It’s a battlefield out there, and the foot soldiers are two and a half to three year olds, goaded by their parents’ anxiety for them to make the cut. After all, if they manage to make the grade into the ‘hallowed and preferred school’ they can then take it easy till they pass out of their tenth standard and then struggle for admission to their ‘hallowed and preferred college’. The rat race begins early here.
I got my first taste of it, when the brat was born. “Where will you get him admitted to playschool?,” asked a wellmeaning friend. “Ehhhh?” I went, typical of my total lackadaisical attitude to most competitive things in life. Yes, the brat inherits that from me, he’s not about to win any races, much to his father’s disgust. But then I digress. “You have to register in a good playschool right now,” she informed me. “Or their batches will be full up by the time he needs to start.” And when would that be? I wondered aloud. “When he is one and half years. In June. Regardless of his actual age.”
True to form, I didn’t bother. Until various issues (his speech lag, suspected autism spectrum disorder, which thankfully has been ruled out now, and his other developmental delays) had the clinical psychologist evaluating him tell me that I should put him in playschool for him to be able to interact with other children his age. Yes, he didn’t get a chance to interact with children, the building we lived in had no children, and all his cousins were in different cities. We went to the parks and the malls, where he clung to me for dear life and refused to be set on the ground.
Therefore, I trotted off to the best playschools in the vicinity. “Sorry maam. You’re too late. We registered for this batch last year. We had our interviews and everything last November.” I flipped onto the rubber floor in sheer shock. Interviews??? Nonetheless I kept trying at every reputed place, and school in the radius of one kilometer, until I settled on a playschool and nursery run by an elderly Parsi lady, which wasn’t one of the fancier ones, but a simple one with no place for the kids to run around. And benches and chairs where she expected two year olds to sit and sketch and repeat nursery rhymes. And identify fruits and vegetables. It was horrible. My mistake. My only criterion for selecting it being it was two buildings away from home.
Then, the realization that I needed to get the brat into someplace nice, where trained and professional teachers could handle him with the kiddy gloves and care he needed. And the search began again. The parents around me were enrolling their kids in classes that conducted mock interviews to help the child get through the interview process for nursery admissions in reputed schools. My son wasn’t even talking coherently. He had a chance in hell of making it through the interviews.
I applied to five schools. The procedure was standard.
The kids were taken into a room made to play with random toys placed before them, we parents were asked to stand separately, a teacher asked them some questions, they were expected to answer correctly and rapidly.
They were evaluated on how they played with toys, and how fast they put together three to four piece jigsaw puzzles.
We were called in, and interviewed. Our educational qualifications attested by our certificates. Our fluency in English judged. Our current professions scanned and we sitting through an interview with some random pre primary coordinator who must have never gone beyond graduation and teacher training. It was ridiculous.
Finally, one school granted the brat admission. Only because he had gone for the interview running a fever and his disinclination to be a performing monkey gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was two and a half. He didn’t even know the meaning of the word vehicle, how could he be expected to sort out the vehicles from a bunch of random picture cards. All he did was fling them around. Kids of friends were mugging up the alphabet. Learning the names of the President and Prime Minister of India. Learning about the solar system and the planets. Anything could be asked. One child I know was asked “What is Reliance?” The mother, a dear friend tells me, “I stood up and took my child and walked out.”
Learning the recitation of nursery rhymes. Getting a crash course in training for the ‘nursery interview’, in fact some classes even surreptiously claimed that they had an insider connection for guaranteed admissions. Classes. For training to get through nursery interviews. I was in total and complete shock and disbelief. But then, the school we got admission into had us pay a donation. And when I went to collect the receipts for admission, I saw a child from Mont 1, the class the brat would be in when he would join, being made to stand outside the class as a punishment. The tiny fellow was roaming around unsupervised and no one watching him.
I reached home and cried, and asked the husband to try again at the school I wanted. We had been summarily rejected here already. Needless to say, we had already spent a pretty packet on all the application forms, registrations, etc. I wondered how a salaried person would cope, just filling out forms was so expensive, forget the paying of the fees.
So we tried again. Digging out all the connections we could find. And admission was granted. Thanks be to the Lord. But my blood still boils.
Taking two year olds away from their parents and making them answer inane questions in English which is probably not even their mother tongue is laughable.
And why do all the schools assume that a docile child who sits and does the activities asked of them is an ideal candidate for admission? Are they looking for dispirited zombies.
And worse, and to my mind, the most blasphemous of them all, how dare they judge such little children? How dare they assume they have the right to divide the children and reject some and take in some others based on some arbitary concept of guidelines?
Yes, the law has banned interviews in Delhi, but they continue under the guise of interactions, which are nothing more than interviews under another name. Mumbai parents aren’t so lucky.
Here are some links which I am sure will get your hackles up too.
Let me know your experiences. Your opinion. And what you feel about this.
(This post by Kiran of www.karmickids.blogspot.com)