The Chronicle Of Convent Education In India: Why Is There This Hype Around Girls Who Are ‘Convent Educated’?

By Shibika Suresh:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 [The Bible]

covent schoolsThere was a time in India when ‘convent’ education was the most ‘coveted’ form of school education, and it was not without reason. The education at a convent school is still based strongly on the idea of imparting and extending discipline. The extremely high educational standard that was imparted in such schools turned out to be their uniqueness. The behaviour that young, impressionable girls got to see and learn from their teachers, acted as a strong foundation on which their discipline in school and otherwise was based. Being an English medium school, students were expected to talk in English and the nuns ensured that the accent was right. To many convent-educated, it seemed that not talking in English at school was sort of an offence. Undoubtedly, there has been a kind of legacy that has stayed attached to convent education and this has compelled parents to send their children to the best convent school irrespective of numerous private schools where it is easy to get admitted and which are more easily accessible.

A critical focus on the intricacies reveals that the products of such institutions might be headstrong individuals, but when they come out of their hard-boiled eggs, they are in for a surprise.

The idea of including the education of the young amongst the occupations of a religious community (Christianity, in this case) has been here for a while now, and is practically as old as that of the religious life for women itself. The entire institution of convent education, especially in the Indian educational scenario, has been highly overrated. It is just another unsuccessful attempt of aping the West, like we have done by introducing the four-year courses in Delhi University. The fact that the British brought convent education to India makes the Oriental gaze all the more predominant.

One of the appreciated changes that have been brought about by the Christian missionary-run educational institutions is that they have tried to rid themselves of the ‘snob factory’ tag by making the education more inclusive – bringing in children from the villages and other economically and socially backward sectors. But somewhere along the way, in their attempts to reach the poor and needy, they have compromised on the quality of the teaching staff. This can also be linked to the fact that there is a huge increase in the teacher student ratios. In earlier times, convent schools used to admit only a limited number of children. Now there are as many as sixty students in a class. Without a doubt, this affects the quality of teaching. All it takes is a few calls to the right people and the right amount of money you are willing to shell out.

And so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”- Titus 2:4-5 [The Bible]

Though the teachers and learners of convent educational institutions would say otherwise, it may so appear that convent school education can just teach girls how to be good ladies, put the cutlery nicely and how to buckle up dresses properly. In fact, there is a growing trend in the Indian social scenario where the girl’s chance of a wealthy match improves sharply if she has been to a convent.

So now the Indian bride-to-be has to be very fair, beautiful, homely and house-trained, needs to have a decent bank balance and is supposed to be convent-educated. Because this is the word of God.

Though many convent-educated women say that no non-Christian was brainwashed to follow the faith, there have been many instances where beliefs of the church have been misused for a different kind of propaganda. For instance, in a convent school in Chennai, a child was reprimanded for reading Harry Potter as it was supposed to be “against the Holy Spirit”. Elsewhere, a child was scolded thoroughly because she had a pencil box shaped like the little mermaid as it was perceived to be ‘indecent’.

At a time when everyone is moving towards practical and innovative education, convents are more traditional and conventional in their teaching styles. And though many convent schools still have the same reputation and quality of education that they did earlier, most of them have definitely lost their purpose.

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About The Author

Shibika is a 1st year student of B.A(hons) Mass Media and Mass Communication, University of Delhi. She is a trained classical dancer, besides being an active theatre-enthusiast. She is an avid reader of fiction, and her favourite authors include Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown and Mary Higgins Clark. She also likes listening to music and watching movies.

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9 Responses

  1. aprilblossom8

    I’m surprised that you haven’t covered the point that the tuition fees of these convent schools is comparatively very low than other private schools, hence could be one reason why parents want their kids to get a convent education. The other fact when you mention that “convents are more traditional and conventional in their teaching styles.” , well… I have seen many convent schools fully technologically equipped with Multimedia rooms, Smart Boards, TV & computers in every classroom and if this is your depiction of “conventional teaching style” then my bad that I couldn’t fathom your article. I’m surprised (again :P) with the amount of research done for this article.

    P.S Aur haan ek baat aur. Iss article ka ‘was’ & ‘were’ hila hua hai. Convents still imparts high educational standards, students are expected to converse in English as per the so-called ‘requirement’ of the concrete, corporate jungle we live in. :)

  2. bansi dhameja

    Out of my personal experience I can say that there is no brainwashing in convent schools. The best part of convent schools I find is that they are laying sufficient emphasis on moral education which our normal private school are lacking. Convent schools are not business institutions where as other private school are run to earn money without bothering about other aspects of education. THEIR ARE CASE OF STUDENTS TAKING DRUGS AND INDULGING IN OTHER HATEFUL ACTIVITIES AND THE SCHOOL AUTHORITIES ARE UN CONCERNED IN MOST CASES. THERE EDUCATION SEEMS TO BE DEVOID OF MORAL VALUES.
    Discouraging reading Harry Potters or other materials during school hours perhaps is not improper.

