Cover Story Akash Ryall, Director, Bethany Group of Institutions

Where Education meets Excellence!

Education is perhaps the most important aspect of anyone’s life. As India is endeavoring to establish itself as an educational leader, various institutions are joining in to make the dream into reality. One such fine example is Bethany High – a school located in Koramangala, Bengaluru

Bethany’s 360-degree development program is innovative and unique. The school lays a strong foundation for the overall development of each student which includes activities such as music, dance, drama, and sports along with academics.

Robert Khin – Principal and an alumnus of Bethany asserts, “We believe in giving all children the opportunity to discover and develop their talents.”

Ultimately, what distinguishes Bethany High is the spirit of positivity that surges through it. Walk into the school and you are greeted by smiles everywhere and this infectious attitude is indubitably a morale booster.

Through Sorrow and Pain

Bethany Group of institutions today enjoy wide acknowledgment and recognition for their exceptional educational practices, but the genesis of the school has its roots in tragedy and is a testament to the will of one individual, Mrs. Mignon David – Founder of Bethany.

The tragic loss of a loved one can sometimes be a powerful, compelling positive force for change. Many of the world’s most successful people have survived such losses and channeled their grief into positive actions. Mrs. Mignon David, the founder of Bethany, lost her mother early in childhood, she lost her husband early in her marriage and her two sons soon after. Deeply religious, she saw in these experiences a divine directive to make it her calling to be a mother to many children and thus Bethany came into being.

The Bethany journey formally started in 1963 with the establishment of the Bethany Home School as a one-room institution in a garage, with one student and three teachers. In less than ten years, Bethany had grown into a full-fledged educational institution that was recognized by the Government and accredited by the Indian School Council. Today, Bethany High has over 3300 students in 2 main campuses in Koramangala and Sarjapur Road. The classes extend right from the Pre-primary level to the 12th grade, where students are offered the Indian School Certificate (ISC).

Stalwart Leadership

Dr. Akash Ryall – Director of Bethany Institutions and grandson of the founder, says, “What sets Bethany apart is our ethos as an educational institution. We believe that our role is to facilitate the development of well-rounded human beings rooted in strong values, not scholastically trained robots. Academic excellence is a given, of course, but we do not regard it as our sole reason for being. We believe in the humanizing and character-building influence of Art and Sport, which is why the performing arts, cultural activities and sports play an important role in each of our student’s lives. We also believe in constant encouragement to bring out the best in each child. A Bethany child, you will find, is a multi-dimensional and mature individual because he or she gets both deep and wide exposure to a whole range of artistic, sporting and social pursuits. They are thus much better prepared to be successful in the world outside.”

“In India, there is a tendency amongst parents to stress excessively and sometimes even exclusively on academic performance. Marks and grades are their Holy Grail. This one-dimensional approach affects the children adversely because the truth is that in the long run the world out there is not bothered only with how many marks you scored in the ISC examinations. It is concerned more with how well you can respond to tough situations with creativity and innovation. And this is what we prepare our students for,” he adds further.

Dr. Akash holds a Ph.D. from the University of Berkeley, California; a Master’s in Education from California State University; a Certificate in Special Education from the University of California; a Diploma in Educational Governance from Bowling Green State University, Ohio; and has completed the Principal’s Course on Effective Management from XLRI Jamshedpur.

 An Emblem of Excellence

Focusing on all-around development, Bethany is one of the few schools that offer courses in Physical Education and Drama for 9th and 10th Graders as a part of the ICSE curriculum. Nationally, the Bethany Drama Department has also been the main ICSE Exam Evaluation Centre in India for many years. The Bethany High Senior Choir has made its mark internationally when at the 5th Singapore International Choral Festival in 2018, they were awarded the Silver Diploma Rating of 75.33% in the B1 (Under 19) category.

The Carnival is a two-day-long rollicking event replete with a vast variety of food and games stalls, amusement park-style rides, music, dance and even the occasional flash mob. Musicals are produced entirely in-house and staged at one of the city’s premier auditoriums and in previous years: Jungle Book (2003), Smike (2005), Yo Sista (2007), Under Da Sea (2009), Alladdin (2011), Shrek (2013), Pippin (2015), Madagascar (2017) and In the Heights (2019)

The Annual Bethany Road Run sees almost 2000 students, along with staff members and several parents, gather in the early dawn to go on a 3-mile road run. Besides their own Annual Sports Day, Bethany also conducts a highly popular annual inter-school football tournament that sees intense competition between Bangalore’s leading schools for the coveted Mignon Memorial trophy.

When it comes to differently-abled children, Bethany reaches and empowers them as well. “Bethany believes in inclusive education.  The Bethany Special School caters to children with developmental disabilities, while our unique LEAP program for the Middle School and the NIOS program for High School, address the academic challenges of children separately while allowing them to take part in the regular classes for all other activities,” explains Dr. Akash.

Students are observed by class teachers, screened by special educators and assessed by an in-house clinical psychologist. Through a systematic process, students with learning challenges are enrolled either in the Learning Lab or LEAP.

Shanti Gnanaolivu – Principal of Bethany Special School says, “We have 67 children as of this year, and a staff of 20 trained speech and occupational therapists, who teach them essential life skills as well as crafts. We have a bakery and a loom. With seven classrooms and a multipurpose hall where we conduct singing classes, yoga and indoor games, the children get the personal attention they need.”

Bethany does not shy away from supporting financially deprived students. The school does it through Staff and Students Welfare Fund. Gayatri Taneja – a member of the Fund Committee says, “Any parent or staff member who needs financial assistance is welcome to apply to us. A committee member visits their homes, verifies the authenticity of the need and a collective decision is taken at our monthly meeting on a case by case basis. We usually give interest-free loans but if the need is to fund a higher education course, we give it as part loan and partial scholarship. Sometimes parents express their inability to pay our school fees and are given fee waivers as well.”

The Ultimate Differentiator

Each morning Dr. Akash personally greets every staff member and student. “Bethany was started by my grandmother more than fifty-six years ago. We have children from all socio-economic backgrounds studying together, free of any class distinction or prejudice. We are like one big family, every ready and willing to help each other. Every Bethanite – student, teacher, and another staff member – comes to school with a smile. We try to make school as much as fun as possible because then you don’t have to teach but the students will learn,” he concurs.