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Facing Rejection At Age 3

Facing Rejection At Age 3

February 23, 2012

Education, a priority for the sake of posterity. Still, should school admissions rule our lives?

There is a lot that India is known for - rich culture, poor people, tall tales, short uncles, regard for traditions, disregard for hygiene, joint families, broken English, the list could go on and on. I would first like to point out that not all South Indians are Madrasis. Now that that’s out of the way, South India is stereotyped as the land of nerds where education is our one true love and having a 99% on your report card might just be reason enough to weep for that 1% that was lost in the examination war. All of that is true and like most stereotypes have good reason to exist.

We’ve watched our friends and family apply to schools, write a bazillion entrance exams - JEE, BITSAT, XAT, CAT, MAT, take pretty much any other letter followed by an ‘AT’ and there will be an exam for it. They don’t get into the school of their choice, then faces crumple, eyes tear up, they look like puppies who have been kicked and your heart goes out to them. You go out and buy them a large tub of ice-cream to soothe the pain and anguish that comes with rejection.

Schools have however decided to turn the whole thing up a notch. Off late, even LKG (Lower Kindergarten) has admission criteria - application forms, tests that even the parents need to take, money that needs to change hands both above and under the tiny tables in a Kindergarten classroom. The best part is, you need “influence” to get admission in schools. So much for transparency and letting all children have an equal right to education.

Parents wait in line for 9 hours when applications for admissions start...for Kindergarten and Middle School. Gone are the days when school was just this place we went to eat lunch and shove our friends around just enough that our uniforms would need dry cleaning when we got back. Now children, they’re strong they know that, come what may school can’t help/stop them from doing what they want to in life. They remain happy, ignorant in their blissful bubble. The parents, on the other hand, have their sights set on their 3 year-olds being the next Kalpana Chawla/Aryabhatta. At least that’s what my parents used to say to me and my brother. They seem to have given up hope off late and I can’t say that I blame them. I am space-sick and numbers are not my friends. it is heart wrenching to see mothers crying like their dogs just died, for what in my opinion are trivial reasons.

School matters, sure. Good schools are important, definitely. But it isn’t the end of the world if your kid didn’t get a seat in LKG in the muggle equivalent of Hogwarts. Schools need to get off their high horses and parents need some perspective. Everyone gets that you want the best for your child, but at age 3 the line between ‘ordinary’ and ‘superb’ is very hazy.

It’s been known for centuries (I’m fairly certain that my school textbooks were printed around 600 B.C, and schools are currently using the same books), that our education system needs an overhaul. On the flip-side, you have to notice that a ton of the famous and really smart people from all around the world are Indians, so as my dad likes to say - we must be doing something right. I am yet to figure out what it is that we are doing right, but when I do you’ll be the first to know.

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  • Rajpriya
    01.03.12 10:03 AM
    I pity the present day children. A child today is pushed to the limits between pushy parents who dream that their children should be nothing but great and the education system that expects every child to have a high IQ the moment it leaves the mother’s womb.

    Why does no one allow a child to have a normal childhood and a child friendly education system? Is it because children cannot voice their grievances like adults do? Does a child have to undergo so much of stress at a tender age?

    Keeping children out of school with tough measures may be exactly what the present education system wants. Not to make more Aryabhatta(s), or Raman(s). Education does not seem to be that important to become a member of parliament in most Asian countries while a child needs to be very intelligent to enter a KG.

    As long as politicians with no proper education become policy makers nothing intelligent can come out of systems they create.

    May be a dog has an easier life than the present day child.
  • Kirklops
    01.03.12 08:22 AM
    No doubt our education system needs an overhaul. Even at the level of the premier universities the focus seems to be on grades, jobs and a lucrative contract (great if it's abroad). It's tough to see another Aryabhatta, or Raman, or Bose coming out of this system (exclusively), irrespective of what parents hope for their kids. It's all about winning the rat race now, even at the KG level. Interviews for KG admissions; would you believe that? I nearly drowned in coffee when I heard that one recently.
  • Veby
    27.02.12 04:30 PM
    I think we Indian are pretty busy in Cricket and Bollywood gossips !! and if anyhow we get little free time even after such important discussions, we would go for a quick look to long list of daily soaps!! and it could never be a worth-our-business to raise against our poor education system in the country which is completely dominated by few big giants!!! Most of you may don't realize but I know how much it sucks to remain undergraduate for years just because you don't have that sufficient amount of bucks required !!!! Every single child want to acquire to knowledge, educations but thanks to our pathetic education system which proudly believes in Money only...No matter how desperate or dedicated you are!! Hardly we have handful govt. colleges and even they also owe so competitive fee structure which is far away from common man reach !!!!!
  • Rajpriya
    26.02.12 11:40 AM

