Although the preference in the national capital is for composite K-12 schools, standalone proprietary and franchised pre-primaries which often admit less than two-year-olds are a godsend for young double-income parents in nuclear households. Here are Delhi’s top-ranked preschools 2019-20.
Perhaps no urban habitat in India is more appreciative of the importance of giving children an early start in education than Delhi (pop. 19 million), the administrative hub and national capital of India. The sight of anxious parents wrapped up in woollens and braving the toxic early morning air of the world’s most polluted city — a dubious distinction conferred recently on this imperious city of wide avenues, gardens, impressive tombs and palaces by the World Health Organisation — is commonplace every winter.
These huddled parents line up for admission forms of the national capital’s top-ranked pre-primaries aka preschools. Although the longest queues are before the gates of composite K-12 schools which offer young parents the inviting prospect of their much-loved progeny availing high-quality private education all the way up to class XII, the queues before standalone top-ranked proprietary and franchised pre-primaries which often admit children less than two-year-olds are, if at all, only slightly shorter. For double income young parents in nuclear households, the country’s rapidly multiplying standalone preschools and ECCE centres are a godsend.
DELHI’S TOP RANKED PRESCHOOLS 2091-20 – PROPRIETARY PRESCHOOLS
Ever since the pioneer annual EducationWorld India Preschool Rankings were introduced in 2010, the league table of Delhi’s most admired proprietary pre-primaries promoted by visionary edupreneurs acquainted with the teaching and work of Western ECCE educators such as Dr. Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget and Rudolf Steiner, has been dominated by a handful of carefully conceptualised, child-centric preschools. Quick to adapt with the temper of the times and adopt best ECCE practices from Finland, Italy (Reggio Emilia), the US and UK where the cognitive sciences are deeply researched and quickly implemented, Delhi’s vintage pre-primaries continue to be held in high esteem by knowledgeable young parents and seasoned educators. Therefore, there has at best been a minor readjustment of seating at the Top 5 table of the national capital’s most respected proprietary preschools.
Step by Step, Panchsheel (SbS, estb.1992) which was jointly ranked #1 last year with The Magic Years, Vasant Vihar (TMY), promoted by the legendary Shirley Madhavan Kutty in 1984, has been placed a notch above in 2019-20 by Delhi’s sample respondents with Little Pearls — also in Vasant Vihar — jointly ranked #2 with TMY. They are accorded pride of place among the Top 5 together with Ardee School, Friends Colony which retains its #3 ranking of 2018-19, and Amiown, Pushp Vihar at #4 (4).
The new entrant into the Top 5 is the Wonderland Play School, Chanakyapuri jointly ranked #4 (6) followed by Petals Preschool, Nirmal Vihar ranked #5 (4) together with Tender Feet, Vasant Kunj (12) which has made a great leap upward in the esteem of the national capital’s sample respondents.
“I am delighted to learn that SbS has been exclusively voted Delhi’s #1 preschool this year. Our persistent endeavours to evolve, innovate and push the envelope have been duly recognised by your knowledgeable sample respondents comprising parents and teachers. I am truly gratified and humbled,” says Ramani Chopra, an alumna of Welham Girls, Dehradun and Panjab University and former teacher at the Marshal School, Chandigarh and the top-ranked Vasant Valley, Delhi who has shaped and nurtured SbS since 1997 when she was appointed principal.
With top scores under three of the ten parameters of ECCE excellence, Chopra attributes SbS’ top ranking this year to the management’s focus on teacher welfare and development and “the privacy and respect accorded to each and every pupil”. “I believe that consistent professional development enables our teachers to update their knowledge, innovate and acquire fresh, new perspectives. Therefore, every teacher is periodically deputed to high quality workshops and we often invite ECCE experts to enlighten us on ways and means to nurture and develop our children. The distinguishing characteristic of SbS is in our ensuring that every child’s self-esteem remains intact at all times, enabling her to realise her full potential,” says Chopra, under whose watch SbS has acquired a national reputation for providing excellent ECCE to special needs children, under which parameter this preschool has been ranked #1 ab initio.
