The Scottish private school famous for educating Britain’s royal family has told the Financial Times it is considering opening a school in India.

Gordonstoun is the first leading Scottish school to join the lengthening list of English rivals that have announced plans to establish branches abroad.

An Indian daughter school would offer pupils the kudos of association with royalty, as well as the muscular education for which Gordonstoun has become famous. The school has students fully qualified in mountain rescue and the coastguard service, and even its own voluntary firefighters.

But Gordonstoun principal Mark Pyper was modest about Gordonstoun’s star appeal in India. He told the FT that Harrow – the school that educated India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru – was “far better known” in the country than Gordonstoun. But he added that the great-great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the iconic political leader who campaigned for Indian independence, was a current Gordonstoun pupil.

Mr Pyper said the main reason for expanding abroad was to spread “the message of Kurt Hahn”, the German educational philosopher who founded both the school and the Round Square education movement of which Gordonstoun is one of the most famous proponents.

Round Square – named after a yard at Gordonstoun – emphasises idealism and hands-on experience, as well as academic achievements.

Mr Pyper added that the potential Indian school would present “good marketing opportunities” to spread the Gordonstoun name abroad. About one-third of the Scottish school’s pupils are already from overseas – in particular from Germany.

He acknowledged that a foreign school would also create a source of income for Gordonstoun. But Mr Pyper played down this motivation, and said his discussions with other schools with branches abroad had suggested “they don’t actually bring in great millions”. He concluded that if the main motivation was that “we’re going to make £250,000 for bursaries or something like that for the home school”, it would be much easier simply “to get in 10 more pupils” at the original Gordonstoun.

The school had talked with potential partners in India, “but we haven’t found the right one yet”. Mr Pyper said a partner needed to fully appreciate its distinctive philosophy. As a result, Gordonstoun was still several years away from setting up in the country, he said.

Mr Pyper plumped for India at its private school tradition had much in common with the British private school ethos. But he expects the Indian branch to attract boarders from as far afield as China and even Africa. Pupils at Gordonstoun study for A-Levels, but Mr Pyper suggested the International Baccalaureate was a possible alternative for India.

Gordonstoun is the school most closely associated with the British royal family. It has educated children from three generations, including Princes Philip and Charles.

English schools that have expanded overseas include Harrow and Dulwich College.


Gordonstoun would not be the first British independent school to tap into India’s growing demand for high quality education, writes David Turner.

The Girls’ Day School Trust is building a school in Lavasa, an upmarket new town about three hours by road from Mumbai. The town is still under construction and described by GDST as “the first hill city since the Raj”. The co-ed school will accommodate day pupils and boarders and is aimed at pupils from across India.

Wellington College is also considering a school in India as part of its plans to open several overseas branches, Anthony Seldon, master, told the FT.

Analysts say India could be a growth area for British private schools because so many middle-class Indians speak English and India’s own private schools are often similar to British institutions.

There is also a tradition of British schools educating wealthy Indians here – particularly Harrow, which has moved on from the future maharajahs of previous times to the sons of India’s modern elite.

But for the most part, India is still a relatively untapped market for private schools in Britain. Fewer than 300 pupils are from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, according to the Independent Schools Council’s latest survey.

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