As our Clementines returned to SCS to commence their third term, I found myself halfway across the world with three of our girls as they settled in to their new exchange at the Vidya Devi Jindal School (VDJS) in Hisar, India. It had been a wonderful experience, seeing the exchange come to fruition after initial discussions taking place at a Round Square conference in 2011. Now we are partway through the experience as our three SCS girls hosted our Indian students in October of this past year, and they will now be staying at VDJS for close to a month. Traveling with the girls has afforded me the opportunity to see the experience through their eyes.
On our first morning we were greeted by the Principal, administration, staff and year 11 students with an assembly complete with songs, dance, and words of welcome. The assembly, led by their girls, reflected their confidence and the school’s commitment to the arts as well as academics. The Principal spoke of the tremendous benefits of an international relationship and the notion that while there are differences between cultures, there are more similarities than one would think. She expressed her belief that as Round Square schools we share a belief in service and that our responsibility regardless of where we are is to ensure that we reflect the goodness in humanity. I concur, and my five days in India have confirmed this even more strongly.
As I spent time at VDJS and travelling with our hosts, I was able to engage in conversations with students and staff, providing me with additional insights into the vast number of similarities we share with respect to values, education and issues surrounding both.
Both SCS and VDJS pride themselves in their girls’ rigorous education, and our girls are encouraged to engage in school life and to balance academics with co-curricular activities. We were fortunate to be able to attend a student model parliament while at the school, and it was clear that debate, confidence and strong convictions are celebrated at VDJS as much as at SCS.
Coupled with my travel to India and VDJS, I have been reading an intriguing book entitled The Smartest Kids in the World And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. Ripley’s book was written in response to research about education she had come across in her years as a journalist and the discrepancies in educational performance in various countries. Ripley followed three students as they traveled to countries outside the United States to participate in exchanges in three educationally high-ranking countries. At the end of her book, Ripley suggests some key considerations to learning about a school. Included is the importance of talking to the students and listening to the parents from a school, as they will provide honest perspectives on a school experience. In addition, Ripley suggests that one should ‘ignore the shiny objects,’ stating that “when looking for a world-class education, remember that people always matter more than props.” Her final suggestion is one that I appreciate greatly. Ripley suggests asking the Principal the hard questions such as how teachers are chosen, how the School supports instructional improvement, how the School measures success and finally how the School ensures adequate rigour.
The timeliness of reading The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way during my visit to VDJS has provided me with great insights as well as confidence in the work being done at our schools. Both schools possess engaged students, dedicated staff and hard work and focus in ensuring the best possible educational experience for our girls. Despite being halfway across the world from each other, we are aligned in our purpose and practice: providing a world-class education for our students.