School Admissions

November 25, 2008

Next year in June, a little shy of their third birthday, the twins will – hopefully – start school. Big school, that is, which might even see them through till the end of their school days, if we find no reason to change.

We have applied in four schools, but we are really interested in two. One, Headstart, is a Montessori school in Koramangala. It is nearby, but it currently runs up to only the fourth standard, though it has plans to extend. The school building is small and it is located in a largely residential area; a small patch of lawn and its own covered rooftop are the primary play areas.

The other school is Vidya Sagar, which is 15 km (a one-hour drive) away. It has spacious and well-manicured lawns and play area and a large, sprawling building. It is a pre-primary school and feeds into two higher schools after three years. The one we are looking at is Vidya Shilp, which is 20 km away from home (that is, only a little beyond Vidya Sagar). It is practically outside the city and there’s not many residential areas very close by. But the school has huge grounds, with lots of sports fields and a nice swimming pool, an impressive building, and a huge lawn in front. It would certainly be a lovely school to be part of.

If the girls get admission in both places, we’ll have a tough time deciding which one to take. But first, we have to negotiate the admission process.

VS gave out admission forms for just one week and the only Saturday in that window was the last day for both getting and submitting the forms. That made it a bit of a scramble, but we got it done. We got a call for an interview quite soon after. We were expecting that we’d be the ones interviewed, while the kids were perhaps primarily observed, or put to play somewhere. But no. I had to take the kids one at a time into a room where they were seated at a table with a collection of seven or eight different toys/activities like crayons, picture books, play-doh and the like. They were expected to play with (or to demonstrate expertise with?) ALL of these in a period of about 15 minutes, and finally to pour some sand from a scoop into a cup in a miniature sandpit.

The twins could have happily spent 20 minutes at any one of those activities, maybe even more. But switching between ALL of those after like 2 minutes each? And that, after they had spent a good five minutes settling down, looking around at the other tables and kids, looking for each other, fingering the toys…

Mrini didn’t speak much but she grudgingly made her way through most of the activities. Tara, on the other hand… She was already upset when Mrini and I went into the room and she was left to wait outside, wailing. Still, when her turn came, she did quite well, even spoke a bit, until she came to the sandpit. The first thing she did was to scoop sand out and on to her dress! The teacher then hastily decided she had seen enough and bid us adieu. When I tried to get Tara to leave, she threw herself on the floor, kicked up her legs, and let out a loud scream. Great. A tantrum. There was no way they’d give her admission now. Not that I could blame her, I could just feel her frustration at seeing all those lovely toys and not being allowed to play with any of them to her heart’s content. It’s like being shown a whole Death by Chocolate and then being given only two teaspoonfuls to eat.

Anyhow, I didn’t think much of that admission process. They didn’t want to know anything about us except whether I was working or not. And what they could make of any child based on that whole gamut of activities, coming right on top on new environment, strange people, time spent waiting and/or driving and/or away from usual daily routine… I really don’t think this is any way to assess or evaluate whether or not to take a child into a school.

HS on the other hand, has so far seemed to shine as far as the admission process goes. First there was a school exhibition, where their methods of instruction were demonstrated and teachers were on hand to explain. That, itself, was an eye-opener. If they really do teach the way they say they do, it’s wonderful already.

They seem to give out admission forms on one day and one day only, which is scary. But then, there’s a good three-week period to fill in and submit the forms. They also profess not to interview the child, only the parents. After seeing VS’s interview process, I can only say that any school that does not “interview” the child will automatically go way up in my esteem. I already like the admission form – there are a number of sensible and sensitive questions, including a few very pertinent open-ended questions.

So in some ways, we are in a deeper dilemma now than we were before. Before, it looked like VS with its superior facilities was a clear winner, but now I’m so disenchanted with their selection process that it doesn’t seem like the fantastic facilities mean so much any more.

My sister, who is an educationist, said she preferred HS: she said it was a warmer place. I think she’s right about that. And that should count for a lot.

Well, time will tell. Meanwhile, the girls are so enjoying their neighbourhood playschool that last weekend they were demanding to be taken to school even on Saturday morning.

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