If you have a child who turned one recently (and will start school in 2021), he or she is probably already ineligible for admission to one of the most prestigious schools in Mumbai, the Cathedral and John Connon School.
Why you may ask?
Because for admission to the school four years from now, the school requires you to register the child within a 10-day window after the child turns one but before the child touches one year 10 days.
Sounds absurd? It's the truth. Click here if you don't believe me.
The focus has shifted from pitting preschoolers against each other to their parents battling it out! Many schools require parents to write "exams" to secure admission.
This is nothing, I am told. Some schools in India encourage you to register your child when you are pregnant to beat the competition. While I haven't yet investigated the truth to such claims since I've already passed that stage, it makes me shudder to think of the opportunity that may be lost for my clueless babies.
And just when you think the process couldn't get bleaker, it does.
In a landmark move, the government made it illegal for schools to interview the child for school admission. It really was a relief to know that three-year-old children would no longer be forced to compete with each other to prove their mettle for a top-notch education. So what are a good majority of schools doing now? They are interviewing the parents! The focus has shifted from pitting preschoolers against each other to their parents battling it out! Most schools want "highly qualified" parents, and you will need to submit certificates to substantiate your claims along with your child's admission form. Nothing short of an MBA is good enough, super-specialisation in your respective field is preferred.
From the schools' point of view, how else could you "choose" to fill the limited seats, given the high demand? This year, the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai issued its application forms in the last week of September, and admissions were closed by the first week of October. And in this short period, the school received 1000 application forms for 60 seats in LKG.
You remember that feeling when you wrote your last exam during graduation or postgraduation? When you walked out of that exam hall with a sigh of relief thinking that this was the last exam the education system would throw at you in your lifetime? You were wrong.
Like the circle of life, there is also the circle of education. Many schools require parents to write "exams" to secure admission. If you get through the exam and are declared sane or worthy enough, you will make it to the next round, which is usually a group discussion. And if you manage to get through, you need to crack the personal interview.
And then there is the question of donations. After all, money talks. People pay lakhs of rupees to secure a seat, sometimes for each of their children. A parent I know was brazenly told off by a peon at a mediocre school in Mumbai that if they bought a new computer (which the school needs), he would push their admission papers. Corruption doesn't spare even schooling in India. While many say that the demonetisation drive of the government will keep a check on donations in the short term, we can only wait to see how that turns out.
There has to be a better, more egalitarian way to secure our fundamental right to education.
There has to be a better way to streamline the education process in Indian schools, and make it a fair-for-all process. It makes no sense for some schools start registrations four years before your baby is going to start formal schooling and others to roll out admission months before the academic year.
While it is a given that we live in a highly competitive society, there has to be a better, more egalitarian way to secure our fundamental right to education.