Ryan International Group: Using Education for Evangelism

Ryan International Group is completely Christian and derives its ideology from Biblical theology, which drives its processes and activities.

In recent times, Ryan International School has been in the news for the murder of a 7 year old boy. However, in this article, we will not focus on that issue, but rather on what the group is all about, how it operates and what its underlying ideology is. Our analysis is based purely on the publicly available data, which we have provided in the reference section, and we do not have recourse to any other data for arriving at our conclusions.

Ryan International Group and School

Ryan International School is a part of the Ryan International Group, which describes itself as having “widespread interest in the sphere of quality education with a commitment to excellence.” Other brands under the group are Ryan Global School, Ryan Foundation, Indian Model United Nations and Ryan Shalom Preschool [1]. This 40 year group operates 130+ schools in India and 5 schools in the Middle East and employs over 18,000 faculty members, who teach and influence 2.7 lakh students. An estimated 30,000 students graduate from Ryan schools annually, and the group has opened four to five new schools on an average each year [2].

Dr. Augustine F. Pinto is the Founding Chairman, and his wife, Madam Grace Pinto is the Managing Director of Ryan International Group of Institutions. Grace Pinto has received numerous awards like The World’s greatest Leaders Awards 2015 – ASIA & GCC, Inspiring Business Leader of India Award by Economic Times, Education Evangelist of the Year 2017 and she was amongst “100 Women Achievers of India”. The group has received awards like Global Education Excellence Award 2014 and World’s Greatest Brand 2015-16 [3]. The group is said to maintain “well-balanced relations” with all political parties and has access to most political leaders [4]. There have been some reports linking Grace Pinto with BJP Mahila Morcha and “forced” BJP membership drives, an allegation she has called “baseless” and which the management has vehemently denied. [5]

The group aims to focus on the all-round development of a child and follows what it refers to as the KASSM approach, or Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Social and Moral Values. Let us have a look at the welcome video of Ryan International Schools, where the child actor describes what it means to be a Ryanite. [The video can be accessed here]

She talks about debates and governance, talent (with an Indian cultural theme in the background), determination, academics, excellence, sports, performing arts, truth, science, innovation and creativity. The school discusses its academic approach as:

“With our agenda to provide long term solutions to academic challenges, we envision, drive ahead and endeavour for all students to acquire knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development and future lifestyles. This includes advocating for human rights, gender equality, promoting a culture of peace and non-violence. Also, acquiring a deeper understanding of global citizenship, appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”

The group management is said to follow best-in-class management and corporate practices for providing high quality education. Being an English medium school, with a name which has the word “International” in it, along with such a “modern” and “scientific” mission and vision, the school appears to be a poster-child for secularized global education.

Or maybe not.

Framework for Analysis

In order to analyze this group, we have used a three layered approach: top, middle and deep. So far we have seen only the top two layers. Let me explain how these layers work.

  • The Top Layer is the “International” part, which promises to deliver global, English medium education, teaches dance, drama, songs, provides children cross-cultural exposure, encourages field work, tree planting, pottery, yoga sessions, sports, rock bands and so on and so forth.
  • The Middle Layer is the corporate layer driven by top-notch managers, MBAs, corporate business people, who set up and standardize processes across institutes, provide governance framework and so on. These are the people who contribute to the list of awards mentioned above. A normal parent is not exposed to this layer, but whoever is exposed to this layer, cannot remain unimpressed by the professionalism of the people involved.
  • The Deep Layer, which is not at all visible to the outer world, is about the values and core drivers of the institute and the group, and as we will show, this layer is completely Christian and derives its entire ideology from Bible and Biblical theology, and drives the processes and implementation in the top layer.

The Ryan International Group is run by a number of Christian Minority Trusts and as such they are eligible for Scheme for Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutes (IDMI) under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. However as per a Tehelka report [6], “even after pocketing crores every month, the school’s three branches in Delhi have no provision to admit students from the EWS (economically weaker section) category as stipulated in the Right to Education Act, 2010.” In other words, there is nothing remotely “secular” about Ryan International despite its image as a provider of high class modern education.

