With rising awareness of the vital importance of high-quality ECCE within Delhi’s expanding middle class, C fore field researchers interviewed 755 sample respondents (preschool parents, principals and teachers) to rate and rank 41 sufficiently well-known proprietary and 25 franchised preschools in the national capital
Awareness of the critical importance of professionally administered early childhood care and education (ECCE) is arguably more acute in Delhi (pop. 18.6 million) — the sprawling megalopolis which has not only been awarded statehood by the Union government, but also the nomenclature of Delhi NCR (national capital region) which includes swathes of the contiguous states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh by business and industry — than any other Indian city. Every winter, winding queues of anxious middle class parents ready and willing to brave the toxic early morning air of the world’s most polluted metropolis, are witnessed before the gates of the national capital’s most reputed pre-primary schools. They are part of the annual scramble for admission forms of these pre-primaries, (aka preschools) which they believe will provide high quality age-appropriate ECCE that will stand their progeny in good stead when they enter formal schooling, higher education institutions and workplaces.
Although the longest queues form before the gates of composite K-12 schools which also offer pre-primary education — because admission into composite schools ensures smooth continuity in school education until class XII — the waiting lines in front of Delhi’s standalone top-ranked preschools are barely shorter. A huge demand-supply disequilibrium in high-quality professionally administered early childhood education is the motivating factor behind the annual scramble for admission into pre-primaries across the city offering ECCE at all price points.
Against this backdrop of rising — even if belated — awareness of the vital importance of ECCE within the fast-expanding middle class of Delhi NCR, field researchers of the highly-reputed, Delhi-based market research and opinion polls company C fore interviewed a mix of 755 sample respondents comprising parents with preschool children, and preschool principals and teachers, and persuaded them to rate and rank 41 sufficiently well-known proprietary and 25 franchised preschools in their city. Proprietary and franchised schools are separately rated and ranked to avoid apples and oranges-type comparisons.
The proprietary preschools league table for Delhi has been topped by The Magic Years, Vasant Vihar (TMY, estb.1984) ab initio since EducationWorld pioneered the idea of rating and ranking preschools countrywide eight years ago in the public interest. However, with the promotion of several new globally benchmarked preschools by highly qualified and knowledgeable pre-primary educationists in the national capital, TMY’s dominance of the Delhi league table is being challenged.
In recent years, TMY’s title has been strongly challenged by Step by Step, Panchsheel (SbS, estb. 1992) which was ranked #1 in 2016-17 before TMY regained its premier ranking last year. This year it’s perhaps in the fitness of things that both these excellent preschools are jointly ranked #1 in Delhi in the proprietary category with SbS ranked #1 on three of the ten parameters — teacher welfare and development, infrastructure, and special needs education.
Moreover, it’s pertinent to note that SbS has been top-ranked on the parameter of special needs education every year thus far. On the other hand TMY is top-rated on six parameters — teacher competence, individual attention to students, parental involvement, safety & hygiene, leadership and value for money.
“I believe our core strength is that the teacher attrition percentage in SbS is very low, because we invest heavily in their well-being and professional training as testified by our top score under the parameter of teacher welfare and development. Secondly, our teachers have fully imbibed the culture of love and respect for our little ones to build a safe, secure and benevolent environment for them,” says Ramani Chopra, explaining the high popularity and respect of this preschool which receives 1.6 admission applications per vacancy every year. An alumna of the top-ranked Welham Girls, Dehradun and Panjab University with teaching experience in the Marshal School, Chandigarh and Vasant Valley, Delhi, Chopra was appointed principal of SbS Nursery School in 1997.
Understandably, Ramani is proud of SbS’ excellent and sustained reputation for dispensing high quality education for special needs children. “Our special needs learning centre established in 1995, hosts 32 differently abled children. It is well equipped with professional staff comprising trained special needs teachers, speech and occupational therapists. We strongly believe in inclusive teaching which is why our differently abled children are mainstreamed not only in classes but also for co-curricular activities such as performing arts and yoga, which form an integral part of our curriculum. The impact of mainstreaming differently abled children is that it has sensitised all our children to the needs and aspirations of our specially abled ones,” adds Chopra.
