Their size can range from a bedroom to a sprawling building; they can offer anything between building blocks and skating rinks; their teachers can be school drop-outs to post-graduate specialists in early child education.
With absolutely no basic norms to follow, what the playschools in Delhi-NCR can provide to your child depends mainly on how much money you can shell out.
Unlike formal schools, which could offer rudimentary facilities or could be uber posh but at least follow basic regulations, there are no rules to govern playschools. As a result, a majority of neighbourhood playschools can be opened and run by anyone, can have abysmal infrastructure and untrained teachers.
There are also no safety guidelines. A reality check
According to the report of the Ganguly Committee on pre-school education in Delhi, playschools should provide a healthy and safe environment, should be free of hazards, have adequate space for a child to move around and play. But unless a parent is able to pay the exorbitant fees of the more well-known playschools, they have to send their child to a smaller playschool which in most cases would be functioning from a two- or three-bedroom house.
“We have received many complaints from parents saying that most playschools are run from small houses, sometimes located on first floors or in basements,” said Sumit Vohra, founder of admissionsnursery.com, which helps parents seeking nursery admission for their children. “How safe is it for a two-year-old to climb steep stairs? Schools should also ensure classrooms are on ground level and have no curves or sharp objects,” he said.
“Had a primary school been running with such infrastructure and facilities, its license would have been cancelled. But since playschools are not registered with any government authority, nothing can be done against them,” Vohra added.
Safe transportation is another problem if the child is sent to a playschool that is at a distance. “We keep getting complaints from parents who say that many times children are left behind at the school as they are not put in their vans,” Vohra said.
“Since children studying in playschools are very young, they are more at risk. In case of any mishap, there is no authority that can be held responsible,” said Mahinder Nagpal, former chairman of MCD’s education committee.
Apart from inadequate infrastructure, a bigger problem that afflicts most playschools is the lack of trained teachers. These schools pay abysmal salaries, ranging between R2,000 to R5,000 per month. Only established names in the industry, who charge a fortune from parents, pay slightly better salaries to their teachers.
And while the recommended ratio of children in playschools to teachers should be one to eight-10 children, most playschools have one teacher for 15-30 kids. “Most playschools hire simple graduates who can be paid a low salary. Some play schools have also started nursery teaching institutes,” Vohra said.
“The reason why playschools should be regulated is that it would at least ensure schools have at least some basic facilities and their teachers have minimum qualifications,” he added.
What is the right age for a child to be admitted in pre-school and do children of that age need an academic, teacher-directed curriculum?