Published: 05th January 2021
The VidyaGyan story: This UP school hand-picks meritorious, underprivileged kids to place them on the track to success
You must have heard of Anurag, who bagged a 100 per cent scholarship to study at Cornell University. VidyaGyan in UP has been nurturing him and many other talented kids. We find out their story
It all started as an experiment back in 2009. Initiated by Shiv Nadar Foundation, VidyaGyan Leadership Academy, Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh wanted to level the educational playfield by providing opportunities to children from economically backward families from all the 75 districts of UP. Opportunities that help them learn from the best, play with abandon, discover latent talents and aspire for prestigious higher education opportunities. Their journey would start from class VI and VidyaGyan would nurture them till class XII.
At play | (Pic: VidyaGyan)
So the school’s first litmus test came in 2016, with their outgoing batch of 190 students. Guess the average of the outgoing class. It was a whopping 85 per cent. Cut to last year, when the average was 93.8 percent. There is something that VidyaGyan is doing right, especially since some of their 570 alumni are currently studying at Cornell University, AIIMS, TISS and so on. We try to decode the formula that VidyaGyan seems to have cracked and are guided by Bishwajit Banerjee, Principal, VidyaGyan Bulandshahr.
Eyes on the future prize
The most impressive facts about VidyaGyan is their counselling sessions, which start right from class VI. "Our students have been going to the best of the colleges and they have picked a diverse set of courses, from medical to engineering and design. In fact, about ten of them are currently studying in the US," says the principal with pride. And why not? A school that focuses on counselling sessions right from class VI is bound to show such results. We are informed that students are broken up into groups and encouraged to have informal conversations while being mentored by a teacher, right till class X. And it is from class IX that planned career counseling intervention begins. Personality assessment, aptitude testing and interest profiling — all this is taken care of by an external agency in class X. Then, counsellors suggest which career path they should follow and document it. "Teachers play a huge role at this point. Having taught the children for over five years, they know their students' capabilities like no one else does. Thus, their inputs are considered to be of utmost importance," says Banerjee, who has also been the principal of two branches of Delhi Public School in the past. Thus, with the input of counsellors, teachers and students, the career path is drawn out for them. And their success rate falls between 90 to 95 per cent.
They have two campuses, one at Bulandshahr and another Sitapur which came up in the year 2011
Class XI is all about academics and career talk and class XII is hand-holding them to every application process. "But that's not the challenge because they are bound to get admissions owing to their academic performance. Paying the fees is," points out Banerjee. The hunt for scholarship begins here and the external agency steps in and assists in the task. And it is this care that VidyaGyan takes, to ensure that their students have a bright academic and professional future long after they have left VidyaGyan, that makes it stand out, tall and proud, among the other schools.
Which combo do you choose?
Since VidyaGyan is residential, they are not bound by any particular subject combination which works out very well for students of class XI and XII. They can opt for all possible combos, Science and History or Fine Arts and Math, PT and Economics — you name it and they will make it happen for you. Very flexible things are that way at this school.
In class | (Pic: VidyaGyan)
But this is not all. Opportunity is the word of the day, every day, at VidyaGyan. All kinds of opportunities are floating in the air at the school, from sports to inter and intra-personal competitions. All the children have to do is carpe diem it. We are told that they excel in the olympiads conducted by Science Olympiad Foundation, tests conducted by Educational Initiatives and National Talent Search Examination (NTSE) conducted by NCERT. This year alone, 17 students have qualified for the first level of NTSE.
The Sitapur campus is spread across 26.70 acres. There are 30 classrooms in the school building for a total number of 533 students
While online classes are keeping things alive and kicking at VidyaGyan even during the pandemic, they are eager to throw open their gates to equally enthusiastic students who want to come back. But, of course, they place caution above everything else hence, are waiting for directives from the government. "But even when we do open, we will reopen in parts. First, only class XII students will come back, then class X and so on," says the principal.
Bishwajit Banerjee | (Pic: VidyaGyan)
"It is their own will that urges the children on. They know that if they do exceedingly well in the seven years with us, they can get into a reputed college with relatively low fees, say in Delhi like Lady Shri Ram College For Women. This thought motivates them and keeps them going," says the principal. So with no dearth of opportunities or with no end to the help that the school can extend, the students continue to soar high on wings carefully sewn by the good folk at VidyaGyan.
Hear it from the children
My father is educated, so he encouraged me to study as well. And studying at VidyaGyan really broadened my horizons, which was initially limited to my village. As a part of community service, we were even asked to educate our elders back in the village during vacations. After I cleared NEET, I try to guide NEET aspirants of my village through Instagram
Charul Honariya, AIIMS Delhi
I would take part in every activity possible and in class XII, I applied to Cornell University and I got through with a 100 per cent scholarship. When I did go there, I was quarantined and felt quite lonely. But all it took was a call to my friends and family to make me feel grateful again. I am pursuing Economics and Math here and I wish to pursue even my PG from the US and come back and make my country proud
Anurag Tiwari, Cornell University
When one of my teachers at VidyaGyan informed me about a course like Social Work, I knew this was the way for me to work for people. This and many small instances and experiences shaped my decision to pursue this course. It was this school that helped us see beyond the traditional career paths of doctor, engineer and IAS and show us there are other ways of giving back
Sanghmitra Maurya, TISS
When it comes to menstruation, there are many problems girls aren't able to share. So in the villages around VidyaGyan, we took the help of Asha workers and conducted a meeting with the women and with the help of local leaders, made sanitary napkins available to them. This initiative was carried out for six months in 2019. This is how I got interested in social work
Kshama Singh, TISS
Being from the founding batch of VidyaGyan, I still remember how hesitant I used to feel when it came to talking in English. But teachers were like parents to me. We would campaign in nearby villages and conduct street plays to spread awareness about education and other social issues. I recently completed my MBA and now, I am aspiring to write the UPSC exam
Komal Rani, Manager, Kinara Capital
A look at the admission process:
- As they have an MoU with the Uttar Pradesh Government, with the help of local authorities, information about VidyaGyan is spread
- They receive over two lakh applications who write exams in the 200 centres spread across the 75 districts of UP in two shifts
- About 15,000 students are shortlisted
- The criteria is that the family's income shouldn't be more than one lakh per year. So after family visits, about 200 or 250 students are admitted
For more on them, check out vidyagyan.in