|Case Study Research - A Model of Best Practice at Loreto Day School, Sealdah, Calcutta - Occasional paper No.1 (DFID, 1998, 36 p.)|
This study has arisen out of the need to document the practices of exceptional and experimental schools in India. The value of profiling unique cases of 'best practice' in a context where it is acknowledged that ".. after 50 years of independence, India's progress in the sphere of education has been woefully inadequate" is self-evident (Shukla and Kaul, 1998, p. 14). At this time in the history of Indian education, models of good practice are sorely needed to address a vacuum which exists in theorising and practising a new departure in Indian Education. Whilst a small and necessarily limited case study of a single school with roots in Anglo-Irish Catholic missionary tradition seems hardly the vehicle for turning the story of education in India since 1947 from a tale of woe into a model for widespread change, vision and hope, it does address itself to several important issues.
Both the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, and the Revised Policy Formation (RPF) 1992 of the Government of India, concerned themselves with a number of fundamental social and political dimensions of education. These could be summed up as the view that education is a basic education right, that it has a cultural role in nation-building, that it is linked to production, productivity and the economy, and finally, that it is the bedrock on which social equality rests and might be achieved (see Shotton, 1998, p. 7). But the gap between the rhetoric of policy and the realities of classroom life is self-evident. The dream of Universal Primary Education (UPE) has yet to be realised in India where more than half the world's children who should be in primary school, are not. Out of 128 million children missing from the school rolls worldwide, some 64 million ply their trade on the streets and fields of India. So, where a school appears to take seriously the imperative of children's rights, to be sensitive to its multi-faith community, to build vocational skills among para-teachers, parents and streetchildren, and to confront the notion of privilege from the paradoxical position of its own privilege, such a school stands apart.
This case study of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, Calcutta, is an attempt to document a process of change within a school over a period of twenty years - a school transformation which has been marked by a movement away from privilege and towards community. At the same time, the school has managed to integrate rich and poor children, and without resorting to any form of selection, has retained high quality results. It is acknowledged at the outset that no school offers a perfect and transferable model which can be replicated in any other setting, against any other backdrop. Yet, within the uniqueness of Loreto Sealdah are contained the characteristics and values which have driven the process of change, and these may be applied more generally. Models of best practice which are grounded in the realities of a particular context and school life are capable both of refining our understanding of what constitutes a good education, as well as informing and improving practice in other schools.
This research has been undertaken as an independent funded project of DFID Education Projects Office, British Council Division, New Delhi. I acknowledge with thanks the comments and suggestions of Ms Barbara Payne (DFID), Dr Tom Welsh (EPO) and Sister Cyril (Loreto Day School, Sealdah). I would also like to thank the teaching and administrative staff; pupils, both 'regular' and 'rainbow'; and the community at Loreto Sealdah for their time, openness and hospitality.
Tansy Jessop, April