Ask M.V. Deepa of Chennai who is set to admit her son into LKG about the ‘admission season,’ and she feverishly recalls how she and her husband “took turns” to stand in the queue and did a “recce” around the school the previous night, just to make sure that “people were not already queuing up.”

“Though they instructed us not to queue up for the application form as my daughter is already studying there, we had to go because there was a scare that the forms may run out,” she says, talking about how she got the admission form of a popular CBSE school in central Chennai. “Once inside, it was over in 15 minutes.”

Though the academic year starts only in June 2013, the scramble for seats begins as early as Vijayadasami and lasts as late as May. And, after a recent circular from the Directorate of Matriculation Schools instructing matriculation and aided schools to commence admissions only in May, the admission calendar is set to stretch even longer. An official of the School Education Department clarified that though all schools, including those affiliated to the CBSE, can issue application forms earlier, results can be declared only a month prior to the next academic year.

The website of a sought-after ICSE school at Adyar even advises parents to register their child at birth for admissions to LKG as it is done on a ‘first-come, first-serve basis.’ G. Fathima (name changed), who got an LKG application form from the “CBSE school of her choice” in November, says she is hoping to hear from the R.A. Puram school soon. In the meantime, she has applied to six other schools.

“In most of the schools, you hand over the application form, and all they say is that they will get back to you. As a parent, you have no idea whether you will hear from them and what criteria each school has,” she laments. She constantly follows online forums and school websites so that she does not miss out on “important dates.”

C. Pratyush, realtor, Hanu Reddy Realty, says 60 per cent of its clients relocate or buy property near schools where their children study as many schools insist that they live within a 3-5 km radius. “Areas such as R.A. Puram, Anna Nagar, Adyar, Mylapore and Gopalapuram have a high concentration of popular schools.” While private schools are battling to manage patronage they receive, the Chennai Corporation has introduced English medium in 30 schools for Class I to increase enrolment.

However, behind this scramble for admission to a ‘reputed private school,’ what happens to the promise of equitable education for all under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009? The correspondent of a CBSE school at Mylapore says it has so far received 34 applications under the 25 per cent quota and most of the applicants fall within the disadvantaged group, and not the weaker section. Ironically, one of them, he says, came attached with a Google map to establish that the family lives within a one-km radius.

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