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Opposition to proposed education policy
The newly-appointed headmaster of Doon School has expressed his displeasure at the Union HRD Minister's proposal to open up Indian education to foreign universities and schools. He said it was "wrong to exploit the education market of India".
OPPOSITION TO the proposal to open up Indian education to foreign universities and schools, has come from unusual quarters. No, it’s not the Left wingers or the Right-of-Centre gurukulwalas. Opposition has come from the newly-appointed headmaster of Doon School, in Dehradun. Dr Peter McLaughlin, while settling down to work, shared his views with the media, some of which were surprising given his background and the reputation the school.

McLaughlin looked very upset with the fact that some British schools were planning to establish themselves in India for profit, with a view to subsidising education back in the United Kingdom. “I think it would be wrong to exploit the education market of India. Nobody wants a McDonald’s in education.” So far this kind of opposition (to Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal's proposal) has come only from his political opponents. The Irish academician had previously been headmaster of Casterton School in the UK before taking up the new appointment at Doon. Dr McLaughlin had also worked as principal of the British International School in Egypt for six years. Talking about the fast pace at which India was changing, McLaughlin said, “India’s hour has come and I want Doon School to play its part in it.”

To the perception that Doon School has recently been producing more politicians with pedigree, than people famous in other spheres of life, McLaughlin replied with a smile, that politicians were important for society and if the school was producing good politicians, it was a great thing. In response to a question whether Doon was known more for its ‘elitist’ nature than anything else, the headmaster said that the system has stood the test of time and was producing thinking citizens.

“The Doon School has been and will remain a leader in producing thinking students. Education is not just about knowledge but about understanding to apply the knowledge and skills. These days, exam grades have become all-important. That’s a tragedy,” added the headmaster. But despite this, he is not in agreement with Sibal on scrapping the Class X examination. “Such a decision should not be rushed. The Class X board exam did put unnecessary pressure on a 15-year-old. It should be seen as the discipline which the class X board brings and should not be completely done away with,” added Dr McLaughlin.

On what he saw as lacking in the school, the headmaster said, “The school is very well-known in India but outside, it needs to be made more famous. I would like Doon to be as famous as Eton.” Coming to the oft-discussed issue of making the school co-educational, he said, “The Doon School will lose its greatness if that is done. It will become a different school. What is important is that it should be a good school. And it is a good school for boys,” said the headmaster. He believes that boys have the freedom to be boys in a boys’ school and girls have the freedom to be girls in a girls’ school. “They can be themselves and don’t have to be self-conscious,” he said.

He said that he would like to see Doon School leading the way in showing others that good education was possible without having to focus all waking hours on the computer or the black board. “Spending time in learning music or playing cricket works like a stress buster. Children can find out about themselves and decide what they would like to be in life. When one is young, from age 12 to 18, there are hundreds of possibilities. The arts feed the child’s imagination. If life is only limited to exams and grades, childhood is lost and depression sets in,” he said.

He said that the Doon School was not planning to switch over from the ISC to the CBSE. “Our boys are doing well at the ISC”. The new headmaster said that the biggest challenge before the school was to keep its heart and soul intact while keeping up with the changing times. “Over the past 74 years of its existence, the school has changed a lot and yet not lost its soul. It is a difficult task but has been done till now. So, staying the same and yet changing — this paradox is the biggest challenge.”

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