The Indian education system is hardly innocent of turning children into quiet, mechanical creatures whose primary objective in life is to crack the entrance examinations for admission to top engineering or medical institutions in the country. The coaching class/entrance test culture is inextricably linked with school education, the only change over the years being its infiltration into primary school.
One would think that kindergarten is a bastion of stress-free learning but is the trend shifting to a system that prioritises early preparation for competitive academics or is there a growing awareness among parents of the need to grant children their space and accept holistic education.Panicky parents
What’s frightening is how early the panic sets in. There is no denying the importance of early childhood learning, and nurseries – run by reputed schools or private individuals – are largely careful about the kind of environment children are in. Parents, on the other hand, it seems, are immensely stressed about where the child should go, and whether they ‘are doomed’ if they do not get admission to kindergartens attached to known schools in the city.
Anita Dorairaj of Bodhi School, started six years ago, is no stranger to dealing with anxious parents. “The factor contributing most to the stress is, ‘What will my child do if he or she does not make it through to a reputed school immediately.’ Once their child goes through the kindergarten education here, they are equipped enough to get admission to class I in any school they want,” she says, referring to the ‘entrance tests’ for admission to class I.
“One parent while enquiring about admission asked me if this nursery coached students for the entrance exam of one of the reputed schools here,” says Ms. Dorairaj. She stresses the importance of giving each child an equal opportunity to blossom without imposing a set curriculum. There is no test or gruelling interview of any sort for children between 3 and 5 years to get enrolled, only a ‘casual conversation,’ she says.
Christ Nagar Kindergarten is witness to an unprecedented rush every academic year, says Fr. Cyriac Kanayil, Principal. The kindergarten can accommodate nearly 220 children, but the number of enquiries and applications is several times more than what it can cater to. “Even when the early notice is first released in November, nearly 400 applications are received. We give preference to children who live close-by. There is also the community reservation, and those who are management recommended. I make a lot of enemies when I try and explain to parents that we simply cannot admit their child,” he says.Rush in schools
The St. Thomas Educational Society launched its Kazhakuttam batch last year. The fact that it is new has not deterred admissions, with 96 children admitted in lower kindergarten and 70 in upper. “We had to restrict admission this year because of the sheer numbers that came in and we need to maintain a manageable ratio between teachers and children,” says Lenu Elizabeth Thomas of the school.
Trivandrum International School, in addition to two Early Learning Centres in the city, has two kindergarten branches as well – one at the school near Thonnakkal, and the other at Jawahar Nagar. Here, it is a ‘holistic’ kind of learning that is promoted, with priority to social and emotional development of the child. “We have to know every tiny detail about every child – what they ate, how well they slept – because parents are worried, and insist on knowing how their child fares,” says Kausthuba N. Pillai, who manages the infant school here.