Does Aitchison give more importance to kinship than KGS?

Published: July 26, 2014
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Merit should play an integral part in admissions, whilst preserving the legacy of the school. PHOTO:SHAH JEWNA'S KODACHROME/FILE

Admission at Aitchison College sends all of Lahore, if not all of Punjab, in an educational frenzy (similar to what Karachi Grammar School does in Karachi). Merit should play an integral part in admissions, whilst preserving the legacy of the school. PHOTO:SHAH JEWNA'S KODACHROME/FILE

Before we go on to tackle the issue of kinship and its importance in maintaining a certain decorum, atmosphere and legacy of an institute, let’s go back and take a quick lesson about an institution steeped in rich history, namely the Aitchison College.

Aitchison College was founded on January 2, 1886, as the Punjab Chief’s college, and was renamed the Aitchison College on November 3, of the same year. The foundation stone of the new building (now known as the old building) was laid down by the Earl of Dufferin and Ava. The college is named after the (then) Lt Governor of Punjab; Sir Charles Umpherston Aitchison.

The iconic building of the Aitchison has been a part of the Lahore landscape for more than a century now and represents generations of old boys who take pride in their Alma mater. They reminisce nostalgically about the buggy rides, the hockey and polo fields, the swimming pool, the houses and the turbans.

Admission at Aitchison College sends all of Lahore, if not all of Punjab, in an educational frenzy (similar to what Karachi Grammar School does in Karachi).

This year was no different (at least initially), the tests were conducted over a period of three days (how a five to six-year-old can take on this kind of task, that takes a lot of endurance, concentration and dedication, is another debate altogether ). Just before the results were about to be announced, the school issued a notification abolishing all ties of kinship. And this sent many an old boy up in arms. As if that wasn’t enough, when the result came out instead of the usual 120 boys only 70 odd boys were admitted in K2 (it is equivalent to grade two elsewhere in Pakistan and is also the year day boys are admitted in the school) the preceding year in K1 (equivalent to grade one) the boarders are admitted.

It did not stop there, for the first time in the history of Aitchison College, the admission list was posted not in the alphabetical order but in the order of the marks scored. What was more was that the names of the 300+ unsuccessful candidates along with their marks were also posted online. This practice I feel is, if nothing else, inhumane. If all candidates were sent letters of acceptance and rejection, the scores could have been communicated privately.

Now to tackle the issue that is creating uproar in the educational circles these days; whether kinship should have an impact to swing the admissions?

Well, all over the world kinship has played an integral part in elitist institutions: be it Eton or Harrow in the UK, Phillips Andover Academy, the Hotchkiss School in the USA or the Doon International School in India, or for that matter Karachi Grammar School and Aitchison College in Pakistan; all have a history steeped deep in tradition.

The old boys (in some cases old girls) play a big part in carrying that legacy and passing it down to the subsequent generations. The alumni from these old institutions are generally close knit and well connected with each other and the Alma Mater (especially when there was no Facebook, LinkedIn or for that matter good old email). So saying that ties of kinship can be abolished completely is like saying that you will break the spine of an institution or sever the jugular vein.

But, by saying that it by no way means that no new blood should come in or that every old boy (or girl) is entitled to walk into their Alma Mater and claim a seat for their ward, or in some cases their siblings, nieces  or nephews. I do not believe in pulling strings, calling favours and throwing ones weight to get a non-deserving candidate admitted.

Aitchison College, as compared to Karachi Grammar School, gives more importance to the ties of kinship (or at least used to). Schools have seen many successful candidates who go on to excel in their respective fields, so what is it that makes them different and yet similar in some regards? I feel both do a great job of screening students and their parents, to admit those who they feel will, over everything else, preserve the legacy of the school; be it through their fierce loyalty to their houses, their participation in sporting events, debates, founders and speech days, their academics and most importantly preserving the sanctity of their uniforms. Not only the students, but I know for a fact, the parent body takes pride in their ward’s school and preserving its traditions.

To sum it all up, I would say that merit above all should play an integral part in the admissions in any educational institute; if an old boy’s (or old girl’s) ward score the same as someone not previously associated with the school, the former should get preference. Trust me, by this you will not get just the Noon’s, the Khosa’s, the Bugio’s, the Bhutto’s but also the Siddiqui’s, the Ahmed’s and an occasional Mirza as well.

Sarah Allawala

Sarah Allawala

A dietitian by education, a writer and an entrepreneur by choice. She tweets as @AllawalaSarah (twitter.com/AllawalaSarah)

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