A couple of months back my wife seriously started pouring in questions about which school my twin babies would join, now that they were over 12 months old then. Similar discussions occurred in the past, but often casually and we had some obvious and logical school choices. It’s still over a year before my children will officially be joining a School. The alarm bells rang though. I was pondering and inquired. We both kept probing and only confusions had to take over. I was only able to find that while I thought my wife was too early for starting that discussion seriously, I found she was already too late.
Mumbai’s life does not allow the luxury of time to shop around checking out Schools daily. Proximity and traffic time have always been one of the significant factors leading to final decisions on most matters. Evidently, the closer, the merrier situation beckons.
Researching online remains the best source but where I was merely able to find Google presenting more maps than appropriate search results. It observably wasn’t Google’s fault. While few Schools had a website, most were clumsy and possibly anticipated that anyone who had a child would be given information on application and admission at the time of delivery at their respective hospitals (not a bad idea!). I also came across a website where a School which was based in 3 different locations in Mumbai, had a website talking only about one of their schools. We found the telephone numbers and started calling each potential school in our list. The most common answers you can find are: ‘the information is on the School’s notice board, come and check it’ and ‘if you must talk about admissions, you must come here and talk’. The words ‘please’, ‘thank you for calling’ were far-fetched. The best was, one lady at a School commented without listening to anything else when she heard my wife only use the word ‘admission’ over the phone was, ‘Oh! Admissions. No applications forms available, come after 4 months to collect’ and bang was the phone. My wife laughed, rather enjoyed that conversation, she reckons, while remarking: “that’s where the education starts”. Interestingly, that school is one of the most popular schools in Mumbai.
Reminiscing about my school days owing to these discussions, led me to a thought as to about 30 years ago, ‘when’ did I realize where I was actually studying. Or should I ask? When as a child did I know the name of my School? All I can authoritatively confirm that the day I would have known which School I was in, I would have said: “I love my School”. Thanks to my parents but who also admit that they did not have to do much to get me enrolled. It was a walk-in situation, the school was close to where we lived and my elder brother studied there (the sibling advantage). On the contrary and rightly so, my mother laughs that children nowadays play less and have probably become bookworms, carrying around a 10 kg schoolbag and do more tuition classes than actual schooling. She is so neatly correct.
Alright, while I know I have some advantages being an education consultant and possibly some networking is (or so called connections are) in place while acknowledging that donation is something that I could afford, I know my children may possibly get an admission where we want them to start. But here are some useful truths (rather rules) should you wish to know, which clearly bring out the lack of the awareness and loopholes in our early education system:
Rule 1: Donation: You must know that you have to pay a hefty sum of money presently ranging from Rs 70000 to Rs 3 lacs (average). Some Schools will go beyond Rs 8 lacs. Obviously, you should also know that you will get an official receipt for the same, since you are “donating” money. And mind you, you must have a network to even donate money. Not all can donate in this version of ‘donation’.
You must know the schools’ annual fee for correct budgeting; otherwise you are simply risking a treasure. In Mumbai, many schools’ fee can range from Rs 25000 to some which charge Rs 3 lacs or higher annually. Well, some international schools charge over Rs 8 lacs annually. And these only increase year-on-year.
In my case, the donation (if needed) may be for two because none of my children have previously studied in that school, so that the sibling can get a ‘donation waiver’ (brilliant term). To add, a boy and a girl means, we must find a co-ed school and I am alarmed realizing that innumerable schools in Mumbai are either ‘only boys’ or ‘only girls’ schools
Rule 2: Limited Seats: An easy pick. Schools in Mumbai (and all over India) have limited seats. Thus, you should start your process at least one year in advance (ie when your child is only just raising a hand or trying to turn around pushing)
Rule 3: Which Level to Admit?: This one is brilliant and I personally like it the most. In some Schools, you can get in to ‘Junior KG’ only if your child would be studying in that School’s ‘nursery’. Thus, you must know which Schools offer a Junior KG and which ones offer a nursery. And do not forget, there are ‘play schools’ which every child will have to do (and my children will too). And there are also Mother Toddler Clubs (play schools) and you can have your child do this at about 12 months of age (or some even earlier). I reckon these will also become compulsory (parents’ perspective) in less than a decade. The point is, the better the play school and its fame, the likelihood is that your child may get admitted to the School you dream for
Rule 4: On-the-table Information: Never ask information over the phone. Discussions should be after an appointment with the school member. Application forms cannot be made available online and naturally must be submitted on a different day than the day you personally had to collect them. All application forms will have an application fee
Rule 5: Parents’ Credentials and Interview: I thought this rule was going to be abolished. However, you must be well educated, while you and your child, all must be prepared for an interview to get in to nursery or Junior KG level education. And the possibility is your ‘child’ may NOT pass an interview (generally happens when you’ll, as parents, lack sufficient academic qualifications and especially when you do not have referential sources recommending your child). Imagine a child who has not known what ‘education’ is, is being interviewed. And parents, the fact that historically most have analyzed that lack of education has impeded them at various stages in life (perceived reality); they wish their child enjoys the ‘better education’ advantage, will be judged by the school to determine if their child will perform well. Can’t uneducated (or partially educated) parents have a child who can become a scientist? The Indian School level admission system does not seem to enjoy this thought
