Pre-school Hunt


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A note before introduction

Below is a verbatim reprint of one of the very few surviving articles from Erath, a beautiful blue-green planet which does not exist anymore.

Introduction

Hello. My name is Aadha Hawa. I'm a commercial-software-worker living in the garden city of Bunuguluru, Incia. My wife Matilda Yunyurani and I have been spending the last few months in a frantic school search for our three year old daughter Hatamaari Mitiklaadi (HM in short). Basic education is so important for a child's development that we decided nothing but the best would do for our daughter.

After a lot of intense research and interviews with other parents we decided that the greatest pre-school in Bunuguluru is Vidya Ocean. One can argue that this is the greatest pre-school in the whole of Incia; for that matter the whole of Erath (for no other country in the whole of Erath takes pre-school so seriously) and easily extended to the whole of universe. Vidya Ocean is stepping stone for two other greatest schools - Vidya Craft Academy (contemporary style) and Vidya Hangout (traditional style). As HM's elder brother Shirla goes to Vidya Craft Academy, we thought Vidya Ocean is the best choice for HM.

The Vidya Ocean Penance

But there is one problem: she is already too old to get into Vidya Ocean. Vidya Ocean starts educating children at the age of two. After four years of intense and nourishing pre-school education, students earn the 'bachelor of preparatory schooling' degree at the age of six and move on to one of the other two greatest schools for pursuing further intense and nourishing education. We were too late to discover Vidya Ocean. So HM lost the chance of entering Vidya Ocean in the main stream. We had to try harder than others to get her into Vidya Ocean.

My wife Matilda did not give up. She kept calling Vidya Ocean on every working day. On Mondays she called them twice. On every prime day of the month she called them three times. Irritated by the phone calls of many such parents (mostly mothers as most fathers easily take a supporting role when it comes to educating their children and most of them are hardly supportive), and also pleased by the penance of these parents Vidya Ocean decided to allow people to register in the waiting list for lateral entry into the school. They announced a date and said that interested parents should come between 9:30 and 12:30 to register in the school.

True Bunugulurans take pride getting the best in every aspect of life - even if it means standing in long queues and getting treated like dirt. We wake up very early on a Shunday morning and stand in a long queue at NTR for a lazy morning breakfast. We don't mind if the waiters there treat us like dirt. We deserve the best Shunday morning lazy breakfast and we will get it at all cost.

Being true Bunugulurans, we went one hour ahead of time to Vidya Ocean. Unfortunately, there were truer Bunugulurans and the queue was very long already. Vidya Ocean staff who had come a little earlier than 9:30 were watching the huge queue building up - there were really pleased with the penance of the parents. They started registering exactly at the given time. Soon we met the first person in the queue - he was my colleague at work who had been standing in the queue from 4:00 in the morning. I could see both a sense of achievement (of successfully getting into the waiting list) and urgency (because of a full bladder) in his face. After a couple of hours wait, we got our chance to register our daughter's name - we got waiting list number 72.

First interaction at Vidya Ocean

After a couple of months HM got a call from the school. They call it interaction and not interview because it is not legal in Incia to do interview of small children. A teacher took HM in an empty class room and interacted with her for 20 mins. After that, she asked Matilda a lot of questions about she being a working mother and how she takes care of the child. Teachers (even though most of them are working mother themselves) usually do not like working mothers. It is some kind of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law psychology. Working mothers who send their children to day-care is frowned upon even more. Working mothers who earn a lot is even worse.

After a couple of days and phone calls we realized that HM was not selected. Matilda was not the one to leave the topic there. She kept calling the school every day (and as usual twice on Mondays and three times on prime days of the month) asking for an appointment with the principal. Finally she was awarded an appointment with the vice-principal. The vice-principal explained that HM was not selected because she could not write ABCD. On top, she did not know phonics. Thankfully there was no mention of working mother thing. I guess it is not very modern to openly state that.

Preparing for the next year

We realized what we had to do to prepare her for the next year's attempt at Vidya Ocean. Her daycare (named 'Your kids? My kids? God knows whose kids') was not sufficient. She had to be immediately put into a real school. We got her into a small but serious pre-school called DBS play school (yes - they are real school; they have uniform for the kids to begin with unlike 'God knows whose kids').

Vidya Hangout Academy aka Legendry school

We knew we needed plan B, C, D, …So we started going to all other schools in that area.

The first one was called Vidya Hangout Academy. The name sounded familiar (Vidya Craft Academy + Vidya Hangout = even greater school). We immediately went to this school. They meanwhile had changed their name to Legendary School. The lady at the reception told that there were too many schools in the locality with similar name (I swear) and they decided to change their name to define a unique space for themselves. A more suspecting individual would have thought that the other Vidya schools filed a case against them and they were forced to rename. But I truly believed her explanation. Not only was their name inspired by Vidya Craft Academy, also was their uniform, their class room styling and most other obvious things. I liked Legendry school even more now. We decided that this is a good candidate for plan B or C.

