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School's in this summer

HOLISTIC LEARNING A view of The Blue Mountain School

HOLISTIC LEARNING A view of The Blue Mountain School  

An effort to revive an experimental school in Ooty

There was once a school that scoffed at classrooms, benches and mark sheets. It didn't have noisy hallways packed with boys and girls walking with finger on their lips. The boys and girls at The Blue Mountain School, Ooty, went trekking, and taking long walks in the forests. They had classes out on the lawns, looking over a just-developing Ooty. A year ago, however, all this came to an end when the school was closed as a result of administrative tussles. But the alumni, with a belief in its holistic system of education, have started work on reviving it. The school was the brainchild of F.G. Pearce, the renowned pioneer of the Indian Public School Movement. He had envisioned an alternative system of education when he started the Rishi Valley School, but felt it lacking in many ways. So in 1962, he converted the summer palace of the royal family of Vizianagaram in Ooty, into The Blue Mountain School, purely as an experiment in schooling. The school admitted only 10 students to each class, and even did away with examinations. Lawns became classrooms; the mountains and city life became props for geography and literature. Pearce was trying to create a dream learning environment - and this, the experimental school did successfully, for decades. Until last year. "The principal started taking too many liberties, and it became like his pet project," says S. Ananth, a garments retailer, and alumnus. A few alumni and members of the Trust decided a year ago, when the school closed, that they had to come together to reopen it.

"It might have started as an experiment, but the innovative method of teaching made sure that it ran successfully for decades, producing talented, sensible, enterprising individuals," says C. Chockalingam, another former student, and now a planter. The residential co-ed school encouraged hikes, treks, and outdoor nature camping. "When I was in Standard VIII, the whole school had a day off during the Bangladesh war," says Kannan, "We were all told clearly what was happening." He says that many people might think an alternative system of learning cuts the students off from the real world, but that it is true only in the sense that they aren't exposed to its pressures.

"Looking back now, the problems within the old Trust were to blame for the school's closing," says Kannan. "Also, since the strength of the school was small, it began draining the Trust funds. Now the fees have been increased, not for profit making, but so the school earns for itself." Affiliated to the Council for the ICSE, Blue Mountains School has now reopened admissions for the academic year 2005-06 since January. The new term begins on July 29 under principal Arun Agnihotri. For more details, call (423) 2443082/ 2444837.

ROHINI MOHAN

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