The author of this post, Jairam Mohan is somebody who pores over excel spreadsheets and power point presentations in his day job, but believes that his true calling lies in boring people to their deaths. That is the sole aim of him updating his blog Mahabore's Mumblings quite frequently. Between him and his wife, they nurture and bring up their two year old daughter as well as the blog.
Schooling Choices and Related Considerations
This post deals with one of the most critical but one of the most under-appreciated and technically difficult topic of choosing the right school for your children. I have dealt with this topic in a bulleted manner, ie, have jotted down my thoughts based on broad categories to be considered when selecting a school for children. Please note that these categories are not prioritized in any manner and are in a random order.
Apart from the fact that Bangalore was my home town, one of the main reasons that my wife and me moved back to the city for good in April this year was because we wanted little R to be admitted in a school which she would hopefully not have to change for the rest of her schooling days. As is the norm with most schools nowadays when you enrol your kids for Pre Kindergarten in a school, the kid continues there till he/she finishes her 12th standard, and believe me, that is a good 15 years in a single place.
Why Bangalore? Because this was the city where we didn’t have to worry about shifting residences as we had my parents’ house where we would stay and not in a rented house where our locality would be based on the whims and fancies of some temperamental owner. While staying with my parents has its own pros and cons, when it comes to the choice of a school, this clearly narrowed down our choices, which probably was a blessing in disguise.
Yes, almost all schools worth their salt have transport facilities in the form of buses or school vans. But I have always been more than a bit sceptical about how the drivers of these school vehicles actually drive on the roads. I have been witness to more than a few avoidable and questionable driving tactics of these school vans in Bangalore and am therefore not too open to making my daughter travel in one of these, if I had a choice.
This therefore meant that we restricted our search to schools which were within walking distance from home or those which were at most 15 mins away by our own vehicle. Yes, geographical location and distance from home may seem like trivial and stupid considerations, but in our opinion it doesn’t help if children have to travel 1+ hour a day two times a day and are stuck in a school vehicle when they could easily be doing something else that is more constructive.
When it comes to choice of curriculum in Bangalore, parents have to choose between CBSE, ICSE or the Karnataka State Govt syllabus. The decision to reject the State Board syllabus is a no brainer since I did all my education in that syllabus and I can safely vouch for the fact that it is probably the most useless syllabus in the State if not the country.
However, the choice between CBSE and ICSE was not quite as easy as it looked. While the fact remains that CBSE is probably the most popular among Indian parents, most schools in Bangalore don’t seem to have the affiliation, let alone the ones close to my place. However, having heard from reliable sources that the ICSE syllabus is more depth when compared to CBSE which is more breadth, we decided to go ahead with CBSE as first choice with ICSE being a backup option, considering the schools close to home.
Given that both my wife and I studied in schools run by Christian Missionary Trusts of the 1980s, we had huge playgrounds in our schools as well as access to sports facilities in the form of sports equipment, coaches and instructors for outdoor as well as indoor sports. Given the cost of real estate nowadays and the fact that we don’t necessarily stay in a locality in Bangalore where moderate schools can actually afford to spend huge money on sports infrastructure, we had to settle down to keeping our choices limited as far as this particular aspect was concerned.
However, we did enquire about the overall infrastructure of the schools and also spoke to parents of children studying there to understand if at least all the basic infrastructure in the form of decent classrooms, labs, computer labs, etc were available at these schools.
While we necessarily cannot control how much of time our little one will spend on the playground versus the classroom, we want a school which at least provides her with the choice of outdoor activities just in case she is interested in the same.
This paragraph has to be read in conjunction with the above one relating to Infrastructure constraints as the quality of the infrastructure almost directly impacts the financial requirements from the parents. In this day and age of these so called ‘international schools’ blossoming around all over Bangalore, school fees in lakhs of rupees has become quite common. Parents discuss schooling expenditure only in 6 figures and anything less is considered quite a travesty of social status as well.
Our (read my wife’s and my) upwardly mobile middle class upbringing shocks us to the core when parents we know talk of paying more than Rs 1 lakh for school donations and around Rs 50,000 for annual fees for Pre Kindergarten for their kids. I mean, isn’t Pre KG just a glorified name for Play School? What do these schools teach them or provide them for half a lakh of rupees a year?
I mean, my daughter is okay if the school doesn’t have an air conditioner, or fancy desks and chairs to sit on and doodle. She is fine as long as the rest rooms are clean and the school staff is courteous and gentle with her, and that should not cost that kind of money in our opinion.
We therefore didn’t even bother enquiring more about a couple of these international schools which are quite close to our place.
Summary and current state of affairs
At the end of this crazy decision making exercise my wife and me finally decided that we preferred a regular school where middle class children were enrolled, with decent sized grounds and where students were at least given opportunities to participate in extra curricular activities. While we outright rejected the crazy costly schools, we have no choice but to settle down for the relatively costlier schools which had the necessary basic infrastructure that I talked about earlier.
At this point the short-list is down to three of which two application forms have already been bought. One Parent-School interaction has been scheduled for the 6th of Nov when hopefully little R will find her second home for the next 15 odd years starting June 2014.
It is difficult not to nod in agreement with Jairam's views or not go 'tuch tuch' when he talks about the 'business' of schooling these days. I share his shock at the numbers which have made Play Schools a luxury item almost - unaffordable and very different from the cosy ones we went to, as children. I am sure most of my readers can relate to this wonderfully composed post on this father's ideas of picking the right school for his little R. Would love to know what your experience has been!