That's the only word that can correctly describe the ambitious campaign launched by the Delhi Public School Society. 100 Schools is no joke. And the mantra seems to be Today India, Tomorrow The World plans are afoot to expand to exotic lands, from Afghanistan to the USA.
The various branches are not the real McCoy. They are franchises, intended to deliver a uniform-quality product at any and every location. Given the criticality of education in a child's life, and the difficulty of ensuring uniformity of quality, there's always the possibility that the joke will be on the hopeful parents and the unsuspecting child.
There are two branches of DPS in Hyderabad. One near Diamond Point, Secunderabad, and the other nestled in the rustic charm and unpolluted air of Khajaguda, near Hi-Tech City. With these only a couple of years old by 2005, some of the work is still in progress, so to speak, so there are minor differences between the two. These differences are expected to vanish, however.
Let's get the basic details out of the way first: affiliated to the CBSE, managed by the Vidyananda Educational Society, an admission fee of about Rs. 35,000 (Rs. 10,000 of which is refundable), and annual fees that add up to about Rs. 30,000 per year. Nicely laid out campuses, school-lunches and school-buses, the usual roster of extra-curricular activities, PTA meetings, and a schoolyard full of uniformed kids. An informative website, and a professional approach towards dealing with inquiring parents.
What could possible be wrong with all that?
On the face of it, nothing, really. The parent body is the usual statistical spread. Some happy, some unhappy, some indifferent. The teachers are like teachers anywhere else some good, some mediocre, some outstanding. The kids are like kids anywhere else.
Well, maybe not quite.
Work-in-progress can be blamed for a slightly higher churn in the teaching staff than parents are comfortable with. Doubtless, this will stabilize. But it's hard to fight the conviction that the school lacks, in the absence of any better phrase, the fallibility that comforts. A school that publicises the fact that its children expressed concern for a former Chief Minister's safety brings to mind Orson Scott Card. If your mind boggles at your child writing
, "We, the children, as messengers of God's love, hold your hands in unison for your speedy recovery and good health. As future citizens, we will always strive to live up to your expectations and contribute our collective might in whatever way we can so that we can maintain peace and harmony, which are paramount in today's violence-ridden society," DPS is probably not the place for your moral judgements.
McDonaldising can be a nice thing, if applied to the right areas. But applied to the wrong areas, it can get uncomfortably close to Roger Water's memories of his schooldays.
The verdict? It's early days yet for the franchise, so at the moment, the watchword is caution.