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How primary school interviews are violating the Right to Education


This blog post has been contributed by 16-year old Bangaore-based Karan Arora, one of the Student Contributors for Issue 10 of the magazine, out in January 2013.

The Indian Parliament passed the “Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act” or as it is better known, “The Right to Education Act” – RTE – on 4th August 2009. One of the issues addressed is that of school interviews: the act orders that for admission, there should be no interview of the parent or child, to ensure enrollment for all. But is this ruling applicable to private schools?

As the act came into being, private schools protested, claiming that it violated their right to run themselves without government interference. The act was revised, and made itself non – applicable to unaided, private schools and boarding schools. And so the interview process continues, with many private schools disguising interviews with the term “interaction sessions”.

Parents and  teachers whom we spoke to on the matter unanimously suggested that interviews for children entering primary school were unethical, and too great an ask for chidren of four or five years. Oftentimes, after parents are worried into amassing every possible trick and tip for their child over more than a year, the alienating interview room and stranger-interviewer put such pressure on the little child that preparation is rendered irrelevant.

What is being done about the clearly flawed process? Some action is being taken as many argue that the RTE does not comprehensively address the pre–primary sector – due to these pressures, in Maharashtra for example, a committee has been formed to set possible guidelines for, specifically, pre-primary children. It has submitted a report about this, which suggests effective implementation systems.

One issue addressed is admission for children in urban areas. If interviews do not take place, then what do schools do to choose from the vast number of applications that they receive? Many schools ask for high fees or donations from families. The donation is given by a different name, and the receipt issued for someone else! This means that a child from a richer family might get a seat at the expense of a child whose parents cannot offer as much, regardless of how sincere or bright the latter might be.

Leaving aside the solutions any separate guidelines might put forth for pre-primary kid’s admissions, the basic problem remains the same: good schools offer 60-odd seats, and there are 500 children applying to them. Schools must select students from this mass, or select the first 60 capable students who apply. The latter seems fairer, but where would the other 440 go? There is so much competition in the first place for each of these schools for one main reason: there are not enough schools that parents consider good enough. There are a vast number of public schools across the country, but do parents consider the majority of them good enough? Certainly not, and with good reason. If more institutions offering the quality of education already being offered by popular private schools came into being, admissions would become less competitive.

For now, the interview process could become more interaction based – a child feels more comfortable solving a puzzle with their “friend” than they do answering a question from their interviewer. The school could be as accommodating and welcoming to children and parents as possible, create an interaction session that would be more a spontaneous game than a strict question-answer session, and spread this idea among parents to save them the trouble of extensive preparation.

To conclude, it is clear that making changes to the interview process would be a fair short-term solution, but that more neighbourhood schools offering good quality education need to be present in the long-term. Education is a fundamental right that transcends barriers such as intelligence or poverty. Private schools have escaped the RTE obligation to accept students such that 25% of those admitted are below the poverty line. The unquestionable truth is that it is the right of every student, whether they sleep on silk or on gravel, to have the same education; and it is the obligation of every school, whether crowned by single story-high concrete slabs or by four story spires, to offer that education. To Every Student.

Read the complete article written by Karan on ‘Preparing for Primary School Interviews’ in Issue 10 of our magazine.

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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.


5 thoughts on “How primary school interviews are violating the Right to Education

  1. Charlie Stuart

    It is true parents have to worry a lot at the time of getting their child admitted in a school as the process of admission is very complicated. At the time of admission, the parents have to complete a lot of formalities. Admission process requires many formalities like registration, buying forms, taking interviews and test. At present, the trend is such that even the parents are interview.

    Reply
  2. Kritika

    Good analysis on the situation Karan. As you point out, this is a Catch-22 situation. Interviews, setting aside the issue of pressure, are discriminating since they allow only the brightest to get admission into the best schools, thus perpetuating the academic progress of the brighter kids and not giving less bright kids the same opportunities.

    On the other hand, in a country like India, where you have 2000 applicants competing for 60 seats, how does a school decide whom to choose and whom to reject?!

    I guess the ideal solution lies in, as you rightly point out, having neignbourhood schools that are all equally good, so children simply study in the school nearest to them – much like the public school system that exists in much of Continental Europe today.

    Reply
  3. Ramya

    My daughter faced two interviews when we were looking for admissions to Grade One. The principals asked her ‘easy’ questions such as her favourite book, song etc. She did all the ‘right’ things – looked confidently into their eyes, spoke clearly without hesitation and did not hide behind her parents’ chairs. She was pronounced ‘Confident and Mature’. While these situations favoured me as a parent, I could not help wondering how things would have gone if my child was more reticent, and more comfortable with ‘doing’ rather than ‘speaking’.

    Reply
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