Until the late 1980s, state schools were coveted by Indian families seeking the best education for their child. Senior bureaucrats and prominent local businessmen clamoured with everyone else, to the point of subtly pulling strings to get their kids enrolled.
But that’s no longer the case. India’s growing middle-class have been leaving state-run schools in a steady exodus ever since, preferring private and international schools, despite them costing exorbitantly more. As demand grew, so did the number of schools catering to the rich and influential, armed with eye-watering price tags and a higher sense of exclusivity. Parents are willing to invest everything in their children’s education, and India’s rich and famous are clearly no exception.
Here are the top five schools catering to the elite of Indian society:
1. Doon School
Established in 1935, the Doon School is one of the earliest to define what an elite private education in this country is like. Demand for a seat in this all-boys, full boarding institution comes from almost every Indian state each year, as well as from Indian families overseas. School fees are presently set at Rs 10,25,000 per annum and incidental expenses are estimated at around Rs 25,000 per term, according to the school’s website (US$1 = Rs71.44).
Notable alumni include former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Congress leaders Madhavrao Scindia, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Kamal Nath, politician (and son of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi) Rahul Gandhi, Hero Group’s Sunil Munjal.
What started as an English lady’s wish to create a preparatory step for English boarding schools in India – doing so with just £1,000 in hand – is now known as one of the most respected schools in the country. The Girls’ School charges Rs 6,25,000 per annum, while the Boys’ School charges Rs 5,00,000 per annum.
Politician and Cabinet Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, former cricket captain of India Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, actress Kareena Kapoor and president of All India Democratic Women’s Association Subhashini Ali are among the graduates of Welham School.
Ranked as the no. 2 boarding school in the country since 2017/18 by Education World, this boarding school, located in the Fort of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, began with royal beginnings. Only nobles and princes of royal families were admitted when the school first opened, though this is no longer practised today. Boarding, lodging and tuition fees now amount to Rs. 7,50,000 annually. Additional costs for clothing, medical attention, trips, special catering, books and stationery etc amount to Rs 100,000.
Famous alumni include Secretary General of Consumer Unity & Trust Society Pradeep S Mehta, nationally acclaimed Sound Designer and Recordist Hitendra Ghosh and decorated soldier for the Indian army Lieutenant General Sami Khan.
Located in Juhu, Mumbai, this IB and ICSE school is one with many enviable facilities: WiFi connectivity across the whole campus, an auditorium, two games rooms, a splash pool and 25m eight-lane swimming pool, a gymnasium, five state-of-the-art science laboratories, two libraries, an audio-visual room, two music rooms, three computer centres, two drama/dance studios, three art and design studios, a design technology studio, a medical room, etc.
Fees start at Rs 6,90,000 at the playschool level and go up to Rs 10,90,000 per annum for class 12. Children of Bollywood star couples like Kajol and Ajay Devgan, as well as Twinkle Khanna and Ashkay Kumar reportedly study here.
5. Mayo College
One of the oldest public boarding schools in the country, Mayo College was founded in 1875 by Richard Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo who was also the Viceroy of India from 1869 to 1872. Today, its smart campus is home to a teacher-student ratio of 1:10, with 20 different sports played and 18 different co-curricular programs. School fees for residents are 6,50,000 per annum for Indian residents and Rs 13,00,000 per annum for non-residens.
Winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Indra Sinha, former Chief Justice of the International Court of Justice at The Hague Maharaj Nagendra Singh of Dungarpur, and acclaimed mathematician Eknath Ghate are among the luminaries who studied here.