Doon School: A Pride in India

The Doon School which is called informally Doon is a selective all-boys boarding school in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The school receives about 540 applications every year from various parts of the country
By Edunews Team


Introduction: The Doon School which is called informally Doon is a selective all-boys boarding school in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.   The school was established in 1935 by Satish Ranjan Das, a lawyer from Kolkata and advocate-general of Bengal, who predicted a school modelled on the British public school while remaining conscious of Indian ambitions and desires. He became a member of the Viceroy`s Executive Council of Lord Irwin in 1927. The school admitted its first batch of students on 10 September 1935, and formally started on 27 October 1935, presided by Lord Willingdon. The school`s first headmaster was Arthur E. Foot, an English teacher who had spent nine years as a science master at Eton College, England. It is a new kind of Indian public school that was modelled on traditional British public schools. Yet it was distinctively Indian in its moral and spiritual outlook and open to all castes and communities. Das travelled widely all over India and collected 4 million, but at the time of his death in 1928 had raised only 1 million in cash and a further 1 million in promises. Das, therefore, formed the Indian Public Schools Society (IPSS), with the objective of founding new public schools in India that would admit students regardless of caste, creed or social status.

Intake: The school houses roughly 500 pupils aged 12 to 18, and admission is based on a competitive entrance examination and personal interview with the headmaster. Every year boy is admitted in only two-year groups: seventh grade in January and eighth grade in April. As of May 2021, boys from 28 Indian states as well as 39 non-resident Indians and foreign nationals were studying at Doon. The school is fully residential; therefore boys and most teachers live on campus. In the tenth standard/ grade, students appear for Cambridge IGCSE examinations, and for the final two years, they can select between the Indian School Certificate and International Baccalaureate. A broad range of 80 extra-curricular activities is offered to the boys. Early masters such as R.L. Holds worth, J.A.K. Martyn, Jack Gibson and Gurdial Singh established a strong tradition of mountaineering at school. 

Ambience: The school is located on the site of the Forest Research Institute and is home to diverse flora and fauna. Doon school remains for boys only despite continued pressure from political leaders to become coeducational. Old boys of the school are known as `Discos. Doon school has been ranked the best all-boys residential school in India consistently. Although the school has often been cited as `Eton of India` by media outlets such as the BBC, New York Times, Guardian, Spectator, Daily Telegraph, and Washington Post, it eschews the label. Doon often draws attention, and sometimes criticism, from the media for the perceived disproportionate influence of its alumni in spheres such as Indian politics, business, or culture. 

Alumni: The school has educated a wide range of notable alumni, including politicians, diplomats, artists, writers and business people. Among the former pupils of Doon is the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, his son Rahul Gandhi, artist Anish Kapoor, authors Vikram Seth, Ramchandra Guha and Amitav Ghosh, fashion designer, Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Naveen Patnaik Tarun Tahiliani, mountaineer Nandu Jayal, Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra, and social and environmental activists, Bunker Roy and Lalit Pande and so on.

Governance and organization: The school is owned by the Indian Public Schools` Society (IPSS), a non-profit entity. This was registered by S.R. Das in 1928 with the aim of establishing public schools in India. Under the IPSS, the Board of Governors supervises all matters of Doon. The current board comprises thirteen members and is chaired by Sunil Kant Munjal, an alumnus. At the intramural level, the School Council, comprising the headmaster, heads of department, staff and student representatives from each house, is responsible for legislating and discussing school policies. 

Admission, fees and Scholarships: The school receives about 540 applications every year from various parts of the country. The school admits 80 students in seventh grade and 14 in eighth grade, and these numbers have varied over time. Once admission is secured, a student can apply for around 30 scholarships or bursaries. Some are reserved for boys outstanding in sports or arts, and others for those from particular regions or the children of armed forces personnel. As of April 2020, the annual school fee for Indian students was Rs 10,250,000, and Rs 12,810,000 for foreign nationals or non-resident Indians. The monetary value of financial aid ranges from fifty per cent of the tuition fee to being fully funded. Amidst criticism from parents over rising fees, the last headmaster, Matthew Raggett, has stated that over 25% of Doon`s students receive needs-based bursaries, and the school is working towards a completely needs-blind admission policy.

