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Education's new hub

With more and more schools and colleges coming up, Villianur is Pondicherry 's latest seat of learning, writes DEEPA H RAMAKRISHNAN


DESIGNED FOR THE NEW-AGE The imposing building of one of the schools

Villianur, south of Pondicherry, which borders Tamil Nadu, once famous for its industries, brick kilns and paddy fields is today known more as an educational hub with several arts and science colleges, teachers' training institutes and schools coming up. To provide better infrastructure and large playgrounds, these institutions prefer to be located away from the city.

"It is not possible to have a school on 15 acres of land inside the town. Due to lack of space, classrooms are crammed and schools are forced to share playgrounds. ," say academicians, who run the schools.Stansford International School in Moolakulam that opens on June 7 is affiliated to the Matriculation Board and has classes from pre-KG to Standard V. The kindergarten children are taught in the Montessori method. Learning Western dance and skating is compulsory. "The field of education is not new to us, we run five teachers' training colleges. We look at everything from the students' perspective," says Sam Paul, Director, Stansford International School. This school, as others in the area, provides transportation facility, uniforms, books, bag, shoes and socks to all students.

Aditya Vidhyashram School in Poraiyur, into its second year, has classes up to Standard X and is a residential-cum-day school. Admissions are open to this CBSE-affiliated school, which provides lunch and snacks for students.

"Saturdays are meant for extra curricular activities including music and sports. The day starts with yoga, which is compulsory. After this students spend time in the library and on the ground. In the afternoon, we have classes in spoken English," says Ashok Anand, Correspondent.

Sri Ramachandra Vidyalaya a school on M.G. Road, Muthialpet, now has a new management. It is run by Sri Ramachandra Educational Trust that provides free education to orphans, physically challenged and poor students. The school has a tie up with Hindi Prachara Sabha to give certificates to children when they complete various levels in Hindi at school. "We also have a tie up with the American Education Systems for computer training and by the time a student passes out, he or she will be able to make an HTML page. Yoga and abacus are compulsory," says Victor Vijayraj, Chairman and Correspondent.

Facilities for students

Another group of schools that functions mainly out of Villianur is the Acharya Group of Institutions, which runs B Ed colleges and four schools with several branches that come under the four boards — Matriculation, ICSC, CBSE and the State Board. "We cater to students from different backgrounds. Sampourna Vidhyalaya is for those who cannot afford high fee while Eklavya in Uppalam is the most expensive school run by the group. Eklavya has classes up to Standard IV and has a student teacher ratio of 1:15. All classrooms are air-conditioned and have libraries. We have provided space to keep their books in the school itself. The school, situated on 11 acres of land, has lots of co-curricular activities and children can choose from 10 games including lawn tennis. They can also choose to learn any of 10 musical instruments. In a year, students have six field trips and three projects," says J. Arawindan, chief mentor, Acharya Group.

Though we think more schools are opening every year because there aren't enough, the Education Department statistics say otherwise. According to statistics available, there are a total of 682 schools in the four regions of Pondicherry — Government (430), private (246) and Central Government (6). A total of 1,29,919 students study in Government schools and 98,740 in private schools. Last year, 21,157 children were admitted to Standard I of which, 8,955 went to Government schools and 12,202 to private. Students migrate from private to government schools after they get a good foundation and also if they are unable to pay the fee.

Despite new schools coming up, the established ones such as Petit Seminaire, St Joseph of Cluny, Amalorpavam, Prim Rose, Acharya Siksha Mandir, St Patricks and Sri Sankara Vidyalaya continue to draw crowds.

Increasing demand

"Every year we get hundreds of applications and are unable to meet the increasing demand for seats. This year we got 950 applications for 400 seats in LKG. For classes I to X, admissions are not open, but people still approach us. In the higher secondary, for 250 seats, we receive around 800 to 900 applications. But we believe in providing quality education," says Father Antonysamy, Principal, Petit Seminaire (meaning seminary for the young priests), which is one of the oldest schools in Pondicherry.

"The origin of our school, which started as a seminary in 1778, can be traced to the ruins at Arikamedu. The seminary was shifted to the present campus after 1792. At that time it housed both the minor and major seminaries and the name Minor Seminaire stuck. In 1844, there was a great synod of priests in Pondicherry, which decided to start schools for the development of the country. And so schools for both girls and boys were started. In 1846, the Petit Seminaire allowed non-seminarians too to study and we started with 89 students. Later the seminaries were shifted and in 1933 it became a school concentrating only on general education," says Father Antonysamy, who belongs to the Diocesan priests of Pondicherry, who run the school.

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