The jointly top-ranked SbS and TMY apart, Delhi’s Top 5 preschools table of 2018-19 incudes Little Pearls Play School & Day Care, Vasant Vihar which has retained its #2 rank, the previously unranked Ardee School, New Friends Colony (NFC) which has leapfrogged to #3, Amiown, Pushp Vihar and Petals, Nirman Vihar both ranked #4 and The Learning Tree, Sujan Singh Park #5.
“Although I am very pleased that our very new preschool has debuted with a #3 ranking, I believe that for the great speed with which we have addressed the very contemporary issues of air pollution and child security, we deserve a higher rank. For instance while the AQI (air quality index) of our highly polluted national capital averages 500, by investing heavily in the latest air purifying technologies, equipment and processes, we have succeeded in reducing the AQI in our classrooms to 50, and to 70-80 in our play areas. Moreover, we have an all-women security guards system on campus supplemented by 140 CCTV cameras. Therefore, apart from excellent Montessori education, we also provide an unprecedented secure and pollution-free learning environment to our children,” says Chanda Raisinghani, an English and education postgrad of Delhi University and master trainer certified by the Montessori College, London, and former member of the National Council of Teacher Education. Raisinghani is founder-president of the Ardee Group of three K-12 and two preschools, including one in Noida, which have an aggregate enrolment of 1,500 students and 212 teachers. Promoted in 2017, Ardee NFC has a total enrolment of 400 students mentored by 55 teachers.
Further down the Top 10 table, among the preschools which have dramatically risen in public esteem are GD Goenka La Petite, Greater Kailash I, which has leapfrogged to #8 from #15 in 2017-18 and the previously unranked Scottish Early Years, Hargobind Enclave at #9, Salwan Montessori, Rajendra Nagar jointly ranked #9 (#11 in 2017-18) and Santa Maria Integrated Learning Environment, Vasant Kunj at #10 (9).
“We are humbled, honoured and very pleased that GD Goenka La Petite, Greater Kailash I has been promoted to the Top 10 table of proprietary preschools in Delhi. I believe there is growing awareness in the national capital that we support children with love, care and concern in their early learning years. We follow the Montessori method with its emphasis on learning through play in a stimulating environment designed to provide an excellent foundation for creative learning to youngest children. In this preschool, we truly understand that every child has a different learning style and pace. Each child is unique, not only capable of learning but also capable of succeeding,” says Hemakshi Gupta, an English graduate of Delhi University and former teacher at Mother’s Pride (Patel Nagar) and Aadyant, Vasant Kunj who signed up with GDG La Petite in 2014 and is its director and proprietor. Currently, this preschool has 140 children and 30 teachers on its muster rolls.
Manasi Aggarwal an alumna of Simmons University (USA) with three years of teaching experience and director of Scottish Early Years, Hargobind Enclave (SEY, estb. 2016) is equally encouraged that this hitherto unranked pre-primary which has an enrolment of 110 children instructed by 11 teachers and enjoys an impressive 4:1 applications-admissions ratio, has been vaulted into the Top 10 by Delhi’s informed sample respondents.
“The SEY fraternity is ecstatic about being elevated into the Top 10 preschools of Delhi. Although we have received awards in the past, this is our most prestigious recognition yet. I am very encouraged to learn that our Montessori environment which goes beyond the confines of conventional classrooms and child-centred pedagogy which nurtures the confidence, self-esteem and independence of children from their early years, is being appreciated by the informed public. Our entry into Delhi’s Top 10 preschools has motivated us to aim high and transform into a model school of early years education,” says Aggarwal.
Further down the league table of Delhi’s proprietary preschools, are debutantes Pathways Early Years, ranked #12, Titiksha Junior, Rohini #16 and Iksana Preschool, Dwarka #22. A notable feature of the 2018-19 Delhi proprietary preschools league table is that with a large number of new pre-primaries having caught the fancy of the national capital’s public, most well-established preschools have been obliged to cede some ground. However, the promotion of new pre-primaries with excellent infrastructure, newest global pedagogies and highly qualified teachers is certain to spur competition and raise standards in early childhood care and education in the national capital.
