In recent years, the experience a parent has to endure to get his / her child admitted into school is nothing short of metropolitan folklore. The stories range from exuberation and triumph to dismay and distraught. My story of getting admissions for my second daughter was nothing less. She is all of 4 years old and like many children of her age in Bangalore, had to get into a proper school to start her lower kindergarten [LKG]. I chose to apply for admissions in two schools, very hopeful that I will get lucky in at least one of them.
The first one is a very popular all-girls school in central Bangalore. My elder daughter has been studying there for almost 7 years now and I was pleased with the quality of education and all round development that the school imparts. Hence this was an automatic choice for my second child as well. In the past, when the forms were issued at the school premises, parents used to queue up 24 hours in advance. They used to brave the cold Bangalore winter at night and sleep on the pavement to ensure they do not take any chances in getting the admission forms. Thankfully good sense has prevailed and now everything is online. It took me less than 10 minutes to fill my child’s detail online and pay the fees as well. Subsequently the school sent me an application form over e-mail. I had to fill it accurately and submit at the school premises. Here are the additional documents that I had to provide, along with the filled-in form: Government birth certificate of the child; hospital birth certificate of child; residential address proof of child and parents; government issued Aadhar card of child and both parents; proof of education of parents and proof of salary of parents.
We are not very superstitious, but my wife is particular about choosing the date and time when it comes to embarking on a new journey. School admission was no exception. She checked her usual golden sources and told me precisely when I should be at the school to submit all the documents. I dared not challenge her wisdom. In less than two weeks of submitting the documents, I got an e-mail informing me that my child had successfully cleared the first round of screening. We now had to take her to the school for an interview with the school management.
This was going to be a challenge since my child is an introvert to say the least. In this entire universe, she talks to just about 8 – 10 individuals. If anyone else coaxes her too much, she could bring the roof down with her shrill wail. We were short of ideas on how to get her ready for this interview. We used the oldest trick in the book, so to speak. We told her that we will enjoy a meal at the nearby McDonalds outlet. All that she had to do in return was to answer questions that an anonymous teacher will ask. My child was game for this and the deal was on. We prepared her with the usual mannerisms and children rhymes.
On D-Day, my wife and I were more nervous than my child who was obviously nonchalant about everything. The three of us were welcomed into a spacious hall. When it was our turn, we were asked to meet one of the half a dozen teachers tasked with the exercise of quizzing the child. The teacher assigned to us started off speaking to my child. She asked her named; asked her to recite a rhyme and asked her parent’s names. She even asked us some basic questions to understand how much time we spend at home and work. Finally she gave a candy to my daughter and told us that her speech and words are still not perfect. We sported an embarrassing grin since we knew our child could not pronounce certain syllables clearly. There was nothing much we could do about this… definitely not at this juncture. Having finished the interview, we stuck to our part of the deal of taking her to McDonalds!
In another couple of weeks, I received an e-mail informing us that our child has been selected for admissions to LKG. Everyone at home was happy and relieved at the same time. However the e-mail also informed us to complete a hearing, vision and speech test for my child. And so we went to about doing these as well. It was largely smooth, except for the fact that the person evaluating speech asked my daughter [remember she is yet to start her formal education] what a preposition is. The empty look on her face and on mine and on my wife’s, clearly showed that none of knew what a preposition was. After reaching home, my elder daughter educated us [just me and my wife] on what a preposition is. Nevertheless the tests were successful… phew… and now we just had to wait to pay the fees.
The second school were I applied is one of the most popular girls school in Bangalore. It was known for its famous [and at least one infamous] alumni. The entire procedure of filling the admission form was done online. Here again it took me about 10 minutes to fill the form. In three weeks’ I got an e-mail informing that the final selection will be done based on lots. I read the mail carefully another 3 – 5 times to really convince myself that what I was reading was true. Yes… the school was indeed selecting its students based on a lucky draw… only the lucky ones will be admitted to the school. On a very hot and sunny afternoon, I went to the school for the lucky draw. I was impressed by the expanse of their campus and environment. I must confess that their system of selecting students by lots was very well organized and very transparent. They had clearly earmarked categories such as government employees, private sector employees, siblings in the same school, and so on and had also set aside a certain number of seats for each category. I belonged to the private sector category. A few volunteers from the audience picked tokens which identified the student who would get admission to the school. However much I tried, I could not find a fault in the system. One had to be lucky to get admission. The private sector category was allotted 90 seats. I waited and waited and waited until 87 tokens were called out. My child never figured in any of them. And just when I had given up, I heard the magic number that I was waiting for. Hurrraahh…. Lucky day for me and my kiddo!!! And this is how my kid was selected for admissions into this school as well.
Now we were in a fix about selecting one of the two. The solution to the conundrum was a no-brainer once we received the fee structure of both the schools. The later was charging more than twice the fees of the former school. And so without any hesitation, we enrolled my child into the school, which I first spoke about. It was even more convenient for us since both our children now studied in the same school. Very soon we also completed the remaining formalities of paying the school fees, collecting the books, uniform, etc.
And finally we heaved a sigh of relief for having successfully completed the school admissions.
However the entire episode got me thinking about the education system that is prevalent in our country:
- The admission process was almost done online. So what about people who dream for a good education for their child, but do not have the means to access internet?
- We are enrolling our children to a school so that they start their formal education. However the poor things are asked so many questions. I have heard horror stories of various schools putting these 4 year olds to a rigorous examination. If the child was really smart, why would we even bother getting into a proper school? And here again, what about children of illiterate parents?
- It is a real mystery as to how schools select eligible students.
- The school fees are so damn expensive that I feel it is nothing short of robbery at times. I spent just a fraction of this amount to complete all four years of my graduation. It fails my imagination as to why schools should be charging such exorbitant fees at all.
- Government schools are still the most affordable in our country. Many of our current leaders and industry stalwarts studied in these government school a few decades ago. So why is the government not taking the initiative to bring them back to life and do what the children of the country badly need.
- The system is now designed and evolving in such a way that illiterate and poorly educated folks will continue to bestow similar traits to their children. There is no end in sight to this vicious cycle into which a large part of our country’s population has been sucked into.
We can all be proud that we belong to a country that was successful in its mission to planet Mars. But I am sure we will be even more proud if all children in our country are entitled to basic education, irrespective of their circumstances. Wonder if this will remain a dream forever!!!