U.S. Consul General Henry V. Jardine
Inauguration of American School Kolkata
July 26, 2007
July 26, 2007
Mr. Dibyen Mukherjee, Director of School Education Government of West Bengal, Dr. Robert Hetzel, Director of the American Embassy School New Delhi.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for joining us at this small ceremony to mark a historic beginning for the new American School Kolkata or ASK. I want to start by thanking Mr. Mukherjee for the outstanding support from the Government of West Bengal in encouraging this initiative and for the Chief Minister’s personal interest in our efforts.
I also want to thank Dr. Hetzel for his unwavering commitment to this endeavor as well as the great assistance provided by the entire American Embassy School New Delhi team. Dr. Hetzel’s presence here today is just another indication of his wonderful personal support for ASK.
The fact that so many people have been involved in making ASK a reality is, I think, a reflection of the general realization that Kolkata, a great center of education in India, has been lacking an American international school. A surprising absence in a city of over 14 million people and city that serves as the gateway to the entire Eastern region of over 200 million people.
ASK is intended to meet a very specific need of the international community here for an American-based course curriculum for the children of diplomatic and international business families in Eastern India.
Because ASK fills a niche that is not being presently met by the existing range of excellent educational choices, I do not see it as competing with any other institution but rather, ASK complements the work of those noted organizations in fulfilling an important educational need.
ASK responds to the requirement of expatriate families, who travel frequently from country to country, in maintaining a consistent curriculum for their children. The curriculum will facilitate an easier transition for students moving from one American international school to another or returning to the United States.
In addition to meeting the educational needs of expatriate families, I hope that ASK will also serve as magnet for foreign businesses and as a vote of confidence in the rapid economic growth in this region. American Schools already exist in New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai, and are a key factor in the decision by international organizations and companies as to the location of their offices and personnel.
This initiative is possible now as a result of the approval from the Ministry of External affairs under an existing agreement which permitted the establishment of the American Embassy School and other American schools in India. We have also received much encouragement from officials of the West Bengal Government as they clearly see the advantages of having an American international school in Kolkata. Again, I want to thank the officials who have taken the time out of their schedules to be here today and to show their support.
ASK is also the result of the critical support of the American Embassy School or AES and is starting as extension of that institution. AES has provided great personnel and logistical assistance. Given this association, ASK’s mission corresponds to that of AES’s:
“ . . . To serve students from the United States and other nations, the school provides a quality American education that enables students to be inspired learners and responsible global citizens through the collaboration of a dedicated faculty and a supportive community.”
AES is certified by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the United States.
I would also note that the Department of States’ Office of Overseas Schools has been a very important advocate for this initiative. The Office of Overseas Schools assists the many hundreds of international schools providing an education to the children of our diplomats stationed around the world. Assistance from the Office of Overseas schools has been key for helping to start our new school and reflects the commitment of the U.S. Department of State in creating a network of American international schools for expatriate families.
The school will start small, with just a few students in the early elementary grades and as the demand increases will grow in size to meet that demand. This approach was what was previously used in establishing American schools in Chennai and Mumbai and allows the school to grow organically in order to match existing demand. As ASK grows, it will be moved off the Consulate compound to a separate facility at some point in the future.
Finally, I should thank the one person who is very important to me and to the creation of this school, the head teacher and my wife, Kathleen Jardine. Kathleen has a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University; a Master of Arts in Education from the College of William and Mary; an Elementary Education Certification from George Mason University; and has completed post-graduate work at George Mason University and the University of Virginia. She is a licensed elementary school teacher with the Commonwealth of Virginia and has taught at the Chiang Mai International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is under her guidance that ASK will take its first steps and she will be assisted by Ms. Laura Miller; who is also very well qualified with extensive experience. Laura has a Bachelors of Arts from the State University of New York (SUNY); Masters of Science from the Teaching College of Saint Rose; has done post graduate work Lesley University; and has taught in Public school system in New York state.
Again, I want to thank everyone who made this exciting moment possible and feel especially fortunate to standing before you today as we begin this new chapter in Kolkata’s educational history.
It is now my pleasure to ask American Embassy School Director Robert Hetzel to say a few words.