Children as young as four or five who are entering the primary section of regular schools in Indian metros often need to go through an observation or interview session so that they can be evaluated for admission. Getting their child into a school of their choice is no longer a given for most parents – preparation for admission interviews has become a sine qua non for both parents and children at this stage in their child’s lives.
That’s right. Our carefree, beaming kids are doing their first formal interviews at four! Something most of us did for the first time in our twenties! The process has fast become an ordeal for parents as well. As competition increases, parents are understandably more agitated about ensuring a good education for their children – they feel compelled to do all they can to guarantee their children a spot in the ideal school. If children are assessed for admission based on an interview or test, parents will do everything possible to extract that good performance: from cutting vegetables into different lengths and comparing car sizes to enrolling their children in interview training classes, three hours a week, fifty-two weeks a year. For many, preparation is an ongoing process which begins from the age of two!
Interview training often starts a full year in advance of the interview. Now, even preschools have adapted to incorporate interview preparation into their curriculum. Despite the controversial nature of these interviews, they are widely used to evaluate students for admission into schools. So as a parent, you should be aware of what it entails and how you can prepare your child for the process.
The admissions process
In many schools, once you fill out an application form, the school schedules an interview or interaction session between the child and a qualified individual. The parents are also expected to fill out a questionnaire and/or go through an interview. The child’s session could last anywhere from five minutes to thirty minutes. The child spends this time with the interviewer (often a teacher) and typically answers a few questions or performs a few activities. Questions test the child’s knowledge of concepts, his understanding of the world around him, and his language and social skills.
So what do schools look for in children? Jasmine Sampat, Principal of Miniland in Mumbai, spells it out – “Schools often try to evaluate a number of areas: the child’s confidence and independence; his thinking, and motor skills as well. Schools test whether children are using the right colours in a picture – that way they can assess coordination and observation and general knowledge all at once. There are questions related to the alphabet and numbers. There are a lot of numeracy concepts that are tested – more than, less than. Sometimes, there might be something unorthodox – the interviewer might tell the child a story and conduct an oral comprehension exercise.”