I stumbled upon a blog that renewed my faith in schools today...
It’s barely December, and school admission season is already in the air it seems. Anxious parents who want only the best for their wards are scurrying around trying to secure a seat for their child. It’s only a problem if you want to do it the honest way. As an earnest young father I once met on a train remarked resignedly, there’s only so much you can value your principles, at least when it comes to school admissions.
I overheard a conversation (it’s not eavesdropping when you’re a journalist) between two battle-worn parents the other day. According to one of them, an overwhelming majority (90 per cent he said) of seats go to siblings of existing students, who are given preference. That leaves a small amount of seats for other applicants to compete for, many of whom are armed with powerful recommendations and deep wallets.
Another oft recommended tactic I (over)heard of is that of parents wooing the decision-makers with generous offers on the application forms itself (on the lines of “My wife is an interior decorator; we’ll do your living room for free!”).
How good can these schools be, I find myself wondering. How messed up is the system, if the only way you can get your kids into a highly-valued school is by compromising on the very ideals that you believe the school will inculcate in your kids. Oh the irony…
In case you are one of the aforementioned harried parents, or even if you’re just a disheartened observer like I am, I think it’s important to realise that there are other ways to discern the worthiness of a school than by public examination results.
For example, I came across this website recently and it made me wildly wish I had gotten to study in this school. How many of our crazily-in-demand schools have such innovative library practices?
Not only does this school (Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kanjikode, Palakkad district, Kerala) have a website and a Twitter account (seriously!) for their library, they also have some seriously motivating incentives to make kids want to read. Sample these:
• User of the Month: From what I have understood, one student gets recognised as the ‘User of the Month’ based on how well they use the library. There’s even a concept called ‘Library points’ where you can earn points and win prizes ranging from Tinkle digests to gift vouchers from book shops! Of course they are also featured on the website.
• Get Caught Reading: This one’s my favourite. One kid, every week (I think) gets randomly caught reading on campus and he/she gets a prize and a photo of him/her “caught in the act” on the website. Last month for example, Akshay K. of VII D was “caught Reading the Book of Facts in the Classroom during Lunch Break.”
• Current Affairs Quiz: This was what alerted my colleague to the existence of this school. They use The Hindu's school edition (The Hindu In School) to prepare a quiz and post it online. Students have email the answers or submit them to the librarian to win the quiz.
My point is, there are so many little things that make each school special – whether it’s one earnest librarian, or something else. There is no real guarantee that a widely sought-after institution is going to be the best one for a child. So if you don’t get your four-year-old into the “best” school try not to despair. There’s always other options might end up being just as good or better.