Rule 6: Know your system (education board): A lot is happening around this. You must know what an SSC, ICSE, CBSE, IGCSE, and such other abbreviations are, because that’s where and how your child’s status will be examined in the future (at least in the immediate future). For instance, an ICSE school education may give your child the edge over an SSC School (don’t believe this to be entirely true). Well, really I think this point is substantially important because a lot goes behind developing the curriculum and the level at which the curriculum is delivered
Rule 7: Be prepared to waste a year: Ironically, there are palpable probabilities that you may not be able to secure an admission for your child anywhere and your child will have to wait for a year to get the education started at a school (ie. if the schools are willing to offer admissions in the next year too)
Rule 8: School Bus: Add this cost if you live away from the designated areas that a school would have published you must travel from. This could cost you about Rs 10000 to Rs 18000 (approximate range) for one year (some charge over Rs 25000). This aspect can be discounted from being an issue because of safety reasons and to avoid the unnecessary chaos that smart parents can create if their children are late too often
Rule 9: Other Expenses: Obviously you must know that school uniforms, some (text) books need to be bought from the school. Some additional fees for some purpose and several compulsory field trips (in the future) hither and thither will be required. Add a few 1000s (Rs) for these please
Rule 10: Society: Be prepared to meet other parents, well wishers and colleagues to advise you and regularly refer to their child being in a specific School or Education Board and ensure that you know your answers beforehand (should you manage to get an admission somewhere other than recommended)
And can you imagine after doing just about anything and everything, getting your child admitted in to the topmost school per se, working around them for years together, paying a good sum of fee and more, you never know whether your child will successfully finish schooling, will pass with good scores and bare any stress levels that are about to come in life.
It isn’t a very good state of thought, is it?
Apparently, all parents (in Mumbai or in India) have gone through and have known these clearly avoidable processes and circumstances. The stated has been going on for years and education is only getting expensive. Older schools enjoy the advantage and since only limited students can be enrolled, the need to service their clients seems to be uncalled for. More information provision is considered untoward by the schools.
Personally, I am extremely glad that more Schools are coming up inclusive of International Schools and their activities for students are also far better including involvement in sports, teaching methodologies, reducing concentration on tuition classes (saving money and time) and many such factors. However, their fee is exuberant and evidently not all can afford it. A good school is essential because the learning starts here and the fundamentals taught go a long way, ensuring that your child is doing well in the future. I am a strong believer of the School level Indian education and advocate factually that the same at least up to A Levels (O Levels at least) should essentially be continued in India. I reaffirm, it’s phenomenal and unarguably one of the best in the world. However, the systems in place need some serious attention. While education is being promoted at the primary and secondary level by the Government (inclusive of free education), really the students from not an affluent class are scarcely able to reap the benefits.
The need is to have all the data online and smart companies can take the lead in doing so, in conjunction with the government and private entities, so as to deliver the information online or be published in a book that all can refer to. And which can be made available by local vendors. Application forms must be available at one place and parents should be allowed to at least apply online (or by post or in person) before a formal meeting (if required) with selected parents can be notified. Incorporating a ‘common information and application system’ methodology can bring magical transformations to the systems and processes. It is also about time that education leaders inclusive of school principal and teachers must impart more education (teaching skills) to ‘would be’ teachers, who could in turn fill the knowledge gap required to educate the underprivileged lot. The ‘Teach India’ initiative by The Times of India really needs to be saluted.
It would not be appropriate to categorize the schools officially as this would bring about class differentiation but information on when to apply, how to apply, selection criteria, fees and legible increments, other expenses, facilities, activities, and such other immensely useful information can be published and updated. The donation bit seems nervy, but the immediate take on it can be to continue doing it. However, at least a proportion of that money could go in to the development of smaller schools where there are students desperate to study but the schools do not have faculties and even basic facilities.
Allocations of money proportionate to education cess on taxes seriously need to be accounted for. This should really be driving what India is determined to become through the next generation of educated workforce.
Indian School level education is embraced worldwide. Indian school students in general can effortlessly outperform and surpass their foreign counterparts (nearly all countries worldwide) in any subject especially in Math and Science. India is amongst the top three fastest growing economies in the world and the talented work force it is creating is burgeoning. Can such a powerful country with probably the best talented personnel, boast of its ‘systems’ yet?