Heralding the desi ultra five-star school culture, the plush G.D. Goenka Public School, sprawled over 4 acres of prime south Delhi land, already has 369 students on its rolls. Just over a year old, the school is positioned for parents shopping around for an institution where their child can learn in the lap of luxury. Perhaps, of how to live in luxury. What with taekwondo sessions, French lessons, classes in photography, exercises in squash, clay modelling periods and tutorials with a pianist from the Maurya Sheraton hotel. Plus, proposed polo classes.
Promoting preparation for puppiedom? "No" scream the school authorities. At pains to elaborate, Vice-Chairman Renu Goenka says: "My husband Anjani Goenka, the founder-chairman, wants to contribute to the education system. As parents of three young children we were never satisfied with the kind of schools available in India. Most schools are assembly lines, there is very little in them to make a child feel special. It was out of this realisation that the Goenka school grew. My husband made sure that students here have every facility required to become well-rounded personalities so that they can stand out in a crowd."
Fair expectation perhaps, for those who are willing to shell out between Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,600 as tutorial fees every month. Add to that Rs 500 for transport in buses with facilities akin to those on a plane and Rs 60 to Rs 100 for computer classes that are mandatory from Class II.
Rather moderate for these times of rising prices and diminishing standards of services, observe the school authorities. Those who take a look at the colourful school interiors might agree. The classrooms have walls painted in different colours for a "cheerful learning ambience". Personal pigeon-holes for every tiny tot encourage asense of belonging. Pink-tiled toilets for girls and blue for boys. Hi-tech skin-sensor taps to avoid wastage of water. Pin-boards in shapes of trees and animals lining dust-free corridors. And bowls of dettolwater outside junior classes to inculcate a sense of hygiene.
A trifle unpractical maybe, for the immune system of those living in the real, dirty world. Not so, say the school authorities. "They do play in the fields you know. We just teach them to remain clean. In fact, it was concern for a healthy atmosphere for children in this polluted city that prompted my husband to have a central airconditioning system installed in the school," says Renu Goenka. The Goenkas intend protected environs for their chain of schools, the first of which is their proposed nursery school called Lilliputian, modelled on "a Disney-world-like fantasia land" and a residential school in Sohna, Haryana.
With extravagant investments and "fees moderate enough to attract parents to a new school", it will be long before the school breaks even. No problem, asserts Renu Goenka. "Profit is hardly on our mind now. The first task is to establish credibility by providing quality education." And this through a modern educational policy. Says Principal S.C. Arora: "Unlike other schools, we will have no more than 26 students per section. Each child will be given individual attention." The teachers, claims Arora, are constantly trained for this in fortnightly staff workshops and seminars.
With their affiliation to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) having come through, the Goenka school is hoping that its first batch of Class X students do the school proud. "CBSE is a great leveller," explains Renu Goenka, "Today, the best education is insufficient without good Board results." Not surprisingly, the school is refusing admissions to senior classes from students with marks below 75 per cent. Yet there is a rush for admissions. "It's remarkable. A year old and we already have people approaching us with influence," says a content Renu Goenka. And why not? There's nothing that worldly-wise parents won't do to get their children into a school that promises to protect their kids from the world.