Monday, July 27, 2009

Insane at school!

“Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice said when she found herself in the wonderland down the rabbit’s hole; that’s exactly what you would feel like saying in view of certain strange goings on in urban India today! To anyone with a little balance and grounding, the current behaviour of parents and guardians of most tiny tots, seems incomprehensible.

Two year olds, in playschool, have mother’s taking a day off from work to ask about “progress reports”. The favorite topic of conversation at the “waiting for the tot to be let out of playgroup” gathering of parents and guardians is how many and what schools one has got a “form” from. The biggest, most well known, most expensive, and most uppity schools are compared and contrasted ad infinitum, and everyone expresses how worried they are at how little the kid seems to be learning at the current playgroup.

One could almost believe these were high school students, close to their career defining board exams, that were being discussed, instead of two to three year olds who can hardly talk properly yet, let alone hold a pencil or a tune. Come admission time, the older (that means three plus years old) kids’ parents go completely insane, it seems, in their effort to get the child into a “good school”. Good, of course, is decided by how much insane pressure they put on the kids, and how famous they are… for whatever reason. Actual analysis of what they offer in terms of personality growth, mental development, or even curriculum seems immaterial.

Taking advantage of this insane rush, the so-called A schools basically make their own rules. They not only take interviews of the child, which would be mad enough, considering the child is just over three, but they also have “interviews” of the parents. One well known “open plan” foundation even makes the prospective parents take a one hour written test, before the whole rigmarole of interviews! Is that insane? Or what? To admit a three year old to school, to pay for its education, making the school a lot of money, the PARENT has to take a test?!! And that too when the judiciary has recently expressly forbidden schools from even interviewing parents?

After all, you take your kid and put him/her in a school. The idea is that you pay them, and they teach your child. Right? So why must you and your spouse have to prove that you are presentable, English speaking, literate, educated, articulate or any such thing? That’s none of the school’s business! Their job is to teach your kid to be all of those things, which they usually don’t, not to examine your status and worth! It is not for them to say “you cannot speak good English, therefore your money and your child is not good enough for our school”. According to the order by the courts, they are supposed to admit any kid who turns up, on a first come first served basis, as long as there are seats!

To make the parents not only give an interview but to sit through a one hour written exam is plain insulting! It’s worse than humiliating, it’s a downright affront! What is amazing though is that every year anything like 400 sets of parents turn up to put themselves through this humiliation and abuse, for the 30 seats that are open. Are these schools really “all that”? Will a child automatically become Nobel Prize material for having studied in one of them? And if a child has to, god forbid, go to a smaller or lesser known school, will it automatically become a useless burden on society?

Isn’t it time we, as parents and citizens, begin to think about these issues a little and have and show a little self respect? Isn’t it time we ease up a little on our infants and let them actually have a childhood for a change?

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