“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
– Malcolm Forbes
Looking back, it seems like Malcolm Forbes, the erstwhile owner of the world-famous Forbes Magazine, took a leaf from the humongous tree known today as The Cathedral and John Connon School.
Founded with humble means as far back as 1860 by the Anglo- Scottish Education Society in Mumbai, it saw Bishop Harding and the Cathedral Chaplain start from a small grammar school for boys and one for girls. In 1881, the school was named after Mr John Connon, a well-known philanthropist and the Chief Registrar of Bombay (today Mumbai), with its beautiful building on the Esplanade.
Today, the school has five sections, the Pre-primary, the Infant, Junior, Middle and Senior Schools, that impart the finest education to all its students and is known for the quality of its wards within and outside the country.
With a head count of 2000, students fall into either of four Houses named after the school’s founding fathers, whose basic tenet is ‘School first, the house next, self-last,’ as expressed through the school song.
While giving its students the finest learning environment, the school sets the bar relatively high, expecting students to do well through sustained hard work, with the Learning Resource Centre catering to the needs of students with learning disabilities. The school practices an integrated approach towards education till Grade VIII. Later, students can pursue national curricula, ICSE or ISC or international curricula, IGCSE, IBDP, or AP.
Tolerance, compassion and inclusion form the warp and woof of this esteemed institution championed by a plethora of clubs, including Symposium (the school’s Model United Nations Club), The International Award for Young People, The Nature Club, The Interact Club, The Literary Club, The Makerspace and Innovations Club, The Astronomy Club and The Music Club to name a few. These celebrate and promote everything from theatre to dance to culture, robotics, photography, and astronomy through events such as Encore & Nostalgia for charity.
All these are in addition to a vibrant house system with its wide range of cultural and sports activities led mainly by the seniors of the school, which teach responsibility, leadership, and team building.
Imparting Education Leading to Global Perspective
In its quest to offer a global perspective, the school also has several international programmes such as the Harvard Model United Nations in the U.S.A, Sunburst Youth Camp in Singapore, EU Mind in the Netherlands and London Science Youth Forum in the U.K.
Staying in tune with the time and needs, the school’s facilities include fully air-conditioned classrooms with state-of-the-art digitised interactive flat panels with teaching, including discussions using documentaries, films, and presentations. Besides, the school has fully equipped laboratories and computerised and barcoded libraries for quick access to a sea of information worldwide.
Something unique to this school (and only to this school!) is the MoU with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to focus on higher education collaborations that shall be the foundation for future, more formal partnerships between a select number of higher education institutions.
Provisioning Superlative Educational Experiences
Aside from imparting exceptional schooling experiences, the concept of service and being mindful has always been a massive part of education at Cathedral. Students here have become increasingly aware of their privileges and mindful of others in need, thus emerging as compassionate and empowered citizens of the nation and the world.
To this end, the students here engage in service projects ranging from food drives to fundraising, conducting webinars on issues such as fake news, presenting Ted Talks, and hosting an international Model United Nations. These aside, the students also engage in critical, contemporary, and pressing global issues, all of which continue to hone their spirit of creativity and empathy.
Offering National and International Curricula, the school has students from diverse curricular backgrounds as a routine. To bring them on the same page, the IB programme has a month-long bridge programme focused on the various disciplines offered, the skill set required, and habits of the mind critical to handling the program’s rigours. Teachers identify learner variability early on and provide opportunities for students to work and overcome learning gaps.
They also have an in-house counsellor who facilitates socioemotional well-being sessions and addresses issues relevant to teenagers. Students with learning challenges are provided with inclusive access arrangements, such as extra time and a word processor. IB-mandated processes and protocols are strictly adhered to here.
USPs of the School
While The Cathedral and John Connon School have all the seeming wherewithal to provide an education to young minds, its USP lies in helping the students learn how to learn, understand how to adapt to the changing world around them, become global citizens with a local vision, develop a sense of international mindedness and cherish the individuality of every human and the commonality of humankind.
