'Meeting people's aspirations is most challenging'
The ICSE schools in India were known as Cambridge Schools in the pre-independent era.
He is the founder principal of De Paul International Residential School at Mysore. N Niranjan Nikam of Deccan Herald caught up with Aikara at his sprawling 50 acre campus on the backwaters of KRS, where he spoke about the strengths of the board, the advantages of studying in ICSE and the challenges he is facing as the chairman. Excerpts:
You have been elected as the third chairman of the ICSE. How did this happen?
It happened through elections in which there were 52 members. I was elected through simple majority. The Council for the Indian School Certificate (ICSE) was started by the Anglo Indians. Now the non-Anglo Indian schools are growing very fast. We have a big strength. Out of nearly 1,800 schools, 1,600 belong to non-Anglo Indians. Frank Antony was the first chairman of the Council from 1958 to 1993 and Neil O’Brien carried the baton from 1993 to 2011. The term is for three years and one can be reelected any number of times.
The ICSE schools transformed from the Cambridge Schools of a bygone era. Is the hangover still there?
There is no hangover. ICSE schools are 100 per cent free from Cambridge university. The British Cambridge Schools were started in India after independence. Then it was given to us and now it is completely independent and administered in India. The only relation we have with them is the plus two stage, the class 11 and 12 ISC is recognised by Cambridge university. Once you have ISC, when you go out of the country, you don’t have to write Toefl exam. That way ICSE schools are more international.
The big confusion for most parents is to chose between CBSE and ICSE. How can this be addressed?
Well, CBSE has quite a large number of schools -- about 10,000, where as we have just 1,800 or so. If the parent has a transferable job, then getting into CBSE school is easier. A majority of ICSE schools are top schools and they are all private schools. It is not that easy to get admission. They have to work hard and get good results. Our schools are competitive and better than any other schools. The top 20 students of ICSE are taken up by Bits Pilani directly.
CBSE is affiliated to the education board, while ICSE is not. Does it have any impact in the long run?
We are completely on par with CBSE. This is accepted in parliament and the UGC has recognised it. There is no confusion regarding this at all.
You founded the De Paul International residential school in Mysore in 2003. How is it doing and where are the students from?
It is doing very well. No thief will say that he is a thief. We started this school in Mysore on a 50 acre plot and KRS is just behind this campus. We have a total strength of 475 from class one to 12. We have day scholars and boarders — students from different states, NRIs and foreigners in classes from 10 to 12. All our classes are smart classes and it is very successful.
What are the challenges facing you in the field of ICSE education?
I have spent more than 30 years in Orissa in ICSE education. The council is facing many challenges just like the world is facing. One of the major ones is the curriculum. We are caught up in two levels. On the one hand there is a demand for the workload to be reduced and the syllabus that goes with it. At the same time the pressure on the child is very high in view of the professional courses which he or she wants to pursue.
In the early days it was selection of the professional courses, now I call it elimination. Information in each subject has changed a lot. All that was taught at the PG level is being now taught at the plus 2 level itself. Hence meeting the aspirations of the parents and the children is most challenging.
Is the Right to Education implemented in your school?
No, it is not. The reason is that the Karnataka government has still not implemented the Act. Once the order comes we have to bow our head. In fact the Association of national ICSE has filed a case in the Supreme Court. We are waiting for the orders. We are not against 25 per cent RTE. What is repugnant is the interference of local authorities.