Things you should demand from your child's school in India8:56 AM
I made it no secret that we were not happy with Ishita's previous school, this is what resulted in this super long Summer break we just ended.
In the past week that Ishita got back to school, I heard her talk more about what she did and how exiting it was than I did the past year in her old school.
This simply nailed the last nail in my long reflection about what a school should be about, for both children AND parents.
I will leave the whole curriculum and board alphabet soup out of the equation here, simply because there are options that work better for different people. But, I will focus on how a school should treat you parents (and money provider) and how it treats kids.
Our former school is a textbook example of what should NOT happen, and what parents across India should start going against. Sadly, our old school was not an isolated case, there are many just like it in our area. We chose it on the promises made by the school and it's curriculum, and we felt cheated on that front, but what pissed us up the most was the unprofessionalism and blatant disrespect for parent's time and human value (not to mention the kids).
I decided to make a list of all the things that drove us crazy there, and how sadly, I was the only one among the parents having an issue with, or at least being vocal about.
As a parent who pays, let's face it, hefty school fees each year. The LEAST you should demand from the school is for them to keep all communication lines open and make it easy for you, parent to address a concern and issue.
Our old school didn't see it as so important : The phone line almost never got picked up. The teachers failed to check the school diary for notes regularly. The promises of monthly phone updates fell through after 2 months. The bus vendor provided us with mobile phones, half of which were constantly switched off. And, when we finally got the school to pick up and raised a bus issue, they would send us back to the bus vendor.
Then, there was the fact that the only teacher you could get to talk to was the homeroom teacher, in our case it was the Maths teacher, I never got a hold of the science teacher, Hindi teacher and did once get the English teacher who upon my raising the concern of Ishita copying blindly off the black board without knowing how too read said : "Don't worry she is fine". She spent an entire year NOT understanding what she wrote, I wonder how that is fine.
More troubling was the time we got a cryptic message at 11.30pm telling us about a Bus strike that may or may not happen in the morning.
Came the morning, the bus wasn't there, so I dropped Ishita in school myself. When it was time to pick her up, I stepped out of my building to see the bus picking up the afternoon kids on our route!
I spend 20 minutes of my auto ride to attempt to get the phone picked up. When I finally got them on, they pretty much made me feel like I was making a fuss about nothing and that it was all my fault.
I urged them to NOT put Ishita on the bus as I was on the way. I was told to pick her up in her classroom.
Guess what happened? Yup I reached the school, and they didn't inform the teacher about the change and they were about to make her board the damn school bus! I threw another fit, and they again made me feel like I was over-reacting and that no, they did nothing wrong because the SMS about the strike warning was to let us know there was a POSSIBILITY of strike, sending another one telling us the strike got cancelled was too much for them...right!
Parents aren't walking money purse
Sure, schools are costing money and operate as businesses in most Indian cities. That, however, is NO excuse to constantly burden parents with extra fees. Especially when it comes to pieces of uniform, special events costumes, and field trips.
The school KNOWS it will happen every year, so why not just include it into the fees and spare us the hassle of writing cheques, or worse sending cash along with the kid to school.
This happened way too much in Ishita's old school, and I ask you, what part of sending a 6 years old to school with an enveloppe containing 1000 rupees in cash is safe? 1000 rupees for the cost of a martial art uniform they could either have included in the fees, or asked us to purchase directly from the vendor along with all the other uniform things.
But no! Let's have hundreds of kids carry 1k to school instead, so much safer!
Don't get me started on annual day costumes, last year we paid 800 rupees for an army man costume rental! And I was still in the group where kids actually wore a costume that looked fancy. I have a friend whose son was in the "fishermen" group, she paid 800 for them to provide a rental piece of checked patterned fabric and ordered to make her son wear a white vest and shorts from home! 800 bucks for a kiddie sized cotton dhoti...yes that is right!
