.

So the question still returns – Is Loyola just another school? Certainly not. For students who studied there, it will continue to be the most defining and enriching experience they have had. In more ways than one, it has shaped what we turned out to be in the future. But for all the values and basics the school has instilled in us, I certainly do not feel that Loyolites need to feel they are more talented or skilled than others. This certainly is not the case and facts do not support that in any way.

Do we want to take Loyola to a level where the alumni are spoken of as one among the most influential people? If the answer is yes, then apart from many other things, there needs to be awareness that there is a big chaotic world which exists, beyond the Loyola School and Trivandrum, where the students are expected to participate in the future.

Vijayaraghavan V (1993 ISC) is Vice President – Business Development at Emcure Pharmaceuticals in Pune. Read his blog Simple Thoughts.

(c) Vijayaraghavan V 2013

Reflections on Schooling series of articles



  • I don’t know how fair it is to compare alumni of Loyola with that of IIM or St.Stephens..

    I think it can only be compared with data from other Indian schools..That would be interesting..Probably Doon School would be a benchmark regarding popularity of alumni?

  • Hi Karthik,

    I get what you say. If you see my article I have mentioned that I have desisted from comparing schools for want of authentic data. From whatever we have seen, Doon School does have a lot of influential people in the society. But that could also be, because of the fact that people who send their kids to Doon are influential themselves, and hence kids have in any case a higher probability of being famous and influential.
    However the above does not have any relevance, if you look at Loyola on a stand alone basis and evaluate it in isolation…

  • Very interesting and thought provoking article, Vijay! I could not resist my temptation to reply to this.

    Does not the vision and the mission of the institution have a major role to play in shaping the mindset of each kid (since the schooling days are in formative phase of one’s thinking and identity)?

    I would like to highlight an incident when during one of our assembly days, Fr.Philip Thayyil, then Principal, asked us why it that that the Jesuits were running a “high-end” school in Tvm when they could be doing other missionary/charitable works. He answered that they wanted to build a community of high performing future citizens who would live by a certain set of value systems which they believed in and wanted to inculcate in us. I don’t recollect whether he elaborated on these value systems then, but I would presume now that some of the value systems would have been high thinking (followed by simple living taking a cue from their philosophy), concern for others/family, integrity, honesty, dedication etc.Did this visionary approach affect our steps to success? Lets ask ourselves.

    In my batch, we had close to 15 boys (out of 45) who got into IIT that year, but never recollect any special assembly then or in the past where they/seniors were felicitated. But I do recollect one occasion when Fr.Thayyil called one of our seniors into the assembly gathering and felicitated him for improving his studies dramatically. He had moved from the bottom rung to the top rung in marks in a term or two. (If my weak memory serves me right, I don’t know whether this was ShahJahan our then basket ball captain) In summary, I believe that the school was not obsessed with success per se, but was very concerned about every individual living upto his potential and their role in society at large. It sought to balance academics and life!

    Rajkin is probably right that Loyola does not produce ‘stars’ and I think that schooling has something to do with it. The guidelines what your early teachers lay down can sometimes become the cornerstone of your approach to life! But lets not also forget that ‘stars’ are sometimes as bright as the sun, but many light years away. We might be in different time-zones, different life zones, living in this chaotic world but if we are providing the right light to those around us, can you not call that success? If that is well done, then our Jesuit fathers who guided us would pat themselves on their back for a job well done!

    Finally, if a Loyolite ever becomes a ‘star’, and even builds a billion dollar residence, I am sure there would be near unanimity in our toast to his success! But if that billion dollar residence and star status is a stone’s throw away from a 100,000+ slum-dwellers residences, I am not sure how many of us would toast to that!! This is think is what Loyola Jesuits wanted to inculcate in us (I feel)! I might be right; I might be wrong, and I am open to hear others opinions and points of view as well on this topic. But this is how I see the way how our Jesuit Fathers, the late Fr.C P Varkey, Fr.John Manipadam, Fr.Thayyil, Fr.Pulikkal wanted us to grow and be!

  • Bittu Jose, thanks for reading through and the comments. Very nice to connect after all these years. Your narrative is well written and worthy of being put as a separate blog by Ashok. (so that other people too read your views)

    I think the background of this entire discussion is this – All of us are very proud to have studied in Loyola. Many a time I have bragged this to no limits even to the irritation of my wife and youngest brother who went to Sarvodaya:-) However in a world where specifics are important, these questions keep getting thrown at us many a time – “Is Loyola the best school in Kerala or in South India?”, “Made in Loyola” – does that have any significance beyond Loyolites themselves or Trivandumites? etc Hence if we need to convert this into a measurable yardstick, you need to have benchmarks. Else this would be a subjective discussion, where “we keep saying we are the best”. No doubt all of us have been taught or brought up with certain values, and as we have grown up, we have been making our own small differences to the world we live in. But the question would be whether these impacts are significantly different from others?
    On the point of a billion dollar residence, I understand the social question you are raising. (an “Antilla” Ambani similarity)However besides the social question, among the numerous Loyolites who have passed out, if someone were to feature on the Forbes 100 most richest people, that would be a significant achievement. Whether he made this ethically or should he be doing more philanthropy can be a separate discussion.
    Finally, we all are grateful to the values which have been inculcated in us at Loyola and if given a chance would want to study there again for another 14 odd years! At the same it was very important to discuss this and get a view of a subject many of us have been posing in closed groups.

    ps – in a class get together last weekend which was to be in “high spirits”, I am told this subject became the center piece of discussions. The love for Loyola remains after all these years!

  • The world toasts for winners no doubt…but most people are actually losers in the materialistic sense. How many can emerge winner in a 100 metre race? All? In such a world, does fame and material achievement of the alumni alone signify greatness of the institution? Certainly not.
    Loyola may not be great, but it is nice. It’s a nice place where almost everyone emerge as winners. May not be clear emphatic winners, but certainly not losers.

  • From an article in the Hindu, 05 May:

    Air Marshal S. Radhakrishnan Nair, an alumnus of Loyola,assumed charge as Senior Air Staff Officer, Headquarters Training Command, Indian Air Force (IAF), Bangalore,on 05 May 14.

    Also an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, and National Defence College, New Delhi, he was commissioned in the transport stream of the IAF in June 1980. The Air Marshal had flown Otter, Avro, AN-32, Dornier, and IL-76 aircraft in addition to trainer aircraft, and has over 7,000 hours of flying experience.

    As Senior Air Staff Officer, he was tasked with training officers, airmen, and non-combatants of the entire IAF.

    Air Marshal Nair has served in various positions, including Chief Operations Officer of a transport base, Commanding Officer of a strategic airlift squadron, Director Operations (Transport) of Air Headquarters, Air Officer Commanding of Air Force Station, Chandigarh, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Personal Airmen & Civilians), and Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations (Transport & Helicopter) at Air HQ.

    He has taken active part in various operations, including operation Pawan (Sri Lanka), operation Cactus (Maldives), operation Parakram, and operation Safed Sagar (Kargil). During an exercise in the U.S., he flew an IL-76 airplane for nine hours and 40 minutes to the North Pole and back, the only Indian aircraft to do so. He also circumnavigated the globe during the exercise. He was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal in 2005 and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2010.

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