Daughter

Admission right reserved

1:00 PM

Education is a fundamental children’s right as per the UN convention. I remember back then in 1989 when it got ratified and the public schools in Geneva all had activities going around what are to be children irrevocable rights, and mind you back then Switzerland was not even part of the United Nations but they wanted us kids to care about our own rights as kids.

Yes education should be a right that should be respected, except it is not in many place, and even if some claim they are giving access to education in the country, capitalism has turned this venerable institution into a massive business in India, those with no money should be lucky if they have access to a government school at all and who care if the teachers show up at all, and those with some moolah will find themselves into a cut throat competition to get their kids admitted in what is perceived as the best school around. Newspapers regularly run articles campaign listing the “top 10 schools in town” leading to a craze among parents to get their kids admitted there and only there, who care if Junior needs to travel 3 hours by bus to get there…they want what is best for their kid academically. Except no one has any idea what are the real criteria that decide what school makes them better than another, the newspaper don’t say it.

My area has one of these hyped schools, and if you have a toddler in playschool you start getting all the rundown on this or that school and how it’s better, and how though it is to get admitted there. You have well wishing moms that warn you that your own kiddo should start being drilled about admission interview processes to get a chance to get admitted some place decent. you have the playschool teachers that will urge you to speak only English at home to maximise your child’s chance at getting admitted in any schools. And you have the endless rumors about fees, donations, and what it takes to get into the crown jewel of all schools in our neighbourhood. I heard them all: you need to live or work in the proper district, otherwise you need to prove your connections to this and that MLA, you need to call them over and over again to know when they will release forms. I heard about the fees, the deposits, which is higher than the other schools…And over the month it led me to think, is the school really as good as it claims to be? Can a school that wrap its own admission procedure into a shroud of secrecy good? frankly where all the other mothers would pray and wish to get their kid admitted there simply because they HEARD it’s good rang alarm bells in my head.
In India private schools are after only one thing: your money, and they want good return on the money they earn, namely they want enough State toppers to graduate from their institution so that they can brag about it and attract more people who will think that the amount of 90+ percenters the school produced is a mark of quality…That however doesn’t impress me much. The ability to memorize a text book and spit it back in the exam is not a sign of intelligence, it’s a sign of good memory, a performing monkey trick, and my daughter is no monkey and I don’t want her to be.

So once I got the name of all the schools in the neighbourhood through the grapevine, and their admission paper release dates, I went on radio silence, I went looking at their websites, because you can get a feel of the school by what they show on their page, the tone is set there, they all boast world class facilities, that’s a marketing gimmick, what varies when you know how to read between the lines, and look at pictures carefully is what the put more emphasis on. There are those that will show you kids seated at their desk on every page, boast of their scientific excellence…if your kid is a quiet type that enjoys sitting and listening it’s the school for you, if your kids is like my daughter, these schools that boast academic perfection with zero emphasis on anything else are the ones you should put as your last resort.
I will not name the school I got her admitted into, let’s say that it was the first one to release their forms in the area and was all along one that triggered my curiosity because they put more pictures of kids engaged in cultural events, sports events and art events than they did in putting kids sitting at their desk. I went visiting it first of course I asked the right questions about what their approach to education was, the reply was “all rounded” and I only got to learn more with the brochure they gave us with the admission form.
In India you have an alphabet soup of boards, the one from that school is one that follows the most sought after ICSE board until 10th Standard and then go by the International Cambridge board for the next 2…in a word that is what is referred as “International Schools” in India, except that in the case of that one, it doesn’t have the usual crazy price tag the other have.
Of all the schools in the area it’s the one with the most transparent admission process: first come serve for the admission forms, and final decisions made during the “interaction date”, the fees are displayed on the official board in the school and when and how to pay them as well. to us that was a bonus, so we then decided to fill the form and go ahead and withhold visiting any other schools until we knew about that one.
We got our interaction appointment in December, a process known in other schools as “Admission Interview”. Now I heard the good the bad and the ugly on these interviews, some schools apparently quiz the crap out of a toddler to decide if the toddler is future state topper material, some are more interested in what the parents are like, some want to see what both parents and kids are like…but all in all that is a process you can’t avoid and it’s stressful.
We had no idea what to expect, nobody tells you that, and we were a bit freaked out because Ishita is a bit speech delayed. What if they asked her to recite some poems, quiz her on shape and colours, would they notice she doesn’t speak in very long sentences? Would they decide she is unfit for the school? What if she suddenly decide she doesn’t want to talk and play shy…gasp!

