A senior member of the Rome-based Congregation of the Mission of Vincent de Paul (estb. 1625), Dr. Jose Aikara, CM, is the newly-elected chairman of the Delhi-based Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) — India’s second largest school-leaving examinations (classes X and XII) certification board. Currently, CISCE has 1,910 of the country’s top-ranked primary-secondary schools including the Doon School, Dehradun; Cathedral and John Connon, Mumbai; Bishop Cotton, Shimla and Bangalore; and St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling among others affiliated with it.
Newspeg. On March 16, the CISCE board elected Dr. Aikara its third chairman succeeding Neil O’Brien who was chairman for 18 years. O’Brien demitted office in July 2011 on health grounds. Following an administrative interreg-num during which fears were expressed about CISCE’s school-leaving exams not being held on schedule, Aikara was unanimously elected chairman for a three-year term and the exams were held as per the calendar schedule.
History. The Congregation of the Mission is a community of Roman Catholic priests and brothers founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625, for evan-gelisation of the poor and reformation of the clergy. Established in India in 1922, the mission, managed by 230 scholar-priests, has promoted 25 primary-secondary schools country-wide with an aggregate enrolment of over 50,000 students. A divinity graduate of the Pontifical Institute, Alwaye, Kerala, Dr. Aikara was founder-principal of De Paul School, Behrampore for 13 years (1987-2000), during which he transformed it into one of Odisha’s most respected English-medium schools. During the past nine years, he has been founder-principal of De Paul Inter-national Residential School, Mysore where he is set to repeat and improve upon his Behrampore experience, and simultaneously restore the glory of CISCE as India’s most preferred school examinations board.
Direct talk. “By common consensus CISCE has a long record of delivering the country’s best English language and literature curriculum to affiliated schools. Not so well known is that our science curriculum is also excellent, and that council-affiliated schools have the highest percentage of professional college admissions relative to student numbers. Nevertheless, the first priority of the newly-constituted executive committee of the board which comprises the chairman, secretary-general and four members, is to improve communication with the managements of affiliated schools, and introduce online and in-service training programmes for teachers. Through ASISC and other associations of the council, we will conduct continuous teacher training and development workshops for CISCE schools in all regions countrywide to sharply raise teaching-learning stand-ards,” says Aikara.
Future plans. Although Aikara is unperturbed by the poor showing of the first batch of selected 15-year-olds from India who wrote the developed nations’ PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment) in 2009 and was ranked 83 of the 84 nations which participated, attributing this dismal performance to “lack of mental prepa-ration”, he is nevertheless determined to raise academic standards in CISCE schools to global standards. “This objective can be quickly attained by regular and transparent syllabus revision and stepping up the council’s teacher training and development initiatives. The new board and executive committee have made a good start by setting clear objectives for the council. I am confident they will be implemented quickly by our member schools,” says Aikara.
Dilip Thakore (Bangalore)