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India’s elite schools are good enough for the rich and famous, but our colleges aren’t

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There’s a whole new universe of elite Indian schools where the rich and illustrious educate their children.

New Delhi: Till about a decade ago, most influential and well-off Indians sent their children to the likes of Doon School, Woodstock International School, Mayo College, Welham Boy’s School and other premier institutes.

The alumni of these schools include some of the who’s who of different fields: Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and Congress leaders Madhavrao Scindia, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Kamal Nath, who went to Doon School, and writer Nayantara Sehgal and theatre thespian Tom Alter, who attended Woodstock School in Mussoorie. Actors Amitabh Bachchan and Kabir Bedi and field marshal Sam Manekshaw are products of Sherwood College, Naintal.

Also read: In a first, 3 Doon alumni are CMs, all from the same powerful era

The trend, however, is changing now, with a new crop of Doons and Welhams coming to the forefront.

People who can afford to pay more than Rs 10 lakh per annum for their child’s school education are sending them to institutes like Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Singapore International School and Ecole Mondiale School in Mumbai, Vasant Valley International School in Delhi, Oberoi International School in Goregaon, and UWC Mahindra College in Pune.

But few graduates of these schools ever choose to stay in India for further studies. An analysis of where students from these schools went for higher education over the last few years shows that most flew abroad.

Vasant Valley, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi

Vasant Valley School was started in 1990 by the India Today Group, and has consistently ranked as one of India’s most prestigious day-boarding educational institutes across surveys.

In 2012, Vasant Valley found a mention in Forbes India’s list of “5 tough schools to get your kid into”.

Having topped Education World’s India School Rankings 2018-19, and with a quarterly fees of over Rs 40,000 for Class XI and XII, it comes as no surprise that a section of India’s elite chooses to get their children enrolled here.

At Vasant Valley, only 32 of the 90 students who passed out in 2018 chose to stay in India after Class XII, while the number was 41 out of 93 in 2017, and 32 out of 93 in 2016.

The majority of the students chose the US, followed by the UK, for higher studies, according to an analysis of placements on the school’s website.

Notable alumni include Indian Premier League (IPL) founder Lalit Modi’s niece Jayati Modi, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal’s  children Rhea, Harkirat and Arjun, journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose’s children Tarini and Ishaan, author Anuja Chauhan’s children, and politician Amar Singh’s twin daughters Drishti and Disha.

Of these, Jayati pursued her higher education in Boston, US, while Rhea and Arjun Badal both chose New York University (NYU).

Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai

The child of almost every major film star has studied or is currently enrolled at Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, including Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana and son AbRam, Hrithik Roshan and Sussanne Khan’s kids Hrehaan and Hridhaan, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s daughter Aaradhya, Saif Ali Khan’s son Ibrahim, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughters Janhvi and Khushi Kapoor, and Karisma Kapoor’s son Kiaan.

Dhirubhai Ambani International School was established in 2003 by industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s philanthropist-wife Nita Ambani, and operates from an impressive  seven-storey building in Bandra East that boasts of luxury amenities like an AstroTurf football field, “two dining halls and solar-powered water heaters”, according to the school’s website.

The school’s fees is reported to be Rs 1.7 lakh for LKG to Class VII, Rs 1.85 lakh for Class VIII-X (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) and Rs 4.48 lakh for International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), an internationally-used curriculum.

But actually getting admission requires parents to deposit Rs 24 lakh, according to a report in the Mumbai Mirror.

According to data provided by the school’s website, 61 per cent of the 2016 graduates left for the US for higher studies. Another 15 per cent went to the UK, while only about 8 per cent stayed back in India.

Suhana Khan is currently pursuing her higher education at the University of London, while Janhvi was reportedly weighing her options abroad two months before the release of her debut Bollywood film Dhadak last year.

Singapore International School, Dahisar East, Mumbai

Singapore International School, Mumbai
Singapore International School, Mumbai |

Singapore International School is a co-educational day-boarding school established by the United Group, an organisation with operations across India along the verticals of  education, FMCG, hospitality and textiles. 

According to a report by Hindustan Timesthe annual fees of the school ranges from Rs 3.5 lakh (Class I to VI) to Rs 5.5 lakh (Class VII to X), and Rs 6.5 lakh for international baccalaureate (IB), which is taught in 146 countries and administered in varying ways.

Students of Singapore International School in Mumbai sought admission in 198 colleges, of which 95 are American, 43 British, 31 Indian, 14 Canadian, and 15 of “other regions”, data on the school’s university placements web page states.

The school’s website, however, does not clarify which year students sought admission in these colleges, or whether the data reflected the cumulative number of university placements.

Ivy League institutions like Brown, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania and Yale make the list from the US, and University of Cambridge, London School of Economics, Imperial College London and King’s College London are among the institutes listed from the UK.

Surprisingly, not one Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or Indian Institute of Management (IIM) is listed, with alumni pursuing higher education in India favouring the likes of Ashoka, Amity Ahmedabad, Manipal University and Pearl Academy.

UWC Mahindra College, Pune

UWC Mahindra College is an international boarding school that follows the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.

Located roughly 40 km west of Pune, Maharashtra, it was established in 1997 by Harish Mahindra, the founding father of the Mahindra Group.

