“Nobody from Delhi is actually from Delhi” — is an oft-quoted fact that defines the pulse of the city. However, this does not apply to a good school education with almost all the best institutions in the capital making “alumni” and “sibling” the main criteria for admission under the 100–point system prescribed by the Directorate of Education.

“We get about 3,500 applications for the 100 seats in our nursery classes,” admits Amity School, Saket, principal Rekha Rana Dey. Her school is one of the 1,300 private schools in the capital. “We have just three criteria — neighbourhood, sibling and alumni,” says Sanskrit School principal Abha Sehgal. “We try to be as fair as possible. Neighbourhood, staff’s children, sibling and alumni are some of our requirements,” Ms. Dey adds.

The “chosen ones” in many schools are sometimes decided by lots. While the policy makes clear that the criteria should be rational, reasonable and just, leaving no room for economic profiling of parents, there are many ways of brazenly flouting the rules, says Sumit Vohra, founder of admissionsnurserycom. Many of his applications under the Right to Information Act reveal admission criteria such as “How many rooms does the child’s house have” and “Is the parent a teetotaller.”

There is no guideline fixing an upper fee limit. Fees in the top schools can go up as far as 12,000 a month for a nursery student, and increase further as the student moves up classes. “There are approximately around one lakh seats available in private schools, which barely meet the requirements of about four lakh applicants,” Mr. Vohra says.

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