Devaki Srinivasan, a sociology and physical education postgrad of the Jiwaji University, Gwalior, former teacher at the Lawrence School, Sanawar and the American Embassy School, Delhi and co-promoter and director of the Tender Feet School, Vasant Kunj (TFS, estb. 2004), which has leapfrogged from #12 to the Top 5 table this year, also believes that it’s the school management’s focus on teacher welfare and development which has won this 15-year-old preschool with an aggregate enrolment of 150 children and 14 teachers, high acclaim.
“It’s very encouraging to learn that your sample respondents comprising well-informed parents and educators have so positively voted TFS as one of Delhi’s Top 5 pre-primaries. This indeed is a very proud moment. I believe it’s an endorsement of our core values and beliefs. There is growing awareness in Delhi about the culture of TFS which empowers teachers and children to explore their creativity. Our experienced faculty spares no effort in helping each child to learn joyfully as she takes baby steps towards formal education,” says Srinvasan.
Likewise Shivani Pasrich, an economics and law graduate of Delhi University and currently director of The Study, East of Kailash (TSEK, estb. 1972), whose original habitat before it moved to a half-acre green campus next door was the home of India’s former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (1905-1977), is pleased with TSEK’s steady ascent up the annual EW league table of proprietary preschools despite its “deliberate low public profile”.
“TSEK is a pioneer institution in early childhood education in the national capital with an excellent reputation within a limited, knowledgeable circle. For instance all of prime minister Indira Gandhi’s grandchildren took their first steps in education on our campus which is the largest early years campus in the heart of Delhi. Over the past almost half century we have built a sound reputation through legacy, age-appropriate content and professional inputs. In knowledgeable circles, TSEK has acquired an excellent reputation for dispensing joyful early years learning to children who learn effortlessly here,” says Pasrich. Currently, this vintage preschool has 130 children and 10 teachers on its muster rolls.
Ranked just one notch below the 47-year-old TSEK at #7, is the relatively infant Pathways Early Years, Greater Kailash (PEYGK, estb. 2016), which has risen quickly in the estimation of discerning monitors of the education scene in the national capital. An affiliate of the highly ranked Pathways Group of three schools in Delhi NCR, PEYGK, ranked #11 in 2018-19, has been promoted to #7 with high scores under the parameters of teacher welfare and development, individual attention to students, parental involvement and innovative teaching.
“We are delighted to learn that PEYGK is now ranked among Delhi’s Top 10 preschools. Our goal is to attain #1 rank on the EW league table and we are determined to make it happen,” says Shafaq Shafi Bhat, a science and education alumna of Kashmir University who acquired 15 years of valuable teaching and admin experience at the Nakornpayap International School, Chiang Mai (Thailand) prior to being appointed founder-principal of PEYGK four years ago. Bhat ascribes PEYGK’s quick ascent up the EW preschools league table to the school’s child-centric culture.
“Children are at the heart of everything we do. ECCE is complex and there is rarely one prescription that suits all. Yet the idea of belonging is central. By supporting all children to belong to our community, we ensure that the early years are not solely about preparation for the future but are also about the present. By engaging in shared thinking and conversations, we help our children’s thinking and learning to become richer and more complex,” says Bhat.
Quite obviously despite Delhi’s environmental pollution problem which surfaces every winter, the promotion of new-genre, globally benchmarked pre-primaries and continuous upgradation of established preschools is an indicator of rising public awareness of the vital importance of professionally provided early childhood care and education. And now with the imminent final version of the National Education Policy 2019 set to accord highest importance to public and private ECCE, the prospects of the national capital’s preschools are rosy. Unless of course the Central and/or state government throws a spanner in the works. One can’t rule it out.
DELHI’S TOP RANKED PRESCHOOLS 2091-20 FRANCHISED
In the 23-strong 2019-20 league table of Delhi’s franchised preschools — pre-primaries licensed and supported by large chains such as Kangaroo Kids, EuroKids and Kidzee — which have experienced mega mergers and amalgamations in recent months, there has been a minor rearrangement of the seating order. The prime position at top table continues to be occupied by Kangaroo Kids, New Friends Colony (KKNFC) which has been top-ranked for the past five years.
