Let us see who knows these animals,” Sapna teacher opens the colourful touch and feel picture book much to the excitement of the children. They start identifying the animals. Slowly, Ms. Sapna changes her questions to ask, which of the animal has the longest neck to which Jiya springs up to point to the giraffe. The ‘Ready to school' class generally progresses with children brushing up alphabet, matching different shapes and colours and joining puzzles.
Well, all these are some of questions activity and resource centres and play schools are teaching as the kindergarten admission season in schools starts. Many parents enrol their children at least a month or two before the admission season to enhance such ‘interview' skills. While some of these are students who have been to a play school, many others seek such professional help if they do not speak English at home.
Working professional S. Lavanya's daughter, Shreeja, has quite a busy schedule. Until noon, Shreeja is occupied in a kindergarten, which she is going for at least a year now. In the evenings, since the last three months she spends an hour at an activity centre. “I did not see much progress in my child from the kindergarten school with 15-20 children in the class. As the interview season was getting closer I wanted her skills to be brushed up with some personal attention given to her,” says Ms. Lavanya, who has enquired with friends what are the general questions asked in the two schools she has zeroed on.
Parents say in one school A to Z are kept on a table and the candidate is asked to pick up one letter in the alphabet. One of the toughest questions is when schools ask the candidates to fix up puzzles. Sometimes the panel tests something you least expect. A chocolate was given to a child to see what she would do after opening the wrapper. The child asked for the dust bin and the interviewers were impressed.
Play schools say parents who come on transfer to the city and working professionals generally look for such coaching. The fee for a month ranges from Rs.2,000 onwards. Such classes, however, have not seen many takers this year.
“I found the demand a little less than last year. Some want two to three month of such classes, while some want for five days. Parents have probably become more confident that there will be no interviews but we never know,” says Sapna Dugar, who runs the Wordly Wise in Kilpauk. Last year the centre prepared about 25 students for L.K.G. admission in various batches. This year, half-a-dozen children came.
Jayarani Swamiappan, head of Gurukulam Ben Kids in Adyar, agrees the numbers have come down also because play schools are mushrooming. “This month I had five children who have come specifically to prepare for the KG admission interview. We also have a session with parents to orient them how to teach their child,” she adds.
The trend of schools going by the performance in the interview to select the child and the craze among the parents to get their child admitted in one of reputed schools is, however, not right, according to experts. “No kind of screening should be done by schools. Institutions do interviews to screen students as well as to see if the child can cope up with the curriculum they offer,” says Prema Daniel, consultant in Early Childhood Education.
She says apart from following the RTE Act guidelines such as radius from the school and preference to children of siblings, as far as a child is able to communicate in his or her mother tongue, not necessarily in English, it should be the criterion to admit a child.