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Learning away from home

  • Published at 11:56 pm July 2nd, 2019

Should you send your children to boarding school?

The concept of boarding school is not very popular in our country. Our neighbour India is fortunate to have a good number of such traditional schools spread across the country. Unfortunately, we did not inherit this fine system of schooling from the British Raj.

But we do have some reputed institutes like Cadet Colleges -- though small in number, the quality of their education still shines.

The Bangladesh Army also runs a very efficient boarding school named Military Collegiate School Khulna which is the largest in the country. The latest experiment in this regard is being carried out in a far-flung area close to Jaflong, Sylhet, named Jaflong Valley Boarding School (JVBS).

The JVBS authorities have been inspired by the idea of prestigious schools such as Eton and Harrow in the UK.

Now, what purpose do these special schools serve? Who are the people that send children to these schools quite early in their childhood? How are these institutions organized to take care of the boys and girls who leave their parents at such a tender age? At a time when young children are supposed to be nurtured at their homes in parental care, what drives them to be in such schools?

Well, there could be many factors and even compulsions leading to such decisions by the parents. This could be parents’ nature of job where they are unable to care for and give enough time for their children. The success story of students from these schools can also be another motivating force.

An ideal boarding school needs to have adequate facilities to build up the body and mind of all its students. In addition to having facilities for studies, it must provide them with nutritious food, safe accommodation, adequate medical facility, services such as laundry and barbers, and elaborate arrangement for sports.

Extra-curricular activities in the form of limited games and sports, debate, drama, etc may come as a part of the usual process. But what actually makes a boarding school stand out is its capacity to extend comprehensive support in transforming young boys and girls into confident human beings. 

It is encouraging that some very successful entrepreneurs have come forward to establish an enormous institution like the Jaflong Valley Boarding School. A visit to their website will give a comprehensive idea about the school. As the name implies, they definitely have been inspired by the success of traditional institutes like Assam Valley School just across the border.

Considering the social standings of these very reputed and successful entrepreneurs, it is evident that they have not founded it out of any business motives. It can be assumed that, among other driving forces which led the noble entrepreneurs to go for this venture, it is to develop our next progeny into responsible and able citizens of global standard. This could be part of their corporate social responsibility.

The following are some the essential aspects which can attract and convince parents to make a decision to let their sons and daughters into such schools:

1. A safe and secure environment for the boarders

2. Adequate sports facility to keep them happily engaged

3. Quality teachers who are not only able to guide them confidently with the academic curriculum but also help them pursue and unleash their creativity in other aspects

4. Discipline to ensure order in everything they pursue 

5. Access to technology 

The aspects of developing leadership qualities, language skills are a must, which are to be ingrained in the system. These do not come in handy with only following textbooks. The school needs to work out a whole gamut of activities ensuring optimum utilization of resources.

The involvement of the Bangladesh military in establishing and successfully running a good number of quality institutions throughout the country is enviable. The Cantonment-based society is spreading education in a sustainable manner.

This can be replicated by others. These fine institutes are run by experienced army officers. Usually, they are not of education background, but are mostly from the mainstream of army.

But what they have is decades of experience in mastering the nitty-gritties of administration and facing its inherent challenges, crisis management, and ability to impart leadership by setting personal examples.

For every military officer, in some part of his career, has to learn the art of preparing and following lesson plans and syllabi, make elaborate assessment of performance in training courses for their subordinates.

The other qualities they have is an eye for minor details and the tenacity to supervise, monitor, and ensure seemingly unimportant aspects such as running the kitchen and dining facilities, house-keeping, maintaining health and hygiene of dorms, cleaning of washrooms, and the like. These are very important aspects to ensure a safe, healthy, and happy living environment. 

On the part of the parents, a lot of investment, both financial and emotional, goes into sending their children to a school far from home. Boarding school authorities should keep that aspect in mind in order to give the pupils the love, care, and grooming that they need for a fulfilling future. 

Brigadier General Qazi Abidus Samad (Retd) was involved in starting a boarding school from scratch and making it functional.