O King Jesus!

Let us watch a video of pre-school kids of Ryan International School, Rohini during the Colorthon 2016 program where they sing what is supposedly an “anthem”. Even if it is not, it is clear that the children have been made to memorize the song. I have presented the lyrics of the song below and it appears to be a song in praise of Jesus Christ.

Cheer children cheer, Cheer the blue and gold

Hail to Thee O King Jesus.

We Thy loyal, trusted band, We Will ever be true

Life bearers and labourers, True and pure and steadfast.

Let’s put on the armour light, Glory of King Jesus

Let’s put on the armour light, Fight for god and Country…

In no way can this be considered a “secular” song and in the guise of an anthem, Christianity and the glory of Jesus, is thrust upon young preschoolers who are at their most impressionable stage of their lives.

Here is another song, which is supposed to be a welcome song for Ryan International School, Ghaziabad. While the song does not directly reference Jesus, it is modeled on a typical Gospel song and sung by impressionable school children in a very “western” style. Moreover, based on the comments below the video, numerous school children and teachers, are deeply appreciative of the song and want to use it for their annual functions or teacher day, which could only mean that the state of English language education in India is really poor and people don’t understand the lyrics, or maybe they do know the meaning, but do not care if it is a Christian song.

We are so grateful for your presence on this day,

This day is very auspicious in every way,

We are so blessed by our all mighty god,

So come with us to celebrate and praise the Lord…

Celebrate and praise the lord!!!

In 2014, Ryan International School, Chandigarh, organized a Gospel Music workshop ostensibly to inspire children [7]:

Where words fail, Music speaks Music has a soothing quality and always transcends us into a different world. It can improve the abilities of children in learning. To give students a cherishable experience, Ryan International School, Chandigarh organized a workshop on Gospel Music in which Mr.Amit Kamble, a renowned singer in Christian world gave a mesmerizing performance. He performed a few inspirational songs which were enjoyed by all students of class X who participated in the workshop whole heartedly.”

The group also has a Rock Band called “Genesis”, which sings rock style Gospel songs and describes itself as “a School band of rock fusion songs”. [8]

In their official Facebook page (which has since been deleted), Ryan International Group, promoted a Hindi Gospel song, Roshni by Abhinav Anthony Lal, an alumni. The song is still available in Youtube [9] and describes itself thus:

‘Roshni’ or light is a song that talks about surrendering our lives into the hands of the Almighty in an anticipation to receive God’s light of humility, compassion, love and grace in our lives. It in another way is a song of praise and triumph declaring the love of God in our everyday lives. When we are in darkness, going through temptations and tests God is still there to protect and guide us, never forsaking us and working within us so that we may be victorious in everything that we do. The song is from the perspective of a young teenager asking God’s light to shine upon him, for everything that God does for us is perfect and his promise of never letting us go and loving us endlessly would never fail. Roshni is an attempt of moulding our lives in the likeliness of our creator, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:16 16 ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’

What is more telling is that this particular song targets disturbed and troubled teenagers specifically, a fact, which I find rather disturbing. Instead of encouraging self-reflection, introspection, counselling and other scientific methods to handle troubled teens, these kind of Gospel songs, with their reliance on supernatural and mythical figures like Jesus, make children and teenagers lose confidence in themselves, and instead of relying on what is inside them, they start believing in fantastic notions of magical Creators and external forces and so on.

From time immemorial, songs, arts and music have for long been used a very effective tool for indoctrination and brain-washing. Moreover, if someone is exposed to certain themes or usages from a very early age, it will have a significant impact at a subconscious level. For example the repeated use of common everyday phrases like “O my God” or “upar wala” subconsciously reinforce the notion of one God and notion of heaven. In fact, song and dance routines have been found to be better tools of propaganda and proselytization than conventional methods, and this is exactly what we are seeing in action here, albeit in a very sophisticated and insidious way.

Lord Jesus Christ!

