New caste system

For years there have been complaints about the way nursery schools admissions have been conducted. What has come in for heavy criticism is that pre-school kids are forced to undergo tests and interviews. There have also been rumblings of dissatisfaction as school managements are pressured to admit the children of influential people, specially politicians.

It was to stop this that a new system has been developed for Delhi’s private schools. Ostensibly to make the system more transparent. But instead another kind of injustice has been created! The new system is transparent, yes, but equally unjust.

This is the system is in a nutshell: Points are given out of a hundred.

20 points if you live in the neighbourhood. Which means that if you live in a locality where there are good schools (usually a ‘good’ locality) you are likely to get into a better school.
20 points if you have a sibling in the school.
20 points if parents are educated. 10 points each for post graduation for each parent. The points decrease with a decrease in educational qualifications!
10 points if parents have studied in the school. Ah hah. An old boys/girls network!
5 points if the student is a girl. Not quite fair to those who have a son.
5 points to children with special needs.
20 points given by management’s discretion. This will probably be based on the ‘influence’ that a child’s family wields although the reason given will be anything the management pleases to give.
This point system means that if you are born into well-to-do family (20 for neighbourhood), with highly educated parents (20) who have studied in the same school (20) your chances of getting into the school increase by 60%! And if you have financial clout add another 20% (management discretion). A policy definitely tilted in favour of those who reside near good schools. And tilted against those who reside in the far-flung suburbs.

No wonder this policy has come in for criticism, even by legal experts. Some also believe that it is discriminatory towards boys, and also towards single children . And ofcourse it is most unfair to first generation learners.

The neighbourhood criteria has made some parents who can afford it rush to shift house so that they can be within the three kms radius of the school, a distance that will get them a full 20 points.
What I find surprising is that state governments appoint committees to improve the existing system, but after long deliberations that doesn’t happen. Lawyers say this report cannot stand the test of law. But even to a layman the system reeks of injustice.

Based on my personal experience, I would prefer the old system, despite of its drawbacks. I was in Delhi when my elder daughter had to enter nursery school. Both me and my husband were interviewed and though we resented it, we went and passed with flying colours. Naturally. We were both post graduates and could speak English fluently. Then our child was interviewed. It was sheer luck that she was outgoing and friendly and was willing to be left alone with a few stern looking strangers. She actually said hullo and chatted with them. Naturally they loved her. She got into Springdales. We knew that it wasn’t fair to those children who were shy and as intelligent as her but we were not in a position to change the system. And frankly we didn’t think about it too much then.

But I know that if we were in Delhi today, living in the same circumstances as that time, my daughter would not have got into Springdales. We lived 10 kms from the school. We were also young parents, just starting out, and had managed to get ourselves a decent flat only because we had chosen a distant suburb. We had no other children, were from distant Pune and so no connections or khandan in South Delhi. We knew only one thing – our kid was bright and smart and as proud parents we wanted her to get into the best school possible. In any case there was no school worth its name in our area.

At least in the old system ordinary young couples like us had a chance to get our child into a good school. The new system may look very good on paper…but can only work if there are good schools in all areas. But our committees live up there somewhere, breathe in rarified air and are unaware of the hard realities on the ground. I really doubt whether the new formula will stand the test of time. Ofcourse the authorities have said that this system is on a trial basis and the Chairman of CBSC has said that the system would be fine-tuned,but what happens in the meantime? Why should parents and their kids become bakras?

The long term solution is more schools and better schools, but is there a short-term solution?

Well, talking purely from the my own point of view, I feel that the weightage given to alumni should go and so should the management quota. The neighbourhood law is alright but the radius should be increased to 7-10 kms. There should be NO points given for education of parents. However I feel that giving preference to siblings makes sense as school timings and school holidays matching is very convinient.

So what should be points be based on? Well, firstly, siblings should be admitted automatically and so should teachers’ kids. There should be a quota for children with special needs. Girls in urban settings usually do not require a quota. Then a shortlist can be made according to the neighbourhood policy of 10 kms and admissions given at random. To prevent cheating this should be done in public by drawing lots. The names of the admitted students should be read out with reporters present. All names should be published in newspapers.

(Original photo courtesy: Vasant Dev, http://www.sxc.hu)