    • Shibika_Suresh

      Thank you so much for you feedback.
      I would like to mention here that no educational institution is perfect in all regards, including Convent schools which are not as perfect as you believe them to be. Before writing this feature, personally I had no opinion about Convent schools or the kind of education they impart. I talked to people associated with Convent schools as well as people from other educational institutions, along with a lot of internet research and then came up with these arguments. This is not to show that private schools are in any way superior to Convent schools in their teaching methodology or the ideas they propagate.

      Secondly, do you mean to say that the instances regarding “students taking drugs and indulging in other hateful activities” take place only in Private schools and not in Convent schools? Rebels are everywhere, please do observe your surroundings carefully!

      Also, let us not get into this discussion about schools and their mottos. All of us know what the motto says and what really happens. One must realise that one does not live in a Utopian, idealist world where all is as it seems. To live in such a bubble is sheer stupidity.

      Finally, I would like to say that effective education happens when what is taught in the classrooms, the “morals” and the “values”, takes a forefront in the social sphere. By and large, Convent schools as well as private schools in most cases have failed to do so.

  3. Palak Bhambri

    The Convent brigade is sure to jump on that one! It’s their blooming and ‘blossoming’ process. These elegant women are mostly surprised than be a sport. True, they couldn’t fathom the depth of the article because they think of unconventionality and technology up-gradation to be the same thing. The tuition fees might be low, but the general class do not have a chance anyway because of the extensive quotas for Christians. And let me tell you that the Missionaries of Charity of the Christian association have enough money already, you wouldn’t even know where it comes from. The good part is, iss article ne hilaya!

  4. Shibika_Suresh

    aprilblossom8: Thank you so much for your comment. I would like to clarify a few things here. The matter of tution fees is very trivial here, being as there are many government as well as private schools who have much lower tution fees than some Convent schools. As far as the mention of Convent schools being traditional and conventional in their teaching styles, I meant to say that in terms of what is taught in the classrooms. The Smart Boards may be modern but what I was referring to was what is being taught through those Smart Boards. I hope you can fathom it now. ( :D )

  5. Raj

    I studied in a co-ed “convent”. Their quality of English education was excellent, along with the teaching of etiquette etc.

  6. Abhilasha Purwar

    This article is an extreme level generalization.
    1) There are countless convent school of varying nature.
    2) There are countless private school with exactly the same features you have talked about for convent schools.
    3) My personal experience of studying in a convent school ( I attended six schools: Private, government and convent), was absolutely opposite to what you have generalized.

    – Convent schools do not create snobs or the obedient girls that so nicely have generalized me and many like me to be.
    – Convent schools do teach good english and biology and history and geography, all of which are very good for a students well round development
    – Convent schools do emphasize on good speaking and writing skills in English, Hindi or another regional language, if it is in the course. Knowing a language nicely, is the first step towards understanding anything.
    – The sisters in convent schools teach empathy, simplicity, and fairness, something that private schools miss very strongly amid the fashionable teachers who worry more about their looks, their husbands, their children, rather than their students.

    4) SS: “At a time when everyone is moving towards practical and innovative education, convents are more traditional and conventional in their teaching styles. And though many convent schools still have the same reputation and quality of education that they did earlier, most of them have definitely lost their purpose.”

    -What is practical and innovative education? What is so complicated about education and so impractical about it that you need innovation ? Is studying Julius Ceaser impractical ? Is studying about Maurya civilization impractical?
    – What is bad with traditional and conventional teaching style? In my understanding, conventional and traditional teaching style means good teachers teaching by a good book in a nice manner with nice that all the students are able to understand.
    – The purpose of convent schools earlier was to “impart quality education to students and make them a better human” and is now to :impact quality education to students and make them a better human”. . While, the purpose of your private schools was to put a lot of fancy things in the school and collect a heavy duty fees and make a lot of money in the name of providing education.

    • Saloni

      I agree with you Abhilasha … the article is extreme generalization and some more deep understanding of the convents should be done before pointing the finger on them!

      I mean there are convents and then there are convents … just like other schools. The mention of convent education and good marriages together … are you sure Shibika you wanted to talk about schools and not finishing school.

      And the convents might have been used to propagate ‘hidden agendas’ at some point of time … but that’s not there any more now … majorly! Most of the convents do have local teachers and thus no fear of any religious interventions in studies or otherwise.

      The article’s title is misleading if i might say … it caught my attention coz i thought it would be about how girls from convent school are looked at differently by other people around and singled out for no particular reason … well most of the times!

      Interesting idea … may be i can pen down that …! :)

  7. Timisha

    I completely disagree with the statement,”convent school education can just teach girls how to be good ladies, put the cutlery nicely and how to buckle up dresses properly.”
    I have studied in a convent school and the vista is completely different.We cannot generalise the whole institution,on the basis of some examples.
    Plus,someone already mentioned – “you haven’t covered the point that the tuition fees of these convent schools is comparatively very low than other private schools, hence could be one reason why parents want their kids to get a convent education.”
    There is some research to be done from your side.
    Thank you :)