Most of the important Facebook posts and announcement of different Ryan International Schools, across India, even in secular matters like World Book Day celebration or award ceremonies, begin with a salutation to Jesus and an optional quote from the Bible. An especially important occasion is the birthday celebration of CEO, Mr. Ryan Pinto, which is celebrated with great pomp and vigor. Presented below are screenshots of FB posts of Ryan International Schools in Kandivli, Rohini, Shahjahanpur and Sharjah [10][11][12][13].

Rev. Andrew Abu Ghazaleh is a Lecturer in Nazareth Evangelical College located in Israel. The college “trains leaders, men and women, to follow Christ faithfully and to be equipped and qualified for serving the church in the Holy Land enabling it to have a powerful influence on society according to God’s purposes” [14]. He was invited by Ryan group to interact with students and teachers, and was introduced as a motivational speaker. Their Facebook post regarding the event reads thus:

Rev. Andrew Ghazaleh, a renowned International Speaker and trainer from Nazereth interacted with the Students and Teachers of Ryan International Group of Institutions and motivated them to develop values & skills to become influential leaders. [15]

There have been many such instances where Christian Evangelicals have closely interacted with, tutored, and given speeches to students as well as teachers. In the below picture Dallas based evangelicals are “ministering to hundreds of educators” at Ryan International, Mumbai. [16]

Concluding Remarks

It is this deep Biblical layer, which seems to drive Ryan International Group and its ideologies. Most parents are not aware of the insidious manner in which Christianity is preached in the guise of human rights, motivation talks and globalization. Even if they are aware, many parents could not care less, because they are happy as long as their children get “quality” English medium education. After completing 14 years education in the school starting from pre-school, it is highly unlikely that a non-Christian will not be significantly impacted. In fact, in many cases, based on anecdotal evidence, it is clear that pass outs from such “elite” English medium institutes with missionary background more often than not become sympathetic towards Christianity (many get converted), get used to a “Christian” way of thinking, become completely de-rooted and alienated from their native culture and mother tongue, and more often than not start viewing India through a human rights lens of oppression, patriarchy, hierarchy, dirt and filth, which they typically start associating with Hinduism. Detailed empirical studies are required to assess the impact of such Biblical-theology driven education on young people and their attitudes towards their country and native culture.

References

[1] https://www.ryaninternational.org/about-us.php

[2] https://www.thequint.com/news/india/meet-ryan-international-school-owners

[3] https://www.ryaninternational.org/achievements.php

[4] http://www.educationworld.in/magazine/more/1231-success-formula-of-indias-fastest-growing-schools-chain

[5] http://www.firstpost.com/india/meet-grace-pinto-the-woman-responsible-for-ryan-internationals-bjp-membership-drive-2161765.html

[6] http://www.tehelka.com/2015/03/ryan-international-schools-funda-catch-em-young/?singlepage=1

[7] https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=335231366645600&set=pcb.335232269978843&type=3&theater

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gpAtJEeiKQ

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxTUd8wG4QU

[10] https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=972987332749009&id=187474151300335

[11] https://www.facebook.com/RyanInternationalRohini/posts/1912374862349360

[12] https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=964295466951529&id=187474151300335

[13] https://www.facebook.com/ryansharjah/posts/1768372696735940

[14] http://www.nazcol.org/faculty-and-staff/

[15]https://www.facebook.com/276706299348408/photos/ms.c.eJw9ztENACEIA9CNLlBAYP~;FLqnI50ut1EtRlgrAuuvzcVXLOT6uoj03j4g003GD~;cw1c5VrVxq9Pnwf9hzXc8~;hvKfzv5uwn1gzl3i~_e~_X1nftwts~;90fkD1Xswqw~-~-.bps.a.481283668890669.1073741968.276706299348408/481284415557261/?type=3&theater

[16] https://twitter.com/trackevangelism/status/560659220509376515

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Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay is an Independent Management Consultant associated with the Education and Agriculture Sector. He has a keen interest in Indian history from a civilizational perspective, Hindu science and technology and in Tantra Shastra. He has authored three books “The Complete Hindu’s Guide to Islam”, “Ashoka the Ungreat” and “Legendary Mughal Kings” and is based out of Kolkata.