– Autar Nehru (Delhi)
The state government’s dithering over notifying guidelines for nursery admissions in Delhi for the academic year 2021-22, is generating confusion among young parents and school managements. Normatively, the admission process is spread over the months of December-January. However, this year because of the prolonged closure of education institutions since mid-March because of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, admissions are on hold.
Although there is no official word about the date on which nursery and kindergarten admissions will begin, unconfirmed reports suggest that the state government is thinking of postponing them for a whole year. This rumour is causing heartburn within private school managements in the national capital, more so because schools in Delhi NCR — Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon etc — have started their admission processes.
Admission into nurseries of the too-few schools in Delhi that offer nursery classes is a big ticket event in the national capital. Queues for admission forms of top-ranked schools often snaked for miles notwithstanding the bitter cold and polluted air of the winter months, until a transparent system of drawing lots and online admissions was designed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in 2016. Earlier it was normative for irate parents, denied admission for their progeny into schools of their choice, to file writ petitions alleging demands for capitation fees, child profiling and interviews, and obtaining stay orders.
Because of poor civic planning and discouragement of greenfield private schools for decades, the demand-supply balance for nursery classes is totally skewed. Although 500 government schools offer nursery classes, there are few takers for them. The admissions rush is from middle and upper class households in Delhi (pop.19 million) for admission into 3,000 top-ranked composite private schools that offer nursery classes. This annual scramble for nursery admissions is understandable. Admission into nursery of a top-ranked EWISR (EducationWorld India School Rankings) composite school ensures smooth passage until class XII.
“The state government should immediately announce nursery admission dates and guidelines if any. Under the guidelines of the past three years, admissions are made online under lottery system from neighbourhood applicants. Moreover, children admitted last year are already receiving restricted online education. Therefore the new batch can also be given limited online learning and can join physical classes after schools reopen,” says Vividh Gupta, principal, Bal Bhavan Public School, Mayur Vihar.
Moreover this year, this annual season of anxiety is compounded by the Covid-19 crisis. With all education institutions shuttered and children learning remotely, is it appropriate to provide online learning for tiny infants in nursery classes? Most ECCE (early childhood care and education) experts warn against exposing youngest children to digital devices. However, some composite schools and standalone preschools citing education ministry guidelines are providing an hour per week teacher-pupil interaction.
With the anti-Coronavirus vaccination campaign around the corner, secondary schools reopening and the industry and business lockdowns almost over, a rising number of working parents are worried about loss of learning if nursery admissions are cancelled this year.