Its 21st-century education, in general, and the IB, in particular, emphasise and develops skills, attitudes, and dispositions with a firm belief in a holistic approach to education wherein students have ample opportunities to discover their passion and realise their potential.
Learning and teaching being student-centric with interactive classes, foster a spirit of inquiry where students’ voices and presence are predominant. It focuses on collaborative learning and problem-solving and exposes a student to multiple perspectives.
Providing constructive feedback, knowing students’ strengths and challenges, and scaffolding transferable skills across disciplines are the basis of all the lessons and unit plans developed here.
The school has successfully incorporated all aspects of STEM-based learning into its curriculum, with students exposed to and conducting activities to facilitate deep and critical thinking, problem-solving, and practical application of concepts.
With teachers playing the vital role of facilitator in the IB programme with its emphasis on ‘Learning how to learn,’ the school provides regular and sustained IB-endorsed workshops for teachers to upskill in terms of syllabus, skill development, and helping students to become self-reliant in their learning process. Senior teachers mentor the new and young IB teachers.
Achievements and Allocations
Some of the school’s notable activities then include:
- Frequent participation in prestigious MUNs worldwide, including participating and collaborating with students on conflict resolution. The CMUN, an inter-school MUN hosted by Cathedral, is developed and executed by its students.
- Encore, a yearly musical extravaganza showcasing students’ musical talent to those within the school and to other schools.
- The school’s CAS programme sees students participate in local, national, and international activities as individuals and as a team, enabling them to enhance their personal, interpersonal, social, and civic development leading to a journey of self-discovery while also being an essential counterbalance to the academic pressures.
- Frequent community outreach programmes. Displaying empathy and tolerance for the community with fundraising during times like the pandemic to provide food for migrant workers, enhancing communication skills to inmates of the Salaam Baalak Trust, and Art and Identity project with the Jai Vakeel Foundation are some.
- International exposure by participating in important events like the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF), Singapore Science Camp, CERN, and IYPT International Young Physicists Tournament.
- A sustained emphasis on science that includes visits/ workshops/ lectures for students and teachers on various topics with close interaction with TIFR/ BASE. It includes regular activity-based sessions by the school’s in-house science society where seniors demonstrate, and juniors get hands-on experience in conducting various experiments.
- Frequent inter-school competitions, including the Cathedral Maths Competition (CMC) to develop Maths capabilities; CATH CON, a coding competition and INQUEST; the Inter School Science Fair, and regular participation in known robotics competitions.
Nothing of worth ever goes unnoticed. In the case of The Cathedral and John Connon School, recognition in the form of awards and prizes runs on multiple pages. Some of the notables include:
- Education World India School Ranking 2022-23
- Free Press Journal’s ‘Mumbai’s Outstanding School Survey 2022’
- Education Today- India’s Top Prestigious School Jury Awards 2021 for Community Partnership
- Education Today’s School Merit Award 2021-22
- Education World 2021-22 India School rankings
- Education World School of Eminence 2021-22
A Look into the Future
For an institution that can afford to sit pretty on its humongous list of laurels, The Cathedral and John Connon School remain surprisingly agile. It plans its moves decades ahead in time and scope!
With the international curriculum having completed seven cycles and a five-year review, Cathedral desires to vertically align the program from grades 9 to 12 in terms of skill building, attitudes and dispositions built through the Habits of Mind curriculum for students.
Central to this vision is the SEE (Socio-Emotional and Ethical) way of learning and creating. Teachers are being empowered to create an atmosphere wherein inclusion is understood in its broadest sense and implemented with an open heart. For students, it would mean building resilience to handle the rigours of the IB curriculum. It would focus intensely on cross-curricular collaboration among teachers and experiential learning wherein students’ learning goes beyond the textbooks and into the realms of the real world.
This is the world of The Cathedral and John Connon School which has only flourished in the last century and a half while setting trends for others to follow. And like a true leader, it shall be around for a very long time while giving the world more than its share of well-rounded and well-educated school students.