    From your post and the comments made we all know there is a huge problem with child education in India. I could have easily said your article was excellently written, spot on, hitting the nail on the head and thought provoking. But we need to need go an extra mile to explain what thoughts your post in fact provokes or why it hit the nail. Or am I wrong?

    I agree things cannot be done overnight due to unavailability of proper infrastructure and all other needs of a child’s education. Are we going to stop only at complaining about those inadequacies and not take any further action?

    May be in decade we would make the same complaints where things could be worse due to an increase in population. People appointed as education ministers must be advised by education experts.

    The need of hour is to get experts on child education to draw out a plan for the future subsidized by the state Governments based income levels of parents Though education is free in Germany Kindergarten education is not free but fees are based on a family’s income subsidized by the municipalities of the respective areas. Kindergarten teachers are trained well to handle children’.

    Entrance is not based on the IQ of a child. But a child entering the kindergarten must know to use the toilet on his or her own.

    In the Kindergarten stage they play, learn and be together with other children with lots of out door activities even in winter. Basically a childhood full of fun for healthy growing up is what a kindergarten provides. There are no exams. They learn the basics of day-to-day life from using the waste bins to dispose of, cross the road, to draw, to celebrate special occasions religious and non religious, geography, history etc.

  • Vidhya
    25.02.12 08:39 PM
    @dee,satish,HARRY : Thank you :)
    @rajpriya: SO true
    @matheikal: you're right, private schools offer very little in exchange for the large sums they charge as fees
    @manreet: thank you, it's true. Surprisingly, while education IS a priority there is very little emphasis on improving the quality
    @shirish,joseph james:it's true, my intention was not an in depth analysis, I just wanted to highlight the current state.
    @noel: yeah. ASians always rock at math at the primary level, but if u notice by the college level the kids from the "developed country" as just as good as us, if not better.
  • matheikal
    24.02.12 03:33 PM
    A lot of attempts are made especially by private players to revolutionise the education system in the country. Ultimtely what is being really revolutionised are the bank accounts of the players!
  • Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
    Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
    24.02.12 07:26 AM
    Enjoyed reading your post. If there is one thing we owe every child, that is education. Our problem is poor infrastructure: too few schools, too many applicants. Which is why schools can get away with admission interviews. The Govt. needs to prioritize education, otherwise our much talked about growth dividend ( a young population) will have its own Arab Spring before we know.
  • Joseph James
    Joseph James
    24.02.12 05:36 AM
    @ Harry
    You can't expect overnight changes in education. What's important is that a beginning has been made; and a genuine effort is being made to bring about what they call 'a paradigm shift.' The whole approach to assessment (exams) is changing. They have brought in a new concept called 'formative assessment' which is supposed to be a non-intimidatory way of testing a child. It is diagonistic and remedial, and is integrated into the teaching-learning process.

    But You could be right. (I hope you won't be!) These changes could be cosmetic. Nothing can really change unless the mindset changes. As they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

    Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
  • Noel
    24.02.12 05:30 AM
    In a way our education system is doing us a favour. Even though many schools in our country do not have vocational or specialist courses, we do one thing right which is give our children a sound knowledge in all the basic subjects (well atleast our kids do not have to use a calculator to do simple calculations, which many children in developed countries cant). So yeah... we must be doing something right :)
    23.02.12 08:57 PM
    @ Joseph James

    How does the relabelling makes anything different ? marks with grades and scholastic year in semesters, When the system is still same from day one.

    I live in UK and all the things you said has happened from when I was young to when my own kids go to the same schools, and in reality nothing has really changed, only the labels.

    If our mindset don't change, how is it possible to change the system in India ? I know what you are saying.

