New Year means a host of resolutions for most. I just had one in 2015: To ensure that my child got admission in a nursery of a good school.
How do you define a good school in a city full of schools with each one of them claiming to have a bigger brand name, better sports facilities and an unblemished academic record aka a number of former students who managed 98% or more in board exams. What about paying attention to the individual student or growth of the child as a person with no importance attached to the marks? Now, you are entering a grey area.
The only thing you can really depend upon is the assurance of your neighbour/friend/colleague whose sister’s daughter’s friend studies in the said school and just loves it. Not that, as a parent, you are in any situation to choose. It is mostly a question of luck as a lottery system and the location of your residence decide where your child will spend the 14 important years of his or her life.
School admissions are probably the most nerve-wracking, harrowing and time-consuming exercise you will participate in a long time and the worst part is that there is just no preparing for it. With no unified admission criteria or the date when admission forms come out or when the final lists are declared, parents live in a state of suspended animation from day one till it is over. That is only if the child gets admission in the same academic year.
Nursery admission is a process that needs hard word, strategic planning and filling forms – a lot of forms. From my experience, I would suggest planning days off from work to begin with. Then get hold of your laptop, some pens, every certificate you got since your child was born and a strong cup of coffee, or maybe 10.
It begins with making a list of all the probable schools you want to apply to. Spread your net wide and apply in as many schools as you can in the neighbourhood. The admission criteria vary from school to school – some even adding and subtracting points arbitrarily – so it will help if you hedge your bets. Then get a list of when their forms come out, when they are supposed to be submitted and when they will announce their results.
And here’s a thought: The schools were asked to upload their admission criteria online by the Delhi government’s department of education by December 20. Out of 1,737 schools, 1,300 failed to meet the deadline. Three deadlines down, 324 schools were yet to comply by December 30. Yes, the system is this arbitrary.
In such an environment, grab that cup of coffee and make a list of when each school comes out with the form. The next step is to visit the school and collect the forms because in this era of the internet, many schools still want to do business the old fashioned way. For those who have online forms, you would want to go and collect their prospectus. There are some who would be happy to accept the forms online - praise the lord for it.
Filling the forms is not easy because many schools want to know why you want to admit your child to their school. Others want to know more about you and your understanding of the word ‘education’. Will your answers make or break the chance of your child’s admission? You don’t know so you give them all you are worth.
Now is the time to give some honest answers: What is the distance between your house and the school? What is your income? What is your spouse’s income? Did you play sports in school? Do you do social work? Do you eat meat? Are you environment-conscious? How can you contribute to the school? How much time do you spend with your kid? If you work, where does your child go during the day? Do your parents live with you?
When you are done with the Spanish interrogation, get a million copies of every certificate pertaining to your child and your residence; you will need every one of them duly attested by you or a gazetted officer. Probably make friends with a gazetted officer in advance because he/she will have to really like you to sign and stamp so many of them.
This done trudge back to the schools, ask them when the lists come out, ask again (hopefully this time) whether lists will be put online and start praying. Because from this moment on, your child’s admission will be decided by a draw of lots.
Remember the nerve-wracking part we discussed earlier, this is when it comes into play. Travelling from one school to another, first hoping your child will make it to the school of your choice. And if luck is not on your side, at least to one school among those you favoured. In some cases, parents are desperate enough for admission in any school as long as their child gets into one.
There are some children who don’t and the dreaded management quota comes into play. But that’s a dark subject we will not discuss. My child did get into a school but I was all out of coffee by the end of it. That, and my will to live.