Friday, June 4, 2010

Old school

There isn't much that you need to say about a school that has been around for nearly 300 years, is there? If it is the St. George's School, there certainly is, because it is a very early instance of the Raj's 'Jewel in the Crown' giving back to the island. The school started from very humble beginnings; as a place for teaching military orphans, as well as soldiers' children, within St. Mary's Church in Fort St. George. Towards the end of the 18th century, it had grown to become the Madras Military Male Orphans' Asylum. In 1793, Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell, who was then in charge of the Asylum, persuaded the authorities to part with the premises of what used to be the Egmore Redoubt.

It was in this institution that Dr. Bell developed what became known as the Madras System of Education - essentially a mechanism where the senior students helped in teaching the junior classes - and formed the basis for today's 'teaching assistants'. The institution itself moved from the Egmore Redoubt, merging with the Female Orphans Asylum, which had by then occupied Conway Gardens (Conway of the "Soldiers' Friend" renown) on Poonamallee High Road. That move gave the Asylums vast premises and in 1954, they took upon themselves their current avatar as St. George's School & Orphanage.

Very few of the people entering its gates - the school grounds are a popular venue for large fairs, including the Book Fair - spare a glance for this sign and fewer yet are aware of how this school had contributed to a revolution in teaching in the Great Britain of the 1800s!

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