Smita Prakash, in a column in The Midday describes the travails of parents desperate to get their kids into nursery schools:
There are 4,500 nursery schools in Delhi, which means that for every seat there are about 53 applicants. In Mumbai the number of nursery schools is less than half of Delhi's. In smaller cities and towns the situation is just as bad. Middle-class parents spend close to half their salaries on admission fees and donations to private pre-schools. Many of the schools give no receipts for these donations varying from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1 lakh. Naturally, no prospectus ever talks about donations. But, sadly in most, if not in all schools, this is the norm.
Desperate parents have no choice. There is an abysmal shortage of schools in the country, whether in cities or towns. From the very poor to the middle class, there is awareness that quality education is the key to a better quality of life. Yet, local governments do not plan for schools in master plans. Townships mushroom without any care for educational requirement of the population.
…..Brutal knocks of life start early in India; as early as three years. No government pays attention to the woes of a toddler. He doesn't have a vote. He cannot agitate and demand more schools, better schools, lighter school bags, lesser homework, fewer tests.
This is an issue that has been written about for several decades now and the problem seems to be getting worse. What do you do when the demand exceeds supply by a factor of 10:1? It is far less formidable a task to eliminate 9/10 of the applications, than selecting the best 1/10. In any case what kind of criteria do you adopt when dealing with 3-year old kids? Any system is as good or as bad or as flawed as any other. Auctioning the seats, draw of lots, list based on political clout….
Here’s my idea. Have a CAT-style examination for the parents and come up with a percentile ranking. Test their numerical, linguistic, geographic, spatial and inter-personal skills. The average of the ratings of the father’s and mother’s can be considered as the score of their child.. The entire responsibility for getting the child into a good school will be on the parents. Imagine the situation where the mother has a high ranking, but the father – with his miserable score- brings down the average. All this will add more excitement and spice into their lives.
Given the toughness of the exams and the intense competition, parents will have to start preparing two years in advance. Coaching schools will spring up all over and admission into the more prestigious ones will, in turn, be decided based on an admission test and so on. The economy will open up.
If you don’t like this idea, I have some more. I want to be part of the solution.