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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Admissions to nursery in Gurugram’s private schools keep parents on their toes

Admission of children in nursery for the academic year 2020-21 is currently underway, with private schools inviting applications from prospective parents since July.

gurugram Updated: Sep 09, 2019 17:01 IST
Sadia Akhtar
Sadia Akhtar
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
A first-time nursery applicant, the mother of one underlined that the fluid nature of the admission process— which took place without any regulation—could do with government intervention and a uniform admission window, a sentiment echoed by other parents.
A first-time nursery applicant, the mother of one underlined that the fluid nature of the admission process— which took place without any regulation—could do with government intervention and a uniform admission window, a sentiment echoed by other parents.(HT FILE)
         

New to the city, Sonu Singh had to only go the extra mile, but also jump through hoops and past many hurdles to secure admission for her 3.6-year-old boy in the nursery for the 2020 session. She manoeuvred through websites of multiple schools, kept a tab of the varying admission timelines and reserved multiple seats since schools in the city so not follow a uniform selection criteria, even after it was suggested by the state government in February this year. The staggered nature of admissions coupled with little or no regulation meant that Singh had to be on her toes.

“The (admission) process in not streamlined, which means that one really has to dedicatedly track the dates of various schools. While some schools start registration as early as July, for others one might have to wait till the end of October. The timeline spans over months, and sometimes, one can end up missing crucial dates,” Singh said.

A first-time nursery applicant, the mother of one underlined that the fluid nature of the admission process— which took place without any regulation—could do with government intervention and a uniform admission window, a sentiment echoed by other parents. This at a time when the department of district education said the ball was in child welfare department’s court this year, but the latter denied it.

Admission of children in nursery for the academic year 2020-21 is currently underway, with private schools inviting applications from prospective parents since July. In addition to the timelines, schools also exercise the freedom to decide their own eligibility criteria.

The Haryana government had, in February, issued guidelines/ instructions for streamlining admission to nursery and pre-nursery in private schools across the state. These guidelines mention a 1-km neighbourhood preference for admission, a uniform age limit and a random lottery system as criteria for admission. The rules, however, state nothing about the admission schedule or other pertinent matters such as disclosing the annual fee, with its structure.

In the absence of strict enforcement of these guidelines, schools continue to enjoy considerable flexibility in framing their own admission rules. While some schools rely on a first-come-first-serve basis or a random draw of lots, most follow a point-based system in entirety or in part. The latter is against the state-framed guidelines, but the practice continues.

CASE IN ‘POINT’

Principal of Shiv Nadar School in DLF City Monica Sagar said their school has a well-defined, internal selection criteria. “We have a well-etched admission process in place which includes points for sibling and staff, and also takes the diversity of parents’ profiles into consideration,” Sagar said.

In Shikshantar, which closed admissions last month, all applicants meeting the school’s age criteria can apply, while the final selection is done through a draw of lots. Other schools such as Blue Bells Public School and Shri Ram Millennium School offer admission on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“People living in the neighbourhood are given preference during admission after being evaluated on other grounds such as points for having a sibling in the school, or being the ward of school alumnus,” said Kriti Bhatia, admission counsellor of the Blue Bells Public School.

AGE NO BAR

Most schools, in line with the state guidelines, have set 3.6 years as on 31st March 2020 as the minimum age required for admission. However, parents said this was not the case with all the schools.

Umang Singla, who is applying for the admission of his son, said the age criteria set by schools was ever-changing. “I visited a school recently to check the admission process and realized that my kid is not eligible since they had changed the age criterion last year. Parents get to know about these changes only when schools open for registration. I would have planned differently if there was prior notification from the school,” said Singla, who could not apply to many schools since they had changed the minimum age criteria and also put in place maximum age limit.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Singla added there was no transparency in the admission process and that some schools had neither published nor shared the exact fee structure for the upcoming session. “When parents inquire about the fee structure, we are vaguely told that it’ll be around 10% more than last year’s. More transparency in fee structure will help parents in deciding if they want to apply to a certain school or not. It could save them the money they spend on application forms,” he said.

Rules set down by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the state government, both, require schools to publish their complete fee structures on their websites. Parents, however, said that not all schools were sharing the fee details.

“I trawled through the websites of various schools. Some schools had disclosed the current fee structure, while others hadn’t. One really needs to dig deeper into the website to find out if they have a section for disclosing fee structure at all,” Singh said.

THE BURDEN OF MULTIPLE ADMISSIONS

Financial burden incurred from loss of admission fee paid to multiple schools for reserving a seat is also a cause of worry to parents. Most schools have different admission timelines, which means that parents might end up paying the fee in one school, while the admission window in a better school might open later. “The admission process adds to the financial burden since schools expect us to pay thousands or even lakhs of rupees in fee to reserve a seat. Only the security fee is refunded. The rest of the money gets blocked,” said Singh, who had to seek an extension from schools to deposit the fee.

Singla added parents end up blocking seats in several schools since they can’t be sure about getting admission later as each school follows different admission criteria. “With so much uncertainty, parents are compelled to pay fee in more than one school to ensure their child gets admission somewhere. The major component of the fee paid to the school is non-refundable and can range from anywhere between ₹50,000-₹60,000 to more than a lakh. Parents don’t have a choice. If there was a uniform admission window then parents wouldn’t be on tenterhooks,” he said.

Aparna Erry, principal of the DAV Public School in Sector 14 and chairperson of the Gurgaon Progressive Schools Council (GPSC, a consortium of 35 CBSE schools in the city) said Gurugram schools mostly follow a common admission window (August) and abide by the state government-issued guidelines. She said that a need for greater intervention from the government was not needed.

“Most schools in the city plan admissions around the same time so that parents are not inconvenienced. At least, schools which are part of the GPSC tend to work as a team. Schools try to maintain a balance by themselves,” Errry said.

OFFICIALS SPEAK

Meanwhile, an attempt to reach out to government officials on the issue did not provide any conclusive answers.

District elementary education officer (DEEO) Premlata Yadav said nursery school admissions in private schools were not being handled by the district education department this year, and that the charge had been given to the department of child welfare department. But the district project officer, women and child development department, Gurugram, denied the same.

Deputy commissioner Amit Khatri said admission to the nursery was a part of elementary education. “It (nursery admission) is purely an education (department) matter. I assume that it is the DEEO’s responsibility. That said, I will look into the matter if there is any confusion,” Khatri said.

First Published: Sep 09, 2019 17:00 IST