UWC Mahindra is one of 15 schools and colleges around the globe that are part of the UWC (formerly United World College) movement, as founded in 1962 by education thought leader Kurt Hahn, according to the website.

The boarding school does not feature a single Indian university in their ‘universities our alumni have graduated from in the last four years’ category. The website data is from 2011-2014, and highlights colleges like Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Oxford and McGill, among a host of others.

In the mentioned years, 7 per cent of UWC Mahindra graduates attended Ivy League universities, 65 per cent went to the “Top-20 ranked colleges or universities”, 75 per cent received need-based scholarships, and 25 per cent took volunteer- or internship-based gap years.

UWC Mahindra, however, is also recognised for its globally diverse student body – the international boarding school admits a large number of students from different countries, accounting in part for the percentage of students who choose to study abroad after graduation.

In 2017, the annual fees was Rs 19 lakh for Indian students.

Oberoi International school, Goregaon (East), Mumbai

Oberoi International School opened its doors in July 2008, with Bindu Oberoi, trustee of the Oberoi Foundation, as its director.

In the 2017-18 academic year, Oberoi International School opened a second campus “for students in nursery to grade 4 on the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Linking Road (or JVLR), just a couple of kilometres south of the original campus”, the school website reads.

With an annual fees of Rs 5 lakh for its pre-primary classes, which goes up to Rs 8.3 lakh for Class XI-XII, Oberoi International School is considered one of India’s premier academies, ranking third in the ‘International Day Schools’ category in Education World’s India School Rankings for 2016-17, and second in 2017-18.

In the latest graduating batch, which passed out in 2018, 46 per cent of students went to the US and 12 per cent to the UK, while 19 per cent stayed back in India.

“The class of 2018 comprised 88 graduates, who received 485 offers from 169 universities (including Oxford, Cambridge & University of California Berkeley) in nine countries, and were awarded scholarships totaling USD 6.1 million,” the official school website states.

Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s sons Arin and Ryan are currently enrolled in the school.

Ecole Mondiale World School, Juhu, Mumbai

Ecole Mondiale World School, Juhu
Ecole Mondiale World School, Juhu |

Founded in 2004, Ecole Mondale World School in Juhu, Mumbai, is one of the first institutes to offer a full-spectrum International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

According to Education Worldthe school was founded by the Goenka and Sarda business families, and “aims at providing a high-quality balanced educational programme which allows overall development of the students”.

One year in Class XI or XII at the Ecole Mondiale World School will cost your parents Rs 10.9 lakh if you’re Indian, or €26,000 (approx. Rs 21 lakh) if you’re not.

Kajol and Ajay Devgn’s daughter Nysa studies at this school in Juhu, Mumbai. However, as Mid-Day reports, “the 14-year-old will complete her studies from Singapore’s United College of Southeast Asia”.

Akshay Kumar’s son Aarav also attended the school.

“Facilities include an auditorium, two games rooms, a splash pool for Early Years, a well equipped gymnasium, 5 state-of-the-art science laboratories, 2 libraries, an audio-visual room, 2 music rooms, 3 computer centres, 2 drama & dance studios, 3 art and design studios, a design technology studio, a medical room, 2 canteens and a children’s play areas as well as 2 large sports grounds and a 25 metre long, 8 lane swimming pool,” the website reads.

Also read: Pollution solution: If your children go to these top Delhi schools, you can breathe easy

This report has been updated to correct the name of Mayo College, incorrectly written as Mayo International School earlier.

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  1. Good educational institutions are vital to any country’s progress but the government should force all these expensive schools to give scholarships to high-achieving children from deprived backgrounds.

    Unfortunately, all these well educated young people do not want to go into politics in India. Until they do, the country will continue to be held back by semi-literate, petty minded politicians, obsessed with religion and ignorant about everything else.

  2. Whats the point in this article? Looks like more of an advertising campaign for those which are already elite rather than serving any social purpose.

  3. It is true that we lack world class Universities but at the same time it can’t be ignored that these stars kids cannot intellectualy match an average Indian undergrad from top 20 Indian universities. They get into Ivy league Universities because it is much easier to get into a Ivy league University when you have a lot of resources at your disposal. These star kids always have an edge in their applications however dumb they may be. Ivy league universities are constantly on the lookout for kids with affluent backgrounds because for the university these kids will be future donors for the universities. Many top universities in the US have been time and again been accused of this biasness which gives preference to rich kids with poor SAT scores over students who are academically more meritorious than them. Many such examples can be cited where a person with a much lower IQ than a average undergrad was given admission because of donations or because of his probability of being a future donor. A prime example is Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Khushner who had very low SAT scores, very poor grades but he still made it to Harvard, thanks to his father’s real estate business.
    As far as studying in a IIT or IIM is concerned, none of these star kids can make it to these institutions. These institutes admit students on the basis of intellectual merit irrespective of one’s family background. For getting into these institutions, one should be hardworking, focussed, dedicated and should possess a greater IQ than a average person. Many of these star kids lack all the abilities listed above or don’t bother to put in the efforts required.
    I am yet to see a star kid make some valuable contribution to the acadmeia or carve a niche for himself/herself in the corporate sector without the support of his/her family. They have the resources but lack the talent to disrupt industries, spearhead a revolution in a area be it technology, medicine, finance etc. Despite having a world class education and huge sums of money such feats are a rarity from their side.

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