A school chain which takes Sanskrit shlokas, Gandhi to the world

July 20th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The corridors of the school resonates with the chants of Sanskrit shlokas each day. Never mind the somewhat muddled and imperfect pronunciations, the spirit of the students, many of whom are not Indians, symbolizes the ideology of the Global Indian International School that offers global education with the Indian spirit. The Global Indian Foundation, a Singapore-based non-profit organisation which established the first Global Indian International School six years back in Singapore, has now grown into a healthy network of 15 schools in seven countries with more than 17,000 students.

While most students are Indians, the school also gets students from as many as 30 countries. Four schools are in India and the rest across countries like Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Thailand and Singapore.

The forte of the school lies in offering world-class education and a curriculum that moulds its students into confident individuals. However, care is taken that the Indian spirit is never lost.

So, for instance, it’s compulsory for all students to learn Sanskrit.

Atul Temurnikar, chairman of the Global Indian Foundation, said that whether Indian or not, all students have to learn spoken Sanskrit in their schools.

“Initially some students had reservations about learning Sanskrit shlokas, thinking that it was a religious exercise. But then everything fell into place and now all students recite the shlokas… Absolutely perfect pronunciation is a challenge for the non-Indian students, but they do it with spirit,” Temurnikar told IANS over an interaction in the capital.

All the Global Indian International schools also have a compulsory Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Values and Thoughts - a library of books on Gandhi.

“Archives of old photos of Gandhi, books and other print matter are kept in the Gandhi resource centres - a compulsory feature in all the schools,” Temurnikar said.

But do students, especially the non-Indian ones, know who Gandhi was?

Narrating an incident, Temurnikar said: “I was witness to a very interesting conversation between a six-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy, both students of our school in Japan, just after the Gandhi resource centre there was established.

“The girl asked the boy whether he knew who Gandhi was, which was answered with a ‘No’. The girl then said, ‘Gandhi is the one who made Munnabhai a good man!’ referring to the hit Hindi movie “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.

“But on a more serious note, the students do know who Gandhi was and many non-Indian students are actually quite intrigued about his life and what he did,” Temurnikar added.

The school offers both International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum. While CBSE is followed until Class 7, students have a choice to go for either IB or continue with the CBSE board after that, till Class 12.

Surprisingly, most non-Indian students actually prefer continuing with the CBSE curriculum till Class 12.

“CBSE is a preferred board of education in many countries like Singapore and Malaysia because it is recognized in all universities and offers in depth, competent education. Most non-Indian students decide to continue with this board till Class 12, while some non-resident Indians switch to IB,” Temurnikar said.

All the schools customize their curriculum in accordance to the country they are in, mostly in soft skills, and adopt best practices of a particular school.

“In Japan, for instance, students take off their shoes before entering the school and wear a different set of footwear when inside. Not only does this practice keep the classrooms clean of dust and grime but it is also a novel idea which is in sync with Indian traditions.

“Therefore we decided to adopt this practice in the rest of our schools. Now students in all Global Indian International schools take off their shoes before entering the class,” he said.

The school also publishes non-commercial books like “Hindi for pre-schoolers” and even a translated version of the Ramayana in French.

The foundation plans to open 100 schools in another 10 years, of which 80 will be India. With an annual fee of Rs.30,000, Temurnikar says, he is confident that the affordable and high quality education would appeal to all.

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