From the WSJ: February is a cruel month for parents of tots in India's competitive capital"”it's when parents brace themselves as nursery schools release their lists of admissions. The first list of names came out Tuesday, which is why, if you were looking, nine of the top 10 Google Trends searches in India were Delhi nursery schools. Remaining lists for general admissions will continue to come out through the month. Why is this such a big deal? Kate Darnton, an American parent of nursery school-aged children who moved to Delhi not long ago, said in January last year that the odds of getting into the Ivy League Harvard University were better than getting into the city's most popular primary school (more on that school later). No source of help on heaven or earth is overlooked"”from contacts to moving house to prayer ceremonies to fasting. Part of the problem is that while Delhi has about 2,500 public and private primary schools, elite parents target just the "top 20″ private schools, said Usha Albuquerque, director of Careers Smart, an education consultancy firm. And of course part of the problem is the sheer numbers. Delhi is estimated to have 1.46 million children aged under four this year. If half of those are aged three or four, the most common ages for starting nursery school, that's about 732,000 kids. "The numbers are larger in India than anywhere else in the world," said Ms. Albuquerque. Individual schools may have somewhere between 70-100 nursery seats, meaning there's about 250,000 places going. If you're looking at just the top schools, the number is far lower of course. And private schools are supposed to reserve a portion of their seats for the very poor (although they don't always). Mohina Dar, Advisor, Amity International Schools said the school got 2,000 applications for 100 nursery seats. "The process is dependent on luck which increases the stress and competition," said Ms. Dar. "The ratio of applications per seat is usually 20 to 1 since those wanting reputed schools are left with little choice." As competition for nursery places increased, newspapers carried pathos-filled stories about four-year-olds being grilled about vegetable names in admission interviews, asked to identify unusual varieties of squash, for example. Finally the government decided to abolish interviews at the nursery level and make the process uniform across private schools. In 2006 a government committee came up with a system that gave kids points from 0 to 100 for living near the school, having a sibling in the school or an alumna parent, among other criteria. Schools can also add other qualities for which they give points, but have to submit them to the education department first. Some schools maintain the status quo through the process"”reports this week noted that at some schools very few kids got in if their parents or siblings hadn't attended it. Other schools are trying a bit of social engineering, with one in Gurgaon awarding 10 points to children of couples who have married into a different caste. And "a first-born child with mild 'special needs,' adopted by a recently-transferred widow racks up a quick 30 points at Shri Ram," Ms. Darnton noted last year. Parents say the process isn't transparent at all, but their only recourse for now seems to be to vent on forums like Admission Nursery and School Admissions India. In Delhi, parents appear to rate Sri Ram as their top choice, although scores of other schools, like Amity International, Bluebells, Springdales and Sardar Patel are much sought-after too. Parents aren't necessarily wrong to focus on getting into the "right" school"”it could give kids a leg up in India's competitive university environment based on marks scored in final year exams. "In trying to get their child in the best school, parents target those schools which are known to deliver excellent results since the cut-offs in colleges are getting higher," said educational consultant Ms. Albuquerque. "While schools can't guarantee a 90 percent for every child, but it gets a little easier when you are in a school which delivers good results." Some Delhi parents take consolation from the fact that if their kids can crack nursery school, the Ivy League should be a breeze. And if not...better luck next year. I think a couple of years ago, someone here posted a dilemma about bribing someone else so he could get his kid into a school in India. What was the decision? Was it for one of the schools in this article?
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2/2/11 at 10:26am