Mumbai gets the admission blues

Schools, they say, lay the foundation for one’s life. But with changing times, education has become a business in itself.

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Mumbai gets the admission blues


Schools, they say, lay the foundation for one’s life. But with changing times, education has become a business in itself. So, while kids face the pressure of admission interviews, the schools have a questionnaire ready to take on the parents. Shweta Shertukde & Priya Ramkrishnan bring to the fore the trauma the parents and their children go though in the admission procedure and provide us some food for thought. Maybe, the time for change has come.

Thirty-year-old Rupali Khanna thought it would be a piece of cake to get her 3-year-old child admitted into one of the city’s well-known schools.

After all, her kid was bright, loved playschool and they even stayed  bang opposite the prospective school. What could be easier than this? Only later did Khanna realise that she was not only too optimistic but also foolish. “My first experience was scary. I approached the school to get an application form, but to my surprise the school officials turned down my application, stating that I don’t  own a flat constructed by the school’s owner,” she recalled. “There are very few ICSE board schools near my home and my son is not old enough to travel far to attend school. I didn’t know that the criteria for getting admission is to own a flat as suggested by the school authorities.”

She added, “I was taken aback at the school’s reaction, when I approached them a second time claiming that I was thinking of buying a flat. They were very keen on me buying a flat and assured me that my son will have a seat in their school.” Khanna said the trauma she went through when my son did not get admission was worse than her worst nightmare. “Now I have only one option, to sell my flat and move to another area. My son’s education is my biggest priority,” she added.

Khanna is not alone in her struggle to secure admission for her child. Many like her are trying every trick in the book to get their kids admitted to schools. Meenakshi Khapre is contemplating going back to her hometown, as she finds it hard to get her child admitted to an ICSE school. “My son is old eligible for KG. But the process of getting admission in a good school was emotionally draining. Most ICSE schools admit only those children who fall into their category. Unfortunately, my son didn’t fit in that,” she explained.

“I applied at Bombay Scottish, but after just two days we got a rejection letter, without any explanation. I tried several other schools too, but to no avail. Many schools either expect too much from a three-year-old, or they have specific demands such as living in certain area or having professional parents,” she said.

“A state board school in my area told me that my child was not good enough, as he didn’t speak fluent English. To make matters worse, many schools are rude and make you feel worthless,” said Khapre.

Anxious parents complain about the trauma they have gone through while seeking admissions for their children. Schools explain that confusion prevails during the admission process as parents compete to get thir children into specific schools. Taking a cue from the Delhi High Court’s judgment, which banned interviews for admissions to pre-schools, this year most of schools changed the eligibility criteria. Most of them enrolled the students on a first-cum-first serve basis, random selection process, priority to the siblings basis and by conducting interviews of parents.

Vandana Lulla, director of Podar group of schools said, “Nowadays, parents obsesse over getting their child into a school of their choice. Thus, there is long queue for at renowned schools, while seats in other schools remain vacant.” Talking about the admission process followed in Podar School, Lulla said, “We apply different criteria at different levels. At the pre-school level, it’s on a first-cum-first-serve basis. We also assess the professional and family backgrounds of the parents and the vicinity in which the child resides before admitting a child. Admissions for higher classes depend upon the availability of seats and the students’ past academic performance.”

Another educationist, Lina Asher Managing Director of Kangaroo Kids Education Limited (KKEL), which runs several pre-schools in the city, said, “We are completely against interviewing kids and parents for admission to the pre-primary/kindergarten level. As per the global scenario, we admit students on a first-cum-first-serve basis. Interviews cannot be a criteria for selection as a student’s intellectual ability and social stature don’t signify his/her ability to study in a particular school.”

This year although the parents were relieved that their kids did not have to face interviews, they complained that the process of enrolling students’ on the basis of their parents’ professional and financial background was painful. “Along with the admission forms, we were provided a questionnaire, specifically asking us to mention our professions, income and education level. Most of the schools had been conducting indirect interviews, whereby the parents were asked questions about their jobs,” said hassled parent Hemlata Joshi (name changed).

Counselors, though, have a different take on the admission blues. The hunt for a seat in top schools invariably leads to disappointment and self-doubt not only among parents, but also among children. “They are under tremendous pressure while seeking admission. Parents want their kids to behave and perform well in interviews and they transfer their anxiety to their kids,” explained Neha Patel, clinical psychologist and student counselor, Chatrabhuj Narsee Memorial School, Vile Parle.

“When they fail to get admission repeatedly, children start believing that it is their fault. Then starts the journey of self-doubt. The only solution is for parents to stop transferring their frustration to them,” she added. Patel also feels that the admission procedure employed by certain schools is ridiculous. “Many schools ask the child to converse in English. This is absurd, as they need only to be checked for their verbal understanding. For this children need to understand and converse comfortably in their mother tongue. High expectation by the schools also increased the burden on the child,” said Patel.

The proper way to interview the child, observes Patel, is to let them behave naturally. “There should be no pressure to perform,” she added.

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