What’s in a name-a school’s name?

Life is full of strange coincidences.

We were in Reggio Emilia, Italy for most part of last week, meeting and discussing with their core team, visiting their resource centres and familiarising ourselves with their facilities. One point that they made to us, at length, was that a “Reggio Emilia School” exists only in the city of Reggio Emilia. This is because the system of pre-schooling was contextualised to the historical, cultural and political uniqueness of that particular city. Schools, world over, are inspired by the principles that guide pedagogy in the Reggio Emilia preschools and infant toddler centres and are therefore “Reggio Inspired Schools”. They expressed their extreme displeasure at schools (based outside of Reggio Emilia) that advertised or called themselves “Reggio Emilia schools”.

In this context, we were surprised to see a flyer by one preschool in Gurgaon, calling itself a “Reggio Emilia school”. We were even more surprised that this school had been conferred an award (as per the flyer), by a leading media group, in 2009 for being one of the best pre-schools in India. Based on our visit to Reggio Emilia (my second) and of the school, the leading media group would have done better if they had familiarised themselves with the Reggio Emilia philosophy before conferring this award on the pre-school. While the pre-school may indeed be a good school, misrepresenting themselves as something they are not, should not be condoned or rewarded by any type of award or reward.

Misrepresentation by private schools has become a norm. This trend is extremely unfortunate as educational institutions, are one of the pillars of society we rely on to instil values, ethics and morals in our children. If these very pillars and their guardians are themselves devoid of these qualities, then what type of qualities do we expect our children to imbibe?

Some other instances (that I am aware of) when private schools have opportunistically and deliberately misled and misrepresented for personal gain are:

  • There was once a trend, and still is, both within and outside Dehradun, for schools to refer to themselves as “Doon school”. They have even positioned themselves to project a real or perceived connection with the famous The Doon School.
  • Some schools name themselves in a manner that is a subtle variation of another famous and reputable school. A point in case is a school somewhere between Dehradun and Delhi that cashes in on the good standing of Woodstock School, Mussoorie. Ubiquitously, this school goes by the name Woodstork.
  • Of late, schools have been trying to sell themselves as international/global/world schools; again to mislead the gullible and ill-informed parents into believing that these schools conform to international standards or followed international curriculum. Most of these schools did not even measure up to the national benchmarks, let alone international ones.
  • Many schools call themselves “Academy” not realising that to be one, an institution must have specified number of classrooms or more and accommodate a certain number of students at any given time. Some of these “Academy” are housed in residential areas and/or their by lanes.
  • Some pre-schools call themselves Grammar Schools even though they are do not specialise in language instruction.
  • There are Montessori preschools that keep their Montessori materials locked away in one room with children having only weekly visitation rights based on predetermined agenda regarding usage. Certainly these schools are not Montessori Schools in so much as my house is a Montessori Centre in so much as I also keep Montessori learning aids for my 3 ½ year old son.

The nomenclature or suggestive advertising adopted by some private schools to piggyback on the established repute of some other school, pedagogical concept or affiliation. Rarely is this out of ignorance but usually a deliberate ploy by the owners of these schools to mislead.

I am left wondering; do schools in India need to do this when India produces children at the rate of a class per minute and there is no dearth of students to be taught?

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