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Anxiety at beginner’s level

From big names to neighbourhood operations, there are options for every need. But how to choose the best?

delhi Updated: May 01, 2012 00:34 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times

A huge poster with hundreds of passport-size pictures outside the building, advertising successful students from the school who have joined reputed education institutions, greeted Manav Verma (name changed) when he took his daughter along for admission.

Mind you, this was no coaching school for IIT-JEE, but a play school for toddlers. It was boasting about its students who had secured admission in some of the most-sought after schools in Delhi-NCR.

Admissions to pre-schools for kids in the age group of 2-3 years are in full swing in Delhi-NCR. From established names with nation-wide franchises to neighbourhood hole-in-the-wall operations, there are pre-schooling options to suit every need and pocket.

Virtually unknown to the previous generation, whose tryst with formal, structured education usually began only after nursery, now even one-year-olds are being sent to play schools. And registration for seats begins in the maternity wards itself.

Verma, a resident of Vaishali in Ghaziabad, was not too keen to send his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to a pre-school but gave in when his wife insisted that their daughter would lose out to competition during nursery admissions.

“There are a number of options available but it’s hard to judge which one would be the best for her,” Verma said. “I first went to a well-known play school chain but didn’t like what I saw,” he said.

“The building looked nice from outside but its interiors were dank and claustrophobic. Also, I wasn’t impressed by the teachers at the school, most of whom didn’t seem properly trained to provide early education,” he said.

The neighbourhood play schools that Verma checked out were not good enough either. “Most of them are just two- or three-bedroom builder flats turned overnight into schools. In one place, school-owners used the rooms as classrooms in morning and bedrooms for themselves in the evening,” he said.

And Verma is not the only parent in a quandary. There is no dearth of play schools in Delhi-NCR but without even basic guidelines, there is an appalling absence of quality and scientific education methods. The number of play schools and pre-schools in Delhi-NCR is in thousands but the sector, now a booming industry, is completely unregulated.

There are absolutely no rules or guidelines on starting or operating a play school. Anyone with a floor or few rooms to spare can open a play school and is not answerable to any authority. The schools do not have any legal standing and there is no government authority responsible in the event of an accident or mishap.

To check the unbridled mushrooming of play schools in the Capital, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had requested the Delhi government last year to issue guidelines for their functioning and to get them registered. The MCD is responsible for nursery and primary education in the Capital; secondary education comes under the the Delhi government's jurisdiction.

“Many people come to us for authorisation but only Delhi government can give recognition to play schools,” said Mahinder Nagpal, former chairman of MCD’s education committee who had written to the Delhi Chief Minister. “There are no norms governing their operation and most schools operate from very small spaces. Who would be responsible in case there is an accident or fire?” he added.

The government, however, doesn't want to regulate the sector and believes judging schools is best left to parents. As long the MCD and the Delhi government pass the buck, parents will have to decide what is best for their children.

First Published: May 01, 2012 00:33 IST