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The Spirit Of St. Columba's

Human Beings are not born equal. However, each human being is born unique. Each one has the right and potential to shine. The whole of Life, but especially the family and education in early life are fundamental environments in which each human being both discovers and gets the initial feel of one's innate potential.

The modern age, modern psychology and current sociological thought have all concurred that it is in inclusivity and not exclusivity that the best nurturing environment during the initial key years of a human being’s life can be established.

Psychology has helped us realise that that there are multiple intelligences and that all of us, to really reach our potential, must have the experience of growing holistically in ALL our multiple intelligences, while discovering the ones which are our strengths and having reasonable expectations of those which are not our strengths. In schools, these intelligences are discovered by the students with the mentoring of the teacher. The teacher begins to understand the unique way in which different students learn and provides opportunities for students using differentiated teaching methodologies. The development of only some intelligences to the negation of others leads to the development of warped personalities, possibly eccentric and anti-social persons and thus basically sad human beings – which is not the purpose of any school and definitely not a school like Columba's.

Thus, Columba's chooses to be a school with an inclusive environment.

It is our challenge, in this environment to help each individual discover and grow to his potential.

We understand that all the children are not expected to (and it is not desirable) shine in just one area of excellence. Some will have better sporting capabilities than others, others will have better theatrical abilities; others will have greater entrepreneurial skills, etc.

This fundamental truth was understood by Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers as far back in 1802! Edmund was a very successful businessman when most of his fellow Irishmen were wallowing in poverty. He did not come to success because he was born to privilege - far from it – he was as disenfranchised as the rest of his countrymen, brutalised by vengeful English Lords. Having reached success the tough way, He chose to take children from the most miserable backgrounds and give them both the means to live respectful lives (e.g., one of his success stories was transforming a stow away young Italian lad – Bianconni – and set him up in business – Bianconni, even in Edmund's life time, gained wealth far in excess of any wealth Edmund had, yet his hallmark, like Edmund, was care for the less fortunate) and to be compassionate people.

Therefore, Edmund Rice schools, and thus, St. Columba's as an Edmund Rice Educational institution, has always endeavoured to welcome students from all backgrounds and with various abilities or so called 'disabilities' what we now term 'differently abled persons', to the school. These disabilities may be obvious (say, in the case of physical difficulties) but more often, these disabilities are recognised when the child relates to others in school – students learn differently, with intellectual and relational challenges. The hallmark of St. Columba's, and this will be attested to by all Columbans, that the background or the economic wellbeing or deprivation of a fellow Columban does not matter, in fact, it has never been a factor in relationships. Columbans who are challenged physically / intellectually or socially draw forth from their peers the most generous support and concern.

St. Columba's was a pioneering school in catering to differently abled students (1989). We have shown our commitment to such students by setting up Learning and Enrichment centres and staffing them well with special educators. However, the perspective of inclusive education has evolved and today we are encouraged not to set apart students but educate all students in an inclusive environment. Thus, all our teachers endeavour to have even a closer knowledge of our students – knowing the different learning styles of our students; knowing the giftedness of each student; knowing which students have learning disabilities or learning gaps; preparing our lessons catering to the varied ways in which students will learn – differentiated teaching / learning. This is a challenging responsibility and thus, "main-stream" teachers engage in co-preparation and co-teaching with the "special" educators. Our special educators do take aside students who have learning gaps and those who need more specialised and individualised attention.

While we realise that it is the responsibility of the Government to cater to the specialised education of those with benchmark disabilities, we appreciate that at present the State does not provide adequate opportunity for the same and those facilities which are run by private agencies may sometimes be too expensive for some families. Thus, in the present situation, St. Columba's respects the right of such students to have an education and will thus keep / admit such students when other opportunities are not available to them. These students will need more of the attention of our special educators.

While we have received accolades for the number of students getting in, each year, into the IITs and top end Higher Educational institutions – and while we attempt to have a robust career counselling programme; we also continue to have coaching for our weaker students; we offer those with a talent in sports coaching facilities after school hours and during holiday periods; we offer various alternative academic courses to our students. Recently we have opened subjects in the Humanities stream at the Higher Secondary level and are encouraged by many of our students opting for the stream. When no school had computers, our children and teachers were breaking new ground and writing books on the subject (e.g., Bro. E. S. D'Souza – "Chipping in" was written from a hands-on introduction of the course by Brother).

Creating a High Potential school has not meant for us, at Columba's, being in a rarefied environment. We struggle to stay shoulder to shoulder with our students as they discover who they are – the discovery is, at the end, an experience of ecstasy but the journey is generally one through which their strengths of character are developed, and, the teachers have grown in largeness and mellowness of heart as they have taught and mentored them. Being an inclusive school will mean that we mirror our society: we have full classrooms; we have to struggle to find the finance to create empowering infrastructure, open new courses and to maintain the same. We sweat it out and we are often at our wits end; our idealism is daily put to the test as we battle in the heat and humidity of the Delhi summer; a society which is often not in tune with our vision; parents and students who fight against the best help they get.

But through it all our students come forth as self-aware, self-assured, socially conscious and mindful of their innate divinity (!), humane human beings who have what it takes to shine in life - and that surely is THE HIGHEST POTENTIAL. It is in this sense that we are a high potential school – and we dare anyone to nay our claim. This is not often seen while in school (though there are many wonderful stories from parents and young people of how they have blossomed) or even at the time of the student's graduation, or at the time of their CBSE Class X or XII results, but when they leave school and suddenly realise the privileged place which was their alma mater – St. Columba's!

If you choose to be a member of the Staff at St. Columba's we invite you to share in this vision. We will do all in our ability to support you. However, we will also challenge you to live by this vision and once taken on, your continuing to be part of the St. Columba’s team will be determined by your stamina to live by this vision until your retirement!