Two-year-olds go for interview coaching classes in Mumbai. Yes, that is a thing.
While I was pretty sure that nothing could shock me anymore while living in this city, I was wrong. It took me a few days to get my head around this strange trend (of sorts).
In the race to get into the best schools in the city, parents are sending their kids for interview coaching classes. And some are "investing" lakhs of rupees on this.
If you enrol your child after the age of 3, you are considered tardy—the grooming has to begin much earlier...
Some toddlers go for these classes for as long as a couple of years. If you enrol your child after the age of 3, you are considered tardy—the grooming has to begin much earlier, sometimes a couple of years before school admissions start.
With competition levels to get into the school of your dreams being so high, desperate times call for desperate measures, it seems.
These classes are usually held under the radar—teachers don't usually advertise them openly, but everybody knows about them. And there is always a huge demand. Some teachers politely call these classes "GK classes" or "conversation classes". But the bottom line is to get kids into their parents' dream schools. And parents are willing to do anything to make sure that happens.
Tough to get in
Getting into these interview coaching classes can sometimes be as difficult as getting admission into LKG in Mumbai schools—not everyone who applies has the good fortune of being accepted. The teachers, who are much sought after, pick and choose students they are willing to "coach". Other kids are put on a waiting list, giving a glimmer of hope to anxious parents.
Some batches take as many as 12 kids. Every teacher has a different age at which she enrolls children for these classes, and some claim to be specialists in getting admission into particular schools—such as Cathedral and John Connon School or JB Petit High School For Girls.
This trend has been around for years, and some parents say that it is predominantly in South Mumbai. But many in Mumbai's suburbs too take these classes, with teachers sprouting up in all parts of the city.
Illegal to interview
It is illegal for schools to interview children as part of the admissions process, but schools have outsmarted the government by calling these sessions "child interaction sessions" or "child observation sessions."
So what exactly do they observe in these sessions?
Some teachers politely call these classes "GK classes" or "conversation classes". But the bottom line is to get kids into their parents' dream schools.
They "observe" if the child can say his ABCs right. Some observe if a child can stack rings in order of their sizes. Others observe if a child can recognise numbers from a book. They also observe how well behaved a child is and if the school can handle the child's temperament.
This is a fairly ridiculous system. Putting that kind of pressure on any child is wrong, let alone on a toddler to get into school—where he is suppose to be taught all these things anyway! But parents feel they have no other choice and don't want to be left behind. A school is after all a child's second home, and every parent wants only what is best for their child.
But rather than each kid outsmarting the other in the interview process, the focus should be on increasing the supply of top-class schools. The focus should be on better quality of primary education. The focus should be to ensure our future generations turn out to be good citizens.
The focus should not be on acing interviews when they are two years old. They have the rest of their lives to deal with the pressures of cracking interviews –whether it is getting into college or bagging a job. Let us give our two-year-olds a break, can we please? Allow them to be children. Now is the only time they can.