Monday, February 25, 2008

Nursery admissions? Get ready for the battle

Kirans' Column

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


bird's eye view said...


I have to say, Delhi seems much easier for school admissions than Bombay. I think I did mention to you on a comment that my friends's 3 year old daughter was asked to put together 25 pictures in the right order as per the story which the interviewer had just narrated to all the kids. If we'd had to do that here, Chubbocks would be sitting at home learning to twiddle his thumbs! Here both the pre-school and the main school bit was relatively low stress - the schools we applied to had an open day where the kids could run around on the playground equipment, while the interviewers spoke to us, mainly about our value systems and parenting beliefs and such like.

I really think some sort of law needs to be passed because preschool and kindergarten etc shouldn;t create so much competition just because there is a scarcity - the kids go through enough when they face the boards!

bird's eye view said...

Meant to add - I just posted about Chubbocks' school and their lack of focus on competitiveness on my blog.

indosungod said...

No way Kiran! this is one reason I am happy to be in the US. Well her the interview process is more for us evaluating the school than the other way around.

The process in India is so out of control, demand and the ultra competitive that we Indians are, it is not surprising.

Good Luck with the admission process! Grin and bear right?

RJ said...

I recently went through admission process for my son. He is 22mon now. By the time he starts school (sep 08) he will be about 2.5 yrs.
And I am in US. Although there were no interviews here, but out of the 5 schools I applied - one of them accepted my son. For the rest he was simply denied or in the waiting list. One of schools even said they have waiting list from 2005 !!!.
Recently I even heard a friend tell me about a preschool interviewing kids at 18 months age - and rejected because she couldn't speak! I agree with you - how dare they judge little children at 18 mon of age.
Also there are many kids who are dispelled from school - of course I am assuming that won't happen in India - considering the amount of donations they take.
Wish you good luck in finding the perfect school for your precious.

GettingThereNow said...

Autism spectrum disorder has been ruled out? I am SO glad! (I am sorry I must have missed that post) And it reinforces my belief that schools and teachers are just labeling kids with these terms most of the time to get the easy way out. Then they can shrug off the responsibility of teaching these kids, who need more effort (not because they know less, but because they are just high energy kids) Anyway, that was so not the point of your post, right? :D

I am speechless after reading your post! I saw my nephew go through Nursery school admissions about 9-10 years ago and thought it was over the top then. Your post made MY blood boil - these schools and teachers think they can accept or deny kids based on what they do or don't know? Did anyone tell them that it is THEIR job to teach the skills they are testing these kids on? My goodness, Kiran! I would surely have gone nuts if we lived in India.

Sandeepa(Bong Mom's CookBook/DesiMomzClub) said...


I hope more people read this and raise their voice against such issues.

The sharp contrast to schooling here in the US makes me really angry.

Getting into a pre-school in the US as far as I know is not really mandatory and is neither difficult. School also as I see for my 4 year old is more fun than learning strict lessons.

karmickids said...

BirdsEyeView: The demand supply situation for good schools is so ridiculous here, that for a hundred seats, you have over 1000 applicants. That gives the schools an opportunity to play God. Plus the fact that registerations, forms and such like are an added source of income. Yes, I remember that 25 pic narrative comment. It is precisely this that gets me agitated.

Indosun:Thankfully, am done for a while. Until the brat gets into college I hope. But I feel for them parents struggling every year. Do you know, parents camp out outside schools through the night to collect forms when they are being issued?

RJ: THis donation thing is going through the roof. I already have got admissions, and thankfully this school didnt take donations then, but it does now.

Gettingtherenow: Yes, thank the lord. Its just PDD/NOS now. SID Vestibular. And Semantic Pragmatic Disorder. All mild. Therapist says he needs just three to four months more of intensive therapy.
The schools, one cant really blame the teachers too. They are underpaid and overworked with 50 and 60 preschoolers crammed into each class. How can they give individual attention to each child. The school the brat goes to is in the minority with 25 kids per class in the preprimary and two teachers and two maids per class. Other schools are a nightmare.

Sandeepa: I get four books of homework every weekend with a total of around 16 pages of homework. For the brat. A four year old. Fun and games is for after school hours.

ParentOfAChild.Com said...

Dear Kiran,

I was just going through nursery admission updates on google and saw this post and could not stop but responding.

We stay in Delhi and have a 4 year old sweet son. We have started a community 2 months back called just because of the mess created by Nursery Admission policies in Delhi.

This has been one harrowing time for both of us trying to get a good school for our son. The criteria are so weird that we almost did not get through to any school in Delhi.

There are still many parents who are yet to secure admissions for their kids and the admission process is almost over here.

We were the worst case, 4 year plus boy child, first child. This year the admission age was reduced from 4 to 3 for nursery leading to no seats for KG and a rush for admissions by parents of 3 year olds also who were caught off guard.

Many schools did not even give forms or admission to 4+ kids.

If you check on our website there is a group of parents called "Parents of first born boys, no admission in any school" at .

We are running this community for 2 months now and can really understand what a trauma it is.

We invite you to come and share your views with the parents from Delhi and get to know what is better... Delhi or Mumbai ;-).

With more than 925 member parents you will be able to find and create opinion regarding the nursery process in delhi and also enlighten us all about the same in Mumbai.

There are many members who are moving to Mumbai this year and wanted to have guidance regarding that. Hence, it would help us all.

We have been scouting for new schools coming up in Delhi now and yesterday visited one. We will be sending a mailer to all the members about our experience and recommendations about that school.

We just hope that all the kids get admissions to schools with good education.. Fees is not the criteria .. Good Education is a right of every child.

And btw...

This is a great blog you have going on here.. I would be visiting it more often now.. Have bookmarked your blog . :)

All the Best with Admissions.
Puja Arora
Parents for Parents Community

It is said that "Grass is greener on the other side."

It seems the same case here with parents in Delhi thinking Mumbai's admission system is good while you think vice versa...

karmickids said...

Puja: I feel your pain. It is an absolute shambles out there, and I didnt realise the situation in Delhi was all that horrific, I was under the impression that with the new guidelines, the situation had gotten streamlined. Thank you for enlightening me. We parents need to come together on a national platform to request the Government to rationalise admission policies and practices across cities, and these ratifications should take place after inputs from PTAs have been sought and looked at. There are so many issues which need to be looked at, and the mess over admissions is the first step. All the best in your quest for admissions. I do hope you are able to find a good school for your son.

Shemrock said...

Shemrock has prepared a good list for the basic information each parent needs for the kids admission
Admission Alert

Daisy said...


I have to move to Mumbai in a few months and looking to get admission in Grade 1 for my 6 year old. I am quickly learning that most school will not give admission if you did not get in nursery. I have tried 15 schools so far and all of them give the same answer there are no seats. After reading this about nursery admissions, I am beginning to understand that the schools probably want that you go through this process and not have the easy way out of admitting in 1st or 2nd grade. But now I have a serious problem at hand as to how to get my kid in school. If anyone has any advice..please help!

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