How the ‘Eton of India’ aims to climb the Ivy League

TES, 08/08/04, Helen Ward reports on the launch of the Doon School's unique international teacher training programme offered by the Institute of Education, University of London A globally renowned boarding school dubbed the “Eton of India” is working with UK education experts to ensure its students can compete for places at the world’s top universities.

The Doon School – founded under colonial rule to emulate Britain’s elite public schools – has produced a stream of illustrious alumni, from India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to author Vikram Seth and sculptor Anish Kapoor, who created the Orbit tower in London’s Olympic Park.

But now the boys’ school is working with the University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE) to create a bespoke two-year “iPGCE” for staff to ensure their teaching is world-class and give them the tools to offer international qualifications. The partnership is seen as a vital development, as around half of the school’s students leave India at 18 to study abroad.

Doon, set on a lush green estate in the northern state of Uttarakhand, is now hoping its example of “upskilling” staff will be taken up elsewhere in India, rather than schools importing teachers from the UK and the US.

“Many of our teachers do have BEd degrees from India, but of course they are designed for the Indian system,” said headteacher Peter McLaughlin. “We are introducing international examinations like the International Baccalaureate and the iGCSE and we want to upskill our teachers.

“We are competing in a global university environment…What it takes to get into Oxbridge, Russell Group or Ivy League universities is growing exponentially in terms of requirements.”

Dr McLaughlin hopes that the prestige of the school will encourage others to follow in its footsteps. “Because of Doon’s stature, the fact that we are taking a lead on this is making people sit up and take notice,” he said. “The school was set up to produce students to serve a free and democratic India at a time when it was neither of those.

“We have a mission to develop exceptional boys who will create a truly meritocratic India. There is a huge demand for educational reform in India. People know the old system is not fit for purpose and something has to give; they are ferociously critical of it. We need teachers who can deliver 21stcentury pedagogy.”

Having achieved success with the iPGCE at Doon, the IOE is now working with schools in Dubai. The collaborations are part of a wider trend for schools and governments around the world to look to the UK for educational expertise. In recent years, for example, the Kazakhstan government has worked with Cambridge International Examinations, the international arm of exam board OCR, to develop its curriculum.

Meanwhile, already high-performing countries such as China have also turned to the UK, especially for advice on school leadership issues.

IOE tutors have made regular visits to Doon to observe lessons and work with teachers; they are also conducting peer lesson observations, online discussions and workshops. In the second year, teachers must undertake an evidence-based enquiry into an aspect of improving classroom practice. The school is paying the full tuition fees for the course, rather than asking staff to contribute.

Andy Ash, coordinator of the project at the IOE, said: “We are really pleased to be working with the Doon School and to be the first organisation to launch this exciting new teacher training programme in India. To be able to share these resources and to actively contribute to the Indian education system is something we are committed to.”

By Helen Ward, TES. Click here to read the full article © TES