    Only thinking of film SHOLAY ..... hum british ke jamane ke foji hai, jub hum nai shudhre, to tum kya shudhro ghe.
    The system in India are like this.

  • Joseph James
    Joseph James
    23.02.12 06:19 PM
    People say that CAT is more of a rejection test than a selection test. Perhaps, that is the only way out when the number of applicants runs into lakhs. They play a cat-and-mouse game with the aspirants, changing the pattern every year and keeping the hopefuls guessing all the time. It is the same thing happening at the LKG or the Pre-KG level. The schools do know that it isn't right to conduct entrance tests for 3-year olds. But how else can they fill in their limited seats from the thousands of the applications they receive every year? The first-come-first-served method suggested by the Government will only lead to fatal stampedes. As Rajpriya has pointed out there is a total mismatch between demand and supply. The solution lies in the very sensible suggestion by Shirish that there should be greater investment by the government at the primary level. Unfortunately, education ranks pretty low in the priority list of the planners.

    I am afraid you have written your post without really taking a close look at what is happening on the educational front. The HRD ministry is indeed making some effort to overhaul the system. For starters, it has introduced a new approach, christened CCE, in the CBSE affiliated schools with a view to destressing the system. Marks have been replaced with grades. The scholastic year has been divided into two semesters to reduce the burden on the young minds. Co-scholastic achievements are used to upscale the scholastic grades. The performance assessment will factor in multiple intelligences. The board exams at the tenth level are being done away with. Thinkers and writers like you could keep a close watch on these developments and provide valuable inputs to the Boards through whatever fora is available to you.
    As for the text books, there are welcome changes taking place. The Social Science text books, for example, aren't as drab or soporific as they used to be. They are well written, well illustrated and down-to-earth - the kind everybody had been dreaming of for a long time.

    I totally agree with the note on which you end your post. The much-flogged educational system of ours has produced some of the best minds in the world, hasn't it? Then why this kolaveri??
    23.02.12 05:41 PM
    Hi Vidhya

    What can I say, brilliant article and very nicely written. I see a Harry Potter fan from here. I don't know if it's good or bad. :)

    I see the points you are putting forward, but whole farce is just too much in the selection process, don't you agree, and end of the day if the child is good, then they will make it no matter what school it is, and my son is biggest proof of this drama.

    I think kids are like sponges, they will take what ever we teach them. I think it is also parents duty to teach as well and don't leave it to others and by doing so, you are playing the biggest part in kids life. Just simply waiting 9 hours first won't guarantee best education.

  • Writerzblock
    23.02.12 03:14 PM
    Very well written and thought-provoking!
  • shirish patwa
    shirish patwa
    23.02.12 11:45 AM
    Dear Vidhya,I must confess that the Title of the article is thought provoking.But the serious subject has been dealt with a little lighter-comic way.Further there is no need to discuss tedious process for Higher Education.Rejection at the age of three itself is a very very big issue.If a building is to be tall its foundation should be solid and deep!The investment in primary education should be many times more than the present level.At government level there is hardly any noteworthy investment.The population has increased tremendously but still the primary education is imparted in dilapidated buildings by teachers of questionable qualifications. These are some of the issues that require more attention and you talk about your middle-class or upper middle-class problems.
  • Rajpriya
    23.02.12 10:06 AM
    Simple Arithmetic - How much noise we make about Little Master’s many missed opportunities (far higher than 1%) to make his 100th century? Yet we are only second to China when India’s population hit the one billion mark in the year 2000. We may be well on our way to the top spot and soon.

    Yet we often miss the point to realize that more people to share less space is like squeezing 20 kilos of potatoes into a bag that can hold only one kilo.

    Limited resources for an increased population, education affordable only to the wealthy that leads to corruption, high percentages unemployment, more menial job opportunities, are a curse to a developing nation. With all the famous and really smart Indians away all around the world there aren’t enough brains left to sort out the problems of India because the remaining are not smart enough to be “AT” it.
  • Dee..
    23.02.12 09:56 AM
    Excellent post....
    NRI has got some good authors as well, an example..
    I have been saying this for A LONGGGGGGGGGG time, we need a overhaul in EDUCATION system than any other.
    This is the SINGULARITY point of any culture,civilization and growth !
  • satish
    23.02.12 06:45 AM
    100% (not 99) Right!

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