Among Delhi’s high-profile, well-known franchised preschools, i.e, pre-primaries that are licenced by reputed national brands such as the Mumbai-based Kangaroo Kids, Kidzee, EuroKids, Maple Bear Canadian and Little Millennium, Kangaroo Kids, New Friends Colony (KKNFC, estb. 2011) seems to have made a deep impact on the capital’s citizens. For the fourth year in succession, Delhi’s sample respondents comprising a mix of parents with children in preschools, pre-primary principals and teachers have voted KKNFC the national capital’s #1 preschool in the franchised category by a wide margin.
“Today is Thanksgiving Day and I give thanks to God and the knowledgeable public of Delhi who have once again voted us the #1 preschool of the national capital. This sustained endorsement of KKNFC for the past four years is highly encouraging and has come as a massive morale boost for our tireless teachers. It will inspire us to work hard to retain our top ranking,” says Menka Sharma, the founder-principal of KKNFC which has 85 children mentored by 12 teachers on its muster rolls.
It’s noteworthy that KKNFC is ranked #1 on nine of the ten parameters of preschool education this year. Sharma ascribes this extraordinary achievement to “self belief and sustained hard work of teachers”. “We pride ourselves on being open to pedagogy innovations while implementing the excellent curriculum and lesson plans we receive from our franchisor. I firmly believe that adaptability enables all organisms, people and businesses to survive and prosper,” adds Sharma.
Even as KKNFC has retained its premier position on Delhi’s Top 5 table this year, there is a minor rearrangement of seating at top table. KKNFC is followed by Kangaroo Kids, Rajouri Garden, another franchised school of Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd, which has also retained its #2 ranking of last year. But it has to share this rank with EuroKids, E Block, GK II which has been promoted from #3 in 2017-18. With the Mumbai-based EuroKids having reportedly purchased a majority shareholding in Kangaroo Kids Ltd, these two partner chains have made a sweep in the franchised preschool category in the national capital this year.
The remaining seats at top table are filled by Petals Preschool, Dwarka ranked #3 (#5 last year), followed by Kidzee, Janakpuri (4) and Mother’s Pride, Dwarka (7) jointly ranked #4 followed by Maple Bear Canadian, Geetanjali Enclave (6) and Little Millennium, Kalkaji (8) jointly ranked #5 this year.
“We are very satisfied that during the past three years the ranking of Petals Preschool, Dwarka has steadily improved from #16 in 2016 to #5 last year and #3 in 2018-19. For this achievement a major share of the credit needs to be given to our head office and franchisor Mme. Preeti Kwatra for providing excellent curriculums and teacher training to all 28 Petals Preschools in Delhi NCR. Therefore we are able to provide age-appropriate early education to all our children. Moreover we are a very parents-friendly school and I believe it’s the favourable word of mouth publicity we get from them that has boosted our ranking in the EW league table year after year,” says Jasveer Kaur, an English graduate of Delhi University who signed up as a franchisee of Petals Preschool in 2015. Currently this pre-primary has 153 children and 11 teachers on its muster rolls.
Further down the Top 10 table, Sanfort, Mayur Vihar at #6 (11 in 2017-18), EuroKids, Vasant Vihar #7 (11), The Study, East of Kailash #7 (13) and Maple Bear Canadian, Rajouri Garden #8 (9) have improved their ranking while Little Millennium, Tilak Nagar #9 (8) and Bachpan A Play School, Dwarka #10 (10) complete the Top 10 table.
Further down the Delhi league table of 26 sufficiently well-known franchised preschools, Little Planet Preschool, Rohini ranked #13, EuroKids, Block B, Janakpuri #14, Bachpan, Mayur Vihar #15, Shemrock Amrit, Janakpuri #16 and Maple Bear Canadian, New Friends Colony #16 have marginally improved their rankings in 2018-19.