St. Joseph's Boys' High School, Bangalore - History

History

St. Joseph's Boys High School, Bangalore (formerly St. Joseph's European High School) was founded in 1858 to offer a liberal education for the boys of European and Anglo-Indian families. After India's independence, admission was extended in the 1950s and 1960s to include all students, irrespective of race, religion or caste.

Students of all religions are admitted and put under the supervision of the religious Fathers and Brothers. The school buildings are situated in the center of the (formerly European quarter of the) city, between Museum Road and Residency Road. The now obsolete dormitories were initially housed in the upper floors.

The large open playgrounds belonging to the School give space for cricket, football, hockey and other games and forms of exercise. One of the grounds was situated in the school premises while the other, where the school cricket team trains, is called the Centenary Ground located on Mahatma Gandhi Road near the Mayo Hall. The School pays great attention to physical training and sports and has conducted the Annual Hockey Tournament for ICSE schools in Bangalore for many decades. The School also hosts a Cadet Platoon, a Boy Scouts Troop, and Debating and Literary Societies for the higher classes.

In the year 1883 when J.M. Vissac was the Rector, the school was situated on St. John's Hill at the current location of St. Germain High School, adjoining the St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral. In the tradition of visionaries, Fr. Vissac wanted the school to be located on a big campus in the heart of the City Cantonment. So he purchased a property called the Rocklands, adjacent to the Madras Bank (the present State Bank of India) and the Good Shepherd Convent. He was the architect of the stately buildings on Museum Road whose foundation stone was laid in 1894. In 1898, the school transferred from St. John's Hill to Museum Road and brought with it 100 boarders and 89 day scholars.

The school grew in strength and by 1913 had 239 boarders and 183 day scholars. To accommodate these larger numbers, two new blocks were added to the original block and an immense playground called 'New Fields' was purchased in what is now Vittal Mallya Road. Originally a tank bed, this tract of land had to be drained to prepare play fields for the students. In 1910, the school adopted the High School Examination System giving up the Old Matriculation System. It is around this time that the school is believed to have taken on the name, St. Joseph's European High School. The University meanwhile, had also abolished the F.A. and replaced it with the Intermediate Arts Exam.

Fr. Vissac had two French priests from the diocese, Fr. Froger and Fr. Schmitt, sent to England to get qualified to teach in the school. Both would later return to Bangalore, each armed with an MA from the University of London. After 20 years of tireless service, Fr. Vissac handed over the Rectorship of the St. Joseph's Institutions to Fr. Froger, who would serve as Rector from 1903 to 1913, and then again from 1915 to 1916. The beautiful oil paintings on canvas which have adorned the walls of the refectories of the priests and the boarders for nearly a century are the works of Fr. Froger.

In the first half of the 20th century, the school curriculum embraced the subjects required for the Government High and Middle School Examinations, and those for the Cambridge School Certificate, Junior and Preliminary Examinations. The School was recognised by Cambridge University and senior candidates could obtain Certificate A of the General Certificate of Education or GCE. The boys prepared for Preliminary Cambridge in Std. VI, for the Middle School in Std. VII, for Junior Cambridge in Std. VIII, and for the High School and Cambridge School Certificate in Std. IX.

With Independence in 1947, the school lost many of its earlier privileges. During British rule, Anglo Indian schools had received special grants as aid for teacher salaries that were significantly higher than at the Indian SSLC schools. The umbilical chord with Great Britain was cut soon after when the continually rising exam fees of the University of Cambridge, a result of post-war inflation, coincided with a severe foreign currency crunch in India. The Government of India unwilling to release foreign exchange for students to appear for these examinations, put in its place another. The Anglo Indian Association under the leadership of Mr. Frank Anthony, its President and Member of Parliament, organized the Indian School Certificate Council which developed two examinations at the end of Classes X and XII called the ICSE - Indian Certificate of Secondary Education and the ISC - Indian School Certificate respectively. The erstwhile Anglo Indian Schools now began to prepare their students for these exams. The weekly tests have also since been discontinued, with unit tests and quarterly tests now conducted in their place.

The school follows the ICSE syllabus up to Class X. In 2005 the school expanded its curriculum at both ends. It added Classes I through IV and extended the high school to include the ISC at Class XII. The year 2007 included another first: Class XI was expanded to include girls. Today there are about 60 students per section and three sections in the middle and high school. The other classes have fewer students.

Another major change over the years was the dissolution of the in-school boarding house which used to house boys from ages 8 to 16, in 3 separate dormitories. While they lived exclusively on the school premises, they were allowed the luxury of one out-of-school outing privilege each month, on its last Saturday. The health of the boarders was entrusted to a Medical Officer and the facilities included a large infirmary and a special room reserved for the infectious diseases, where matrons attended to special needs. A monthly lantern lecture addressed various educational topics and on special occasions, drama, music, and cinema shows were screened in the School Hall.

In 2001, construction started on the new school building under the stewardship of Fr. Michael John, the Principal from 1994 to 2006. This would last for six years, ending in 2007. The new facilities, along with the improvements, offer a more modern and aesthetic environment while keeping with the public school traditions that originated in British India; notably, the Roman Catholic chapel, the refectory, and the residential quarters for the priests.

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