It’s the day before the interview that I decided that the best bet was to just let it be, be ourselves, and see what would come from it.
We arrived 20 minutes early, and ended up waiting one hour past our set appointment because a pushy mom apparently managed to get in front of everybody and the person in charge of ushering people through the principal’s office doors lost us in the middle of it all. During that time Ishita lost patience and started to fuss, you see she was more interested into seeing what was behind the door next to the principal’s one, namely the art room, and a teacher decided to show it to her seeing how she would constantly peek through it, she was then happy, but done with the whole thing and wanted to go home. DH managed to get us back into the waiting line scolding the security guard in charge for forgetting about us. And in the whole 90 minutes we waited there I saw parents coming in with well behaved kiddos, fancy educational toys to keep them busy and parents constantly drilling their kids about colours, shapes and what not…the point at which I started worrying even more, because I am of the class of parents that think a 3.5 year old should have fun and play rather than impress by reciting their ABC perfectly.

Our admission interview came, we first apologised profusely to the principal for entering her office late, turned out she knew all along and apologised to us on behalf of the officer in charge who didn't do his job well enough. She then asked Ishita what was her name and oh miracle Ishita felt like telling her, on a very shy voice but she did. Then she asked me where she was going to nursery class, and what they were learning there, simply put she wanted to know if as a parent I was involved in my child’s life. I told her the name and the fact that at the moment they were learning the alphabet and pre-reading skills at which point the principal said “Oh so she will already be ahead in Jr Kg, because in this school we think kids her age need to socialise, and we don’t really put emphasis on writing until the second half of Sr Kg as such”. And at this point I am pretty sure the principal saw relief illuminate my face, because I kid you not inside I was resisting the urge to hug her. But because that would not have been proper to do so I told her that I was really happy to hear that. She then asked me what prompted me to choose to apply to that school, and in all honesty and simplicity I told her I like the fact they value sports and arts and cultural event as I wanted an all rounded education for my daughter.
At which point Ishita noticed there was some butterflies stickers on the principal’s desk and said “Look butterflies!!!” the principal then tried to get her to talk and asked her if she wanted to sing her a song, but Ishita got shy again so she just offered Ishita a candy and then asked my Husband what was his day like and how much time he spent with Ishita despite his being an office goer. And that concluded the interview, Ishita very shy asked for another candy saying “candy please” while the principal told us to go back to the reception for the rest of the process. At this point we had no idea how it went or if we were admitted. But the minute we entered the receptionist’s desk she told us that all we had to do now was to go to accounting and pay the fee to get her admitted…simple.
DH and I were relieved to have had her admitted in a school that is fitting her personality and be spared the hassle of going over the admission process in another school, we paid the fee, and were happy.

A few days later with the admission process looming around for all, I had the playground moms all asking me what was my plan for the next academic year and if I had narrowed it down as far as my preferences were, I was happy to announce I was done and had her admitted in the school we picked first…only to have them to question my sanity! And asking me why I rushed for that one without even giving the big hyped about so called top school in the area, or even the second “best”, when I told them I was not interested in shady admission process, MLA recommendation, hefty fees or academic supremacy they seriously thought I was disturbed. I told them I was happy with a school that think painting and taking part in sporting activities was as valued as math and physics, especially with a daughter who is far more the physical/creative type than the scientist type. They all admitted that it was indeed one of the good school but less of a brand name than the others.
And it showed once more that all it boils down to in the middle class segment that can afford it, that schools just like what you wear is all about brand rather than what suits the kid. Most of the parents in my area want to admit their kids in a school that make them parent look good and give them something to brag about, while all that DH and I wanted was a school that was going to suit our daughter’s needs. And till date we still speculate that it is probably what got us the admission into that school, the principal was far more interested in what us parents were like and what our motivations for enrolling her into that school was than actually drilling Ishi on her skills. And that if you ask me, is the way it should be.

