Surprising it may sound but 12 of the 13 students of Druk Padma Karpo School or `Rancho School’, as it is more popularly known now, cleared the Class X examination this year!

 This was the first batch of the school in Ladakh’s Shey that shot to fame after it featured in the Aamir Khan-starrer 3 Idiots . If the first batch in 2001 had only 13 students, at present the total strength is 705 with almost half of them being hostel-residents. 

Happy with the performance, principal Prasad Eledath says teaching is a challenge because most of the students are first generation learners with hardly any or very little exposure to the outside world. “They come from remote areas like Zanskar and Nubra Valley which are cut-off from the rest of the world for most part of the year.” 

Promoted by the Druk Padma Karpo Education Society, the school was partially destroyed in the flash floods and landslips that hit the town in 2010, but life has moved on. “Thankfully we did not have any casualties and we shifted the children just in time,” Mr. Eledath says.

Giving a lot of thought to the structure and design of the school, the building is shaped like a key and promotes education as the key to life. It is environment-friendly with no heaters, even in the severe winter that the region experiences. The buildings are oriented in such a manner that solar heating system keeps the rooms warm. During winters, when there is no sun, the school remains closed. 

Affiliated to the Jammu &Kashmir Board of School Education, the school provides education at par with any elite educational institution in the country, claims Mr. Eledath. The management has opened a branch in Khachhey for those who cannot come to the main school. Many more branches are proposed as the number of children is steadily increasing. 

Admitting that the film made the school popular, Mr. Eledath also says that a large number of visitors to the school had resulted in some level of interference with teaching. “All of what was shown in the film does not actually happen here, though we do focus more on projects and activities.” Now, visitors are not allowed beyond a point during the school hours. 

Tourists now prefer to eat Chinese or Tibetan food and have a cup of coffee at the adjoining ‘Rancho’s Coffee Shop’ that has become a landmark hangout! Most part of the school is visible from here.      

Yoga, meditation, and physical education form part of the school curriculum. “Teaching can also be a challenge because we come from a system where teachers do the talking. But under the Montessori system followed here, we let the students talk and ask,” explains the principal.   

Rudrani Dasgupta, who has been teaching here for the past two years, says that the students here do not come with any kind of baggage. A significant number of students do not want to leave Ladakh after schooling; a certain section, however, aspire to join the civil services. “I want to become an IAS and move to the plains,” says Regzin, a Class X student. 

There are some who even want to open hotels since tourism is a money-spinner in Ladakh now.

With mostly first-generation learners as pupils, the first batch of students at the now-famous ‘Rancho School’ in Ladakh passes out