Public schools in India – brief history

Posted May 16, 2015 1:01 pm by

The Public Schools in India is a one of the gifts to India  education by the Britishers when they enslaved India. Many schools in India were started as an Asylum for children of  British soldiers who died in action. As time went by they were upgraded to Military schools to augment their requirement of soldiers and after the second world war , they became Public Schools. These schools admitted Indian students after Independence.

Some schools were started  By the Royals of India for their family Children.

Hereunder a brief history of Public schools.


The first PUBIC SCHOOL was setup in Winchester in 1387 AD. The school became poplar among the Rich in England. The success Of Winchester school ushered the starting of more school , the fore most among them being the one at ETON which was established by none other than King Henry the VI in 1441. When it started ETON was exclusively meant for King’s scholars. The school enjoys a covetous position ven to day for producing the maxmum number of Prime Ministers of England. Later similar schools were started at RUGBY in 1567, Harrow in 1571 and Chaterhouse in 1611. The first Prime Minister of Independent India received his early education at the public school at Harrow. At present there is a net work of Public Schools in England enjoying the patronage of the Rich and carving their own place in the Educational map of the world.


When the British came to India , the idea of Public Schools for providing English Education to the children of their officers came into being. The first PUBLIC SCHOOL that was set up In INDIA was BISHOP COTTON SCHOOL, SIMLA n the year 1856.  . Similar schools were established at SANAWAR, LOVEDALE, DEHRA DUN and other places. As time went by the Maharajas and Rajas wanted English Education to their Princes and hence they started at Gwalior, Raipur , Jaipur, Patiala etc.

The Public Schools in India should not be confused with a spate of schools in different parts of our country and abroad which generously use the word PUBLIC in their names. The fact there is nothing public about them.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS are independent, private,  self financing schools mainly catering to the rich and affluent parent’s children ; secular in its character , imparting Secondary and higher secondary education. The factual PUBLIC SCHOOL belong to the select group of schools coming under the INDIAN PUBLIC SCHOOL CONFERENCE established in 1939. Many of them are completely residential . Some of them start from Class IV or Class V only. They  are governed by independent board of Governors and may not necessarily follow the guideline applicable to Grant in AID schools.  Recently many of the Government funded schools such as Military schools and Sainik schools have joined the conference and currently only 79 schools qualify to boast the label PUBLIC SCHOOL. There are Girls only as well as boys only and Coed schools among them. The board to which these schools are affiliated are the choice of the respective schools board’s. The IPSC Articles of Association clearly stares  its aim is , “To prepare students of ability for positions of service and responsibilities in all walks of National Life”.

Even though  a large  member  IPSC schools now have a larger proportion  of day-boarders and day scholars  than boarders, they  in principle to offer autonomy of decision-making to their head of Institution, making it a PRINCIPAL CENTRED INSTITUTION.  Most school provide opportunities  for co-curricular, extra curricular , games and sports  facilities .They  have a  well formed PREFECTORIAL SYSTEM that provides  students a feeling of being a part of the school  in providing  education and nurtures LEADERSHIP Q UALITIES. Every effort is made to   develop qualities of leadership  and  initiative, responsibility, self discipline,  fellowship and team-spirit, of fair-play, and a desire to join the main stream with the spirit of PUBLIC SERVICE.


Majority of the IPSC Public Schools are RESIDENTIAL Schools , and limit the day scholars to staff children.

They give importance to English as medium of instruction and emphasize learning of English.

The Public schools tend to recruit well qualified staff.

Many schools do not start at Class 1. Rather some start at CLASS IV , some at CLASS V and Sainik school start at Class VI.

Public schools stress on Character building, discipline, leadership qualities, community living , self confidence etc. along with the regular curriculum of the board of affiliation. Some impart Military training as well.

They provide a platform to develop the latent potentials of a student under their care and provide an opportunity towards All round development.

The 24 hour schedule teaches them Time Management, self discipline, stay focused , independent at studies, accepting responsibilities and be an active participant in discussions rather than a passive student.

The Dormitory life helps to learn community living and ability to care for the needy.

Living in   the HOUSE SYSTEM with a HOUSE MASTER/HOUSE MISTRESS/ HOUSE PARENT helps in healthy interaction between the teacher and the taught.

The emphasis on Sport, Games and related extracurricular activities make them a team builder and develop team spirit.

Many schools have OUTWARD BOUND CAMPS instead of excursions, bringing students close to nature and teaches  independent living and comrade ship.

Some offer schemes such as Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which includes Community service as well.

Admission in most schools are through seniority of registration and qualifying examinations.

Government of India and State Governments offer scholarships for admission , boarding and tuition fee.

One of the pioneers in Public Schools SIR JOHN SARGENT, Education advisor to Government of India, in 1944, opines, “ The product of the public school may be limited in its intellectual range, narrow in its sympathies, arrogant in its assumptions; but at the same time it displays a capacity to set and abide by the standards of conduct and readiness to accept responsibility, qualities which must form an essential part of the equipments of any real public servant.”

Article by R Venkata Ramanan

R Venkata Ramanan
Educational Consultant
Padmini V Ramanan Educational Resource Centre
4/27-B, IIT colony 1st Street,
Narayanapuram, Pallikaranai,
Chennai- 600100
9444127974 ; 91-044-22463148

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