Class apart

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 11.11.09

Whenever we mentioned we were students of Hare School, people turned to look at us,” says Biswanath Basak, a Calcutta-based tax consultant and amateur footballer who passed Plus Two from this institution in 1996. That’s the sense of belonging and pride David Hare School instils in its students.

And that’s hardly surprising, given the school’s formidable history. Set up in 1818 — that’s the official date but sources say it is even older — by Scottish watch-maker and philanthropist David Hare, “the school has given the country a large number of able and eminent citizens”. Among its notable alumni are scientists Jagadish Chandra Bose and Meghnad Saha, film makers Pramathesh Barua and Guru Dutt, former Bangladesh President Zia-ur-Rehman, dramatists Dinabandhu Mitra and Girish Chandra Ghosh, scientist-entrepreneur Prafulla Chandra Roy, grandmaster Dibyendu Baruah… the list is endless.

This boys-only government school runs classes I to XII under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education. The medium of instruction is Bengali. Science, arts and commerce are offered in Plus Two.

Located on busy College Street, Hare School rubs shoulders, literally, with Presidency College on one side and Calcutta University on the other. Opposite is another famed institution, Hindu School.

But enter the imposing Victorian façade, and the state of affairs makes you wonder if it is the same school that produced so many geniuses. Infrastructure needs a boost, the library is difficult to access, and many students skip classes to make time for private tuition.

The authorities would, of course, like to differ. “The school continues to be the choice of a large section of middle-class families in Calcutta,” asserts Dilip Kumar Syamal, assistant headmaster in charge. “And why not, we have been consistently producing good results at both the secondary and higher secondary levels. Our boys figure in the top 10 list every year.”

True, there is still enough reason to rejoice. There are warm ties between teachers and students, who are groomed in cultural activities and sports as well. There aren’t any formal clubs, but seminars, quizzes, music and sports events, excursions and workshops are organised on a regular basis. “The ambience is just right to develop extra-curricular passions,” says Ambarish Mallick, a commerce student of the ‘96 batch who has found a footing in the city’s thriving group theatre scene.

“Our pattern of education is in keeping with the philosophy of David Hare,” says Anit Ray, a teacher of Bengali since 1992. “The man knew exactly how students should be groomed, what they should learn and what they would need.” Ray is happy to note that not all students hanker after marks. “It’s sad that today success is often judged in terms of marks obtained,” he says. “I have had many students who exhibited excellence in some field or the other, apart from studies. There is pressure from various quarters — the board, political circles and parents — but we try to do our best.”

Agrees Pranab Kumar Banerjee, currently the longest serving faculty member at David Hare. “It’s the community life that keeps us going,” says the teacher of English who joined the school in ’86.

And the community extends to former students as well. One of the things those associated with the school takes pride in is the science centre. Ex-students visit their alma mater on Saturdays after classes to help juniors. Students are also encouraged to prepare models pertaining to biology, physics, chemistry, electronics and so on. “These are exhibited at science forums, including the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum,” says Ashok Kumar Panda, a teacher of statistics and the driving force behind the centre.

So how do the students rate their school? Ask Upamanyu Moitra, a student of Class XI. “My teachers have always guided and encouraged me to follow my dreams,” says the boy who has never taken private tuition nor feels the need to join the rat race of entrance exams. “I wish to study astrophysics. To me, the sky is the limit,” smiles Moitra.

Vital Statistics

WHAT IS IT? The oldest Western-type school in Asia

WHO’S THE BOSS? Dilip Kumar Syamal is the assistant headmaster in charge

Where is it? 87, College Street, Calcutta-700073 Phone: 22413868

pros Good teacher-student ties, large ground for sports

Cons Poor infrastructure and administration