Only for the local fools

Brigadier school was the next stop - a school primarily made for the residents of Brigadier apartments. They did not care much for people coming from outside. Their logic was clear - if someone was fool enough to buy an apartment at Brigadier, he should be fool enough to come to their school as well. They did not need fools from out side. A school with 47 students (yes, across all classes), no bus facility (who needs a bus to go from the apartment to the school next door) and yearly fee which is two to three times more than the top end schools was a little too much. We knocked this out of the list.

Tax evaders

The next stop was the most famous school chain in Incia - Delhi Private School. And the next - Old Horizon Gurukul. Some friends who got their kid into these schools said that they ask for additional money in cash (without receipt). This put us off - we knocked these schools out of the list.

Fooling around in style

Gouthami Global School is another interesting school we visited. They have been running schools for some years in another place. They realized that schooling is a very lucrative business in Bunuguluru. After thorough research of schools in Bunuguluru, they understood the key elements that differentiates the high class schools from ordinary ones:
  • Reputation of school (claim that you have run school for donkey's years in another place; who is going to verify)
  • Good teachers (again, no one can verify - just claim whatever you want)
  • Green environment (that's easy, the guy who has leased the land for the school has no intention of cutting his mango trees; that helps the green cause)
  • Nice spacious and airy class rooms (that's easy again; clay walls and thatched rooms are cheaper to make)
  • Tennis court, Basketball court, Cricket nets (that's easy, same space can be reused for all of these)
  • Big football field (oh that is a costly thing to do - ok, lets say we rent it from a sports club near by - i.e. 10 kms away).
  • Swimming pool (again not worth to make it - so rent it form the 'nearby club')
  • Horse riding (only the costliest of schools offer this facility; this one is easy - just bring two horses and tie them around the school)
That's not all. There should be a differentiator for this school. That's easily done. Import a couple of Emu's and cage them up. Now tell me which other school offers all these facilities (including Emus?). That's why Goutami Global's fees are on the higher side (I mean some where around Brigadier's level). I liked their thinking. There was a class to their fooling around - not blatant like Brigadier.

A pertinent application form

We had to move on - the next in our list was Jain Viraasat Academy. They were very happy to show around the facilities. These guys understood another key psychology about Bunugulurans - we take no chances when it comes to education; we are willing to pay the complete fees even for the plan B and plan C schools. So JVA charged part of first year fees already at the time of giving application forms. If the child got through in the interview (I mean interaction), they will adjust this money with the first term fees. Good trick. This way, they earned a lot even before the parents decided on the school.
JVA's application form is worth a mention. It was a typical form which collected all sorts of information so that it can be further sold to marketing agency. They asked questions like, what is your salary, which TV program do you watch, which radio program do you listen to, how do you spend your holidays, which soap do you use, who is your favorite actor, which news paper do you read, which restaurants do you visit, how often you change your undergarments, and so on. Of course all very pertinent questions which help them decide if the child is worthy of their education. Shamelessly we provided all these information and nearly decided to put HM in this school.

Second interaction at Vidya Ocean

To our surprise, Vidya Ocean again called HM for another interview. Two months have passed by. Probably they thought she deserved another chance. Many children were called that day and many teachers interacted with them in parallel. HM came out after a short 45 minutes interaction with the teacher in which she did a laparoscopic surgery, proved Fermat's last theorem, explained Darwin's theory of evolution and demonstrated a few light bending experiments to prove theory of relativity. This time the school found HM 'possibly suitable'. As she had learnt enormous bit in the last two months and there is still seven more months to go, they gave her provisional admittance. She will be watched for 1 month and if found good enough, she will be admitted.
The principal of the school talked to us and explained that they do not want any child to be pressurized in the school. So they wanted only kids who already knew all the things they were going to teach. I agreed - this is only a fair ask. The principal reassured us that it is not very difficult as there is still 7 months to go and the child could learn a lot in this time. She advised us that we should make the child write 1 page of ABCD, 1 page of numbers, couple of work sheets, few pages of coloring and a session of phonics. The key was not to pressurize the child. So she advised the course only once in the morning, once in afternoon and once in the evening. On week ends a little more time would be ok. Of course one or the other day the child could be woken up in the middle of night to the do all this once - not more. The key is not to pressurize the child.

The future is clear now

We are very happy that our daughter got selected in the best pre-school in the universe. We moved her from 'God knows who's kids' to 'DBS Play School'. This move has already paid back. We now will put her is a special coaching class on phonics and ABCD so that she can secure her admittance in Vidya Ocean. After 2 years of intense education in Vidya Ocean, she will move to Vidya Craft Academy. After spending 3 years there she will be ready to move into "Nagarjuna IIT Olympiad School' - the greatest of schools which prepares the children to get into IIT (Incian Institute of Technology). Then she can do her graduation at IIT, masters at MIT (Mugambo Institute of Technology) and finally MBA at ShIT. Her complete education road map is all laid out - we are very exited.

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