Unique TV experiment sends five British state school troublemakers to 'India's Eton' to learn some VERY hard lessons

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Unique TV experiment sends five British state school troublemakers to 'India's Eton' to learn some VERY hard lessons Empty Unique TV experiment sends five British state school troublemakers to 'India's Eton' to learn some VERY hard lessons

Post by HoratioTarr on Sun Mar 25, 2018 12:37 am

Five white, working-class boys from the state school system attend The Doon
The Doon School, dubbed India's Eton, relies on old-fashioned strict methods
A Ch4 doc sees if The Doon can turn five troublemakers from feckless to focused
The results, witnessed over three episodes, are a fascinating social experiment

nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, is India’s Eton, the Doon School, famed for educating the sons of maharajahs and billionaires, and now the setting for a remarkable and audacious television experiment.

The school’s new crop of unlikely pupils has been specially selected from what is traditionally the worst-performing group in Britain’s state school system: white, working-class boys.

Filmed for a Channel 4 documentary, Indian Summer School, the aim is to see whether Doon can do what no British school seemed capable of: turning these five troublemakers from feckless to focused.

The results, witnessed gradually over three episodes, are a fascinating social experiment and a powerful lesson of how strict routine and old-fashioned discipline can help even the most reluctant child thrive.

But along the way it provokes a heady and often emotional maelstrom of tears, tantrums and clashes with authority.

At the outset, it must have seemed an impossible task. All of the boys taking part had failed their core GCSEs last summer – bar one who scraped a ‘C’ grade in maths – and two had all but dropped out of education altogether. But the boys’ vulnerability and lack of confidence was the biggest challenge to overcome – and the emotional heart of the series.

Broadcast this week, the first programme reveals the boys were often surly, rebellious and aimless. Yet a snapshot of their backgrounds – some heartbreaking – offers at least some explanation as to their lack of drive.

Jake, 18, from Brighton, lost his father aged five; Ethan, 17, from South Wales, fled school after he was bullied over his sexuality. He is emotionally open and strikingly articulate. Yet it became apparent that his father also struggled to read.

Harry, 18, from Blackpool, had the most self-awareness, admitting he was more interested in being popular than doing well at school. Recalcitrant Alfie, 17, from Chelmsford, who ‘doesn’t have an ambition’, was bribed to go to India with the promise of a car, while Jack, 18, from Hull, struggled with dyslexia and was bullied over his slight frame.

All of the boys had found conventional schooling a trial, and just as significantly were used to getting their own way at home.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Doon’s endlessly patient British headmaster, Matthew Raggett, explained: ‘One of the misfortunes of privilege is we are all slightly better off than our parents were and we have access to so many more things, like leisure time and technology, which gives us that instant dopamine rush. But perhaps we are not parenting as intensively or thoughtfully as we used to.

‘The boys found it really hard that they weren’t the centre of their own universe. They were part of the collective, part of the community, and not just getting what they wanted when they wanted it.

‘I was frustrated at times that they weren’t making more progress. One of the lessons they hadn’t learned from their school experience is that tenacity to keep going at something that is not easy. They were willing to try, but when it became too much like hard work they pulled back.’

After six months, Mr Raggett believes they have all made startling discoveries.

‘I think they have all had a moment of realisation and they have seen people doing things differently. That you get out what you are prepared to put in.’

It means the five boys, selected last year from a shortlist of 30, needed to put in some hard graft. They left their homes in May to fly 4,000 miles to board at the school in Uttarakhand, 200 miles north of Delhi, alongside more than 500 Indian pupils aged from 12 to 18.

None had travelled further than Europe before, or experienced anything like the regime at Doon, where they shared spartan dormitories with other boys and were forced to forfeit their phones and technology. Every day they were woken up at 6am by a large hand bell. It was a rude shock for Ethan, who had already admitted he routinely stayed in bed ‘til about 12’.

They are shown hiking in the panoramic Himalayan foothills, being chosen to join the school football team, and meeting an impoverished mother in a nearby slum who expresses incredulity that they might squander the opportunities they have been given.

Harry even experiences spiritual enlightenment after visiting the Taj Mahal, and doing some yoga and meditation. But both he and Jack had important messages for education in the UK.

‘My attitude has changed and I am doing better than I was before,’ Harry says today. ‘In England you get some teachers who love the job and will give you help if you ask, but sometimes they are concentrating on a C grade, and nothing else.’

Jack adds: ‘The experience was amazing and I gained a lot of confidence by travelling that far without any family or friends for so long.

‘The teachers at my school gave up too easily. I’d like there to be more discipline in English schools. My parents were amazed I stuck it out.’

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