My personal experience of living at a boarding school was an unequivocally positive one. I found both companionship and purposefulness that exceeded anything that I had experienced before.
The wardens who supervised our hostel were firm regarding discipline, but not authoritarian. It helped that they were also our physical education teachers and participated equally in the compulsory evening sports sessions. At the same time, a sense of equality in everything with the other students living in the hostel, which largely ignored the financial status etc of their respective families, helped in character development. One got used to keeping one’s own room free of clutter, to being polite and even friendly with the staff working in the hostel, and also to being considerate to one’s fellows who were missing their families. Not that anyone spent too many days moping around thinking of the comforts of home, since there were always several interesting activities going on, in both academics and sports. The memories of cheering with more dozens fellows while watching India win at cricket in the hostel’s TV hall are still fresh, as are the friendships with many of those who were there cheering with me. Several of these experiences were just not possible if I had been living at home at that time.
I believe that while there can not be any hard and fast rule about the age at which a child should be sent to a boarding school, we should guard against being over protective of our children. We should have faith in their resilience and adaptability, and keep in mind the fact that a stint in a boarding school makes a child far more self reliant while teaching him/her useful life skills.
The choice of the boarding school is the one that deserves consideration. The school shouldn’t be given more or less attention than the hostel, since the child spends more than half their day in the hostel. So while the quality of teachers at the school is important, so is the reputation of the hostel for discipline. The parents have to decide what is best for their child, and have to weigh the balance between a strengthening exposure to the outside world against the fear of staying away from home, separation and raising a fairly independent child.
Dr. Gaurav Saraswat
Worked for the Central Government, India