Credentials of Mr. D. N. A. Mountford, Headmaster, The Assam Valley School.
Educated in India and The United Kingdom, Derek Mountford chose a career in education on his return to New Delhi in 1996.
Prefaced by a first degree in History from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and a Master’s from The School of Oriental and African Studies, London, Derek Mountford’s sixteen-year career spans association with Arun Kapur at Vasant Valley, John Mason at The Doon School, successive Secretaries of the HRD Ministry at The Lawrence School, Sanawar, and, since 2003, as Headmaster of AVS, close ties with Gulab Ramchandani (former Head of Doon), Professor Ranjit Bhatia (Rhodes Scholar and former Professor of Mathematics at St. Stephen’s), Abha Adams (former Director of The Sri Ram School in Delhi and currently Principal Advisor to Step by Step School, Noida), Meera Isaacs (Principal, John Connon & Cathedral, Mumbai) and David Summerscale (former Headmaster, Westminister School, London).
The first of two children, Derek was born to Richard and Pamela Mountford at Darjeeling, in 1971. In I989, Derek graduated as Head of School from Sherwood College, Nainital, with an Indian School Certificate aggregate of 92%, with the rare distinction, in the then 120-year old school, of being one of few schoolboys to be the recipient of the ‘Big Four’ — the Taylor Memorial Prize for the Best School-Leaving Result, the Sportsman of the Year, the Best All-Rounder and the coveted Spitz Prize for Integrity and Service.
Opting to read History over English and Economics at St. Stephen’s, Derek distinguished himself in sport, particularly Soccer, with ‘Full Colours’ and Captaincy of the College Team, in addition to being the Secretary of Sport & Cultural Affairs in his final year.
At 21, despite being inspired by ‘Daughter of the East’ (!) to read for a PPE (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) at Oxford, by family diktat and professorial directive, Derek found himself before a set of very large and famous wooden doors in the heart of Bloomsbury — as had A. L. Basham and Romila Thapar (albeit in an era gone by!), so must any other even halfway respectable student of History! Yet, in retrospect, the SOAS - experience transformed Derek’s life, both in terms of scholarship and world-view.
Being offered a natural progression to a doctoral programme at both London and Oxford after being mentored by members of the legendary Subaltern Studies Collective at SOAS (proposing in 1995, without ever imagining a future stay in the North-East of India, the role of Manipur State & Colonial Labour in Assam in the Allied War Effort), Derek fell back, instead on a family calling of teaching in India traced back to a pre-Independence Stephania.
Professional life saw Derek advantaged by a fascinating start in the then early days of Aroon and Rekha Puri’s ‘India Today’ venture into K-12 education. At Vasant Valley, Arun Kapur taught Derek what it took to be a forward-looking professional and, later, at The Doon School, John Mason tempered an understanding of the depth of commitment required in schoolmastering — as a teacher, Housemaster, Head of Department, Manager of the prestigious Doon School Weekly, Head of Debating and as Leader of The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme at the School.
If, at 27, Derek was probably the youngest Housemaster in the history of The Doon School, at 31, when the then Secretary of the HRD Ministry, Government of India, ratified Derek’s appointment as the Deputy Headmaster of The Lawrence School, Sanawar, eyebrows were raised in certain quarters of the traditional public school paradigm in India.
Consequently, having officiated as Headmaster of Sanawar briefly, when the pan-Indian Ma Foi Executive Search brought to Derek an offer of a Headship of The Assam Valley School, he exited Sanawar despite a family connection of over 53 years, his father having been the Headboy in 1958 and Derek’s parents having met and married there.
Derek describes the last eight and a half years at The Assam Valley School as the sharpest learning-experience of his life. When you play Headmaster for half a school’s history, on 235 acres, with 930 pupils and 345 employees in a co-educational residential experience, Derek argues that an inexplicable but markedly conspicuous connectedness creeps up on you in the discharge of your duty of care to children.
400 million people live in the North-East of India, in itself the size of Europe and culturally more diverse and vibrant than any other part of the country. “AVS is”, says Derek, “as delicate and complex a challenge as running an international school anywhere in the world”.
Equally conscious that the contemporary moment, “embedded too deeply in operations”, precludes objectivity, much of Derek’s ongoing work is available at the School’s Website (www.assamvalleyschool.com) and the success story is paraphrased by the 2011 C fore - Education World ranking of AVS as the 6th Most Respected Residential School in India, and for the last two consecutive years No. 1 in Eastern India, ahead of the heritage St. Paul’s, Darjeeling.
In addition to ensuring fiscal rigour and prudence at the School, with an eye for detail in administration, Derek’s team runs high-quality Teaching-Learning Systems leveraged off a robust IT Platform, ensures superior pastoral care and practises a marked focus on the Achievement-Index in academics, sport and cultural pursuit, all essential attributes of effective educational administration.
Derek has recently been involved in mapping further improvement to AVS in its journey towards excellence and we request you to spare a few moments of your time to read his article entitled, ‘Architecting Tomorrow’.