Infrastructure: The buildings on campus include the Main Building, which houses offices and classrooms, structures for sports facilities, science blocks, music school, library, arts and media centre, auditorium, amphitheatre, dining hall, wellness centre, recycling and waste-treatment plants, and masters` residences. The school`s amphitheatre, known as Rose Bowl, was constructed by the boys and masters in the early-1930s over two years and the same was refurbished in 2009. The construction of the Main Building, then in FRI, was carried out by Imperial Public Works Department, and completed in 1911.

 Its Renaissance-style architecture was inspired by Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza, Italy. Many buildings on the campus have been designed by notable Indian architects or firms. The library was designed by Romi Khosla, the Biology block by Ram Sharma, teachers` residences by Anagram Architects, and the new Arts and Media Centre, which was inaugurated in October 2010 and shortlisted for the 2010 World Architecture News Education Award, by alumnus Sandeep Khosla. The Arts and Media Centre houses painting, ceramic, sculpture, and textile studios, along with a lecture hall, film and photography studio, publications` room and exhibition galleries. In 2016, the school`s Main Building received the "Honorable Mention" under the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, following the conservation work carried out by Aishwarya Tipnis Architects on the more than a century-old building.

Curriculum: The school practices a five-and-a-half-day week consisting of 40 periods each of 40 minutes. The school day begins with boys having Chhota haazri before doing callisthenics outdoors on the playing fields, followed by classes. On Sundays, boys are free to pursue any activity or sport. Seniors may go into the town for leisure on designated Sundays, with permission from the housemaster of their respective houses. The student-teacher ratio at the school is 10:1, therefore one to one monitoring is practicable. Doon pupils take the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams in tenth grade, which replaced the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education in 2017, and are thereafter offered two strands for the final two years: International Baccalaureate (IB) or Indian School Certificate (ISC).

The academic year has three terms: spring, summer and autumn. The autumn term runs from August to the year-end final examinations in November, after which the boys are promoted to the new class in February. Each term has a test week and end-of-term examinations known as trials. Boys are able to visit teachers, most of whom live on campus, for further academic help. Additionally, each boy is assigned a `Tutor` – a School Master affiliated with their boarding house, which is responsible for their pastoral welfare and may coordinate academic help when requested. Subjects on offer include geography, political science, history, economics, accountancy, commerce, environmental studies, art and design, psychology, music, English, Hindi, Sanskrit and STEM subjects. Doon`s foreign language offerings include French, German and Spanish. The curriculum is in tune with the National Education Policy 2020. The school`s Careers Information, Education and Guidance Department have offered pupils guidance on career paths, college applications, entrance exams and standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. 

Extracurricular activities: Sports are compulsory for students. The school has over 30 acres of playing fields, the largest of which are Skinner`s Field and the Main Field. Cricket and hockey dominate the sports calendar in the spring term, while football, athletics and boxing are played in the autumn term. Other sports such as tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash, basketball, swimming and gymnastics are played all year round. Inter-house matches are played in cricket, hockey, football, boxing and basketball. 

Sports facilities cover a 25-metre swimming pool, a boxing ring and a multi-purpose hall with a gymnasium, yoga studio, and facilities for indoor badminton, basketball and table tennis. There are two artificial turf cricket pitches, five basketball courts, four tennis courts, four squash courts, eight cricket nets, and seven fields for hockey and football. In 2014, the school inaugurated a shooting range on campus. Golf is offered to boys in partnership with local golf courses. 

Doon hosts the annual Afzal Khan Memorial Basketball Tournament, an inter-school tournament that draws all major school basketball teams of India. Boys visit other schools and academies from time to time to take part in various tournaments. For skill improvement, the school often invites professional sports bodies to hold training camps, which are usually open to students from across India. In 2013, a football coaching camp was held in association with Barça Academy, the official training school of FC Barcelona, and in January 2015, coaches from the Marylebone Cricket Club held a week-long cricket training camp on the school grounds. Many other activities which include Mountaineering are greatly encouraged. Some of the students have climbed the Himalayan mountain and broken the records.