5 comments

  1. apple6:44 PM

    Hi

    Got my son admitted in KG. The fees is exorbitant It seems that they believe everyone earns Rs. 1,00.000/- per month which is ridiculous

    It was the same 30 years ago when I passed out of a public school. Today schools have lobbies like that of Five Star Hotels. However, they also have better facilities like special educators, scientific learning and better play ground facilities

    In our time, games were just token and the emphasis was more on academics. It is said in Hindi "Paraoge likhoge ban ge nawab, Khela ge khuddonoge banoge kahrab" (If you study you will be king, if you play and jump around you be spoilt). It pretty much sums up our attitude towards academics and extra curricular activities,. Amir Khan's movie "Three Idiots" is a fabulous satire on the Indian Education System.

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  2. I liked 3 idiots a lot. And Aamir Khan's other movie about education Taare Zameen Par was even more impactful, the old school system has no place for kids who have a learnig disability. It stroke home with me because even in Switzerland my dyslexic sister had a massive struggle but in the Indian school system she would have been toast, and I liked how the movie put into light that just because a kid can't spell, or read aloud clearly doesn't mean they are dumb and that a kid challeneged in one topic can be a genius in anohter such as painting in the case of that kid in the movie.

    In most of Europe the motto we go by is the one the founder of the modern Olympic game Pierre the Coubertin came up with: A healthy mind in a healthy body, whcih pretty much means that exercising the muscles and keeping in good health will promote a healthy brain and mind.
    And dear oh dear you are right about the fees, these schools are insane, the funny part is that the school in whcih we got her admitted is one of the few cheapest in the area. they aske 70k for Jr Kg including the 5k deposit and 5k admission fee, all the most coveted schools are above one lack for nursery and Jr Kg...do they really think everybody in the area is made of gold? The big brand name school all the parents seek admission to apparently ask for a 50k deposit that is only refundable if the kid graduates from 12th standard and apparently the fees are nearing the one lakh for Kg too! GASP that's a lot of money just to learn the ABC and sing some nursery rhymes! And in Mumbai very few are the schools with even a playground, most are lucky if they have the space for a basketball court in the yard it seems :-( Whcich was another attractive factor in my choice of school for Ishi, hers have a HUGE sports ground and play area in the back.

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  3. Yeah, taara zameen pe, did make parent sensitive about the plight of children. It was fascinating to see the world through the eyes of the child. In India, education was always considered a way of earning a livelihood and enhance social status. Can't help it if you are competing with lakhs of people who are equally hard working if not better than.the best.


    KG is just the beginning. When the kids reach the 11th and 12th grade the real battle begins. Parents turn into virtual encylopedia about engineering coaching classes, cut offs of engineering colleges etc. Kids are trying to balance school with coaching classes. Sure very hard on them. Some suceed some don't. Everyone wants to go to the IIT. It is battle where blood is not shed but there are lots of casualties.


    There is a place called Kota in Rajasthan. The town is a virtual centre for coaching of all kinds engineering, medical etc. Parents send their children to live there and take classes. There is nothing that an Indian parent will do to get his child educated it seems. It is maddening.

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  4. This whole coaching thing is crazy, I read an article about a survey conducted among kids in the city, where 60% kids said their parents discouraged them from playing any sport, and it also emerged that a fair percentage of parents put kids as young as 4 years old in coaching and tuition class...to coach them on what I wonder really but bite me they apparently do! I joked with a friend that pretty soon they will want us to believe that we need to enroll ourselves in tuition sessions while we are pregnant to ensure our yet to be born babies will be coming out in the world as geniuses, but then I read many articles about ladies reading high litterature or reciting math theorems to their bump, so that would not even be a joke it seems, some people do go that overboard crazy before baby is even born :(

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  5. sudha1:43 PM

    and to add people stare u at awe when u say i dont send my son for tutions!!!and my question is asme for what do i send...and 1 more thing people are so concerned why my son doesnt attend activty classes ..i so belive at this tender age they need unstructured outdoor play ...this will burn their unlimited energy to the hilt!!!

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