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American documents admission pains

Booming population, soaring real estate prices and lack of public schools in the United States have left parents fretting over the chances of getting their children admitted to good private nursery schools, reports Tanya Ashreena.

delhi Updated: Dec 01, 2008 00:36 IST
Tanya Ashreena

Frustrated parents standing in endless queues, waiting to buy application forms, running from one interview to the next… Sounds like the nursery admission process in Delhi? But it is New York.

Booming population, soaring real estate prices and lack of public schools in the United States have left parents fretting over the chances of getting their children admitted to good private nursery schools. And filmmaker Marc Simon has captured their plight on camera.

Simon’s film, Nursery University, featured in Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, is getting rave reviews.

Set in Manhattan, Nursery University unveils the story of the excessively competitive nature of nursery school admissions. Chronicling five families of different socio-economic backgrounds, the film depicts the arduous journey they undertake to put their toddlers in pre-schools with limited seats, high fees, and unpredictable school authorities, who will decide which applicants to reward.

Simon said that when he started making the film, he did not know such a problem existed in India. “In our research, we became aware of the issue internationally, after reading several articles detailing the problem in London. But I did not know about the issue in India,” he said in an exclusive email interview with Hindustan Times.

The film likens the competitive nature of nursery admissions to admissions to Harvard or Yale. “The title, Nursery University, was chosen after careful deliberation, as it described the admissions process and poked fun,” Simon said.

Parents in the film are shown contemplating which private pre-schools to send their toddlers to, believing that certain schools will increase their child’s chances of gaining admission to an Ivy League university. But Simon disagrees, “I do not believe that the nursery school a toddler attends has any impact on the college that child will eventually attend. However, I agree that not all schools are equal in the education they provide, and it is beneficial to have a child attend a school with qualified and caring early childhood educators.”

Though the documentary mocks the “country-club” factor, with parents trying to improve their social standing by sending kids to high-profile private schools, Simon personally does not believe the insistence of parents to get children into good nurseries is silly.

During filming, Simon faced several problems. Schools were hostile to speak, and parents were reluctant to participate, fearing that such activity would deter their children’s chances of getting into good schools. “I am thankful to the parents who trusted us,” he said.

“At the end of the day, parents who approach the process responsibly can find good schools for their children. So I am not worried about where to admit my kids. Though, yes, the cost is intimidating,” said Simon.

There are no planned screenings in India. However, Simon said he would be thrilled to have his film viewed by Indian audiences.