Mind the gap is what has long defined our state of stay-and-study options in and around town. Now, a clutch of boarding schools looks set to plug that gap.
DPS Megacity at Rajarhat, that opened in 2004 and plans to start its boarding facilities in 2007. Lifestyle School at Sriniketan, on the outskirts of Santiniketan, that will open in April 2006. Pailan World School at Joka, that opened last year and will take in boarders in April 2006'
All these schools have a clear agenda ' to attract NRI children from the subcontinent and further West.
Suborno Bose, chairman, International Group, setting up Lifestyle School, says: 'NRIs hardly ever come to Bengal, even though there is a very strong educational culture here. Most go to the Doon valley, Delhi or Bangalore. But if we provide them with the right facilities, they will definitely be interested in sending their children over.'
The soft-launch of Lifestyle School has, apparently, received a 'strong response' from NRIs, especially from those in West Asia.
Piyush Kedia, director and promoter, DPS Megacity, will hard-sell the school in the Saarc countries before providing boarding facilities in 2007.
For Pailan World School, the target this year is the subcontinent. 'We want to first get a hold in the East and then move to countries in the West,' says Priyanka Sengupta, course coordinator at Pailan.
All these schools promise to play it by the book and offer the latest technological aids to synergise Indian culture with modern education. With sprawling campuses, state-of-the-art sports facilities, an array of extra-curricular activities and a choice of boards and degrees, they have ' at least on paper ' all that an NRI looks for.
'Sports, food and security are of particular concern to NRIs,' explains Sengupta. So, while Pailan has hired Australia-based Westfields Sports as its consultant, the other two are not lagging behind, either.
The name of the game is swimming, cricket, tennis, basketball, football, indoor sports, water sports, athletics or golf.
Tech tools include closed-circuit TV cameras, computers in all classrooms and dormitories, audio-visual facilities and online libraries. At Pailan, wireless radios have been installed in school buses for children's security.
The bigger the better seems to be the education mantra. Lifestyle School, spread over 10 acres, fringed by a river and a reserve forest, will start with 160 students from classes IV to VII in 2006. Pailan World School is on a 40-acre campus and will start with classes V to VII with a capacity of 400. DPS Megacity, on 14 acres, will start with classes IV to VIII and a capacity of 400 children in 2007.
The fees for Lifestyle School will be Rs 1.25 lakh a year to begin with, while Pailan is likely to charge between Rs 15,000 and 16,000 a month. DPS Megacity is yet to work out its fee structure.