Keep your promises
We made the choice to go for a Cambridge curriculum, that was OUR choice, we paid the fees for it accordingly, and we made that choice based on the promises made by the school.
Us, like many parents were in because we wanted a more concept based learning approach, free of unnecessary competition, exams and realistic expectations for the children.
We were cheated on all the line, the school only saw their Cambridge licence as a way to extort more money from the parents, to justify it, they pushed the curriculum to the extreme and pretty much did 99% of rote learning (copying everything off the black board into a notebook). If we wanted that kind of teaching methodology, we would have gone for another school.
I also found out that in an effort to impress parents, they skipped the Maths and English curriculum for Grade 1 and made them go straight ahead to Grade 2.
When I pointed this out to the teacher, I got a lecture on how I was wrong, and how International schools are more advanced. At which point I asked the teacher to have a good look at my face and asked her to venture a guess as to where I am from.
Embarrassed, she then fond nothing better than to blurt out "Ma'am don't talk like that in front of your daughter, you are destroying her confidence and burning her future". Say what? I told her to hold her tongue and stormed out after I found talking to the principal was not even going to happen.
Maintain a certain level of hygiene and SAFETY in the school premises
Seriously, that should be a no brainer. Sadly, many school don't think it is important. Our old school belonged to the rank of schools who didn't care.
On one floor having about 500 students, there was one boy toilet with two cubicle, and one girl toilet with 2 cubicles.
Both toilets were constantly filthy, as the school cleaning staff didn't see it fit to keep it clean more than a handfull of time a day. There were urine stains on the ground, leaky faucet, mosquitoes gallore, and according to Ishita there wasn't even soap to wash your hand afterward.
Then one day Ishita came home, telling me that boys have been given permission to use the girl's room because theirs were broken, it lasted over a week!
Because yes, teach "Good touch, Bad touch" in school, but then allow boys to invade a space meant for girls!
Each time the school was doing improvement somewhere in the school, it meant having construction workers roam around the building DURING school hours. Really?
Parents have lives outside the school
Yes, I know it comes as a shocking revelation, but parents work jobs to pay your teacher's salary! The least you can do is treat them with respect.
That means that if you planned a holiday calendar, you stick to it. It also mean that you keep those effing "half days" to a minimum.
Last but not least, stop assuming there will be someone at home the whole time to accommodate your crazy schedule changes. Namely, stop assuming WOMEN are first and foremost mothers and wives! We want India to go toward the path of equality for both genders. Making working women negotiate leaves with their boss at the last minute is not going to promote that, or make women more willing to enter the work force.
It's the 21st century, and if you can teach kids about computers, internet, science and technology, assume that it also mean women aren't just chapati makers who stay home.
That crazy school even made us endure an extra week of "leave" because of "Urgent repair". When I found out all the classrooms were in use and tried to raise the concern the school quickly cut all communication lines.
The best part was the fact they cheated on the report cards at the end of the year. Announcing that there were 200 days of school in the year, where in fact, there have been only 174.
54 of these days were half days, on the account of "exam revision period" and "Adjustment period" for the 1st graders. This mean that 6 months of the year were spent out of the school and of the actual school days, only about 120 were real full time days. What kind of working parents can work just 3 months in full and get away with so many leaves and erratic timing?
Shocking, but schools that respect parents and kids exist.
The thing I heard the most from parents stuck in school as bad or worse than our old school was : "What can we do, we have no choice"
Well, yes, you do have a choice, and if everybody were protesting that kind of crap, schools would march to a different tune. In the end, they want to operate like businesses, and without the patronage of parents paying school fees they would be in trouble.
Then there are the schools that may cost a tiny teeny bit more (but not much) and accept that having functioning phones and emails for the parents to communicate is not much asking. That and clean premises free of pests, germs and unauthorised personnel.
Our current school is a perfect example of that, and it's not the only one where a MINIMUM of safety, and respect is ensured to both kids and parents.
Time to put an end to crappy school behaviour and standards!