This year again, the 740 sample respondents (parents with children in preschool, principals/teachers) in Delhi have voted KKNFC (estb.2011) #1 by a wide margin, awarding it top scores on nine of the ten parameters of early childhood care and education (ECCE).
“Evidently your sample respondents who have awarded KKNFC #1 ranking for the fifth year consecutively are not aware that our franchise agreement with Kangaroo Kids was terminated on March 31. Next year, Mothers Arm as we are now known, will have to be reclassified as a proprietary preschool. Although that’s a more competitive category with several vintage preschools dominating the league table, I entertain the hope that we will be highly ranked in that category as well. Nevertheless, I am thrilled that we are ranked Delhi’s #1 franchisedschool again this year. The credit for this continuous success goes to our excellent teachers who provide our children joyful age-appropriate education. I believe our reputation on this account will stand us in good stead in the future,” says Menka Sharma, a chemistry and law graduate of Chaudhury Charan Singh University, Meerut who worked in the IT industry before signing up with Kangaroo Kids to promote KKNFC.
In particular, Sharma welcomes the proposal made in the draft National Education Policy 2019 of the Kasturirangan Committee to extend preschool or ‘foundational stage’ education to class III children up to age eight. “Under pressure from parents we have already introduced early primary education up to class II in Mothers Arm. The proposal to extend early childhood education to class III is an excellent idea and I don’t anticipate any problems in teaching primary school children in Mothers Arm,” adds Sharma.
This year Delhi’s informed sample respondents have given a huge promotion to the Maple Bear Canadian Preschool, Geetanajali Enclave (MPCP, estb. 2014). This low-profile pre-primary has been steadily moving up the annual EducationWorld India Preschool Rankings (EWIPR) during the past five years from #15 in 2015-16 to #5 in 2018-19 to #2 this year. However, all efforts to persuade the MBCP management to share the secret of their success proved infructuous.
Exploration of the school’s poor quality website revealed a puff piece interview with an unknown individual featured in Brainfeed magazine, and the information that there are 78 Maple Bear Canadian preschools in India, the outcome of a joint venture agreement between Maple Bear Global Schools Ltd, Canada and Modi Edutech of the UP-based Modi Group of companies, once a big name in industry (Modi Tyres, Modi Xerox, Modi Chemicals), but since gone to seed. This preschool’s website which provides no information about the management or leadership discloses the seminal information that “at Maple Bear we believe that there is nothing more important than our children”. Yet despite the school’s poor communication skills, it’s commendable that MBCP is ranked the national capital’s #2 franchised preschool.
While Mother’s Pride, and Petals Preschool, both in Dwarka, have fallen out of favour with Delhi’s sample respondents this year and have been demoted from the high table, beyond the Top 5, Kidzee Little Trinklets (KLTs), Saket and SERRA International, Vikaspuri have been promoted to the 2019-20 Top 10.
“In Kidzee Little Trinklets, Saket we are delighted to learn that we have been promoted to the Top 10 and ranked #5 this year. This is especially satisfying because in the past five years, we have made special efforts to improve our performance under all the parameters of preschool education excellence prescribed by EducationWorld. Our promotion to #5 by the well-informed EducationWorld sample respondents indicates that our continuous improvement effort under all parameters is succeeding. I am especially glad that our scores under infrastructure, parental involvement and individual attention to children have improved. This has enabled us to create a happy learning environment for our children,” says Priyanka Wadhwa, an English and education postgraduate of Meerut University who acquired 11 years of teaching experience at the Asha Modern Public School, Shahranpur, before going solo with her own pre-primary in 2008 and signing up with Kidzee — “a very satisfactory relationship” — in 2011. Currently, KLTs, Saket has 80 tiny tots and nine teachers on its muster rolls.
Further down the 23-strong league table of Delhi’s most respected franchised preschools, Bachpan Playschool, Mayur Vihar, Phase III has improved its ranking to #12 (15), Maple Bear Canadian, New Friends Colony to a joint #12 (16), Little Millennium, Mayur Vihar to #14 (17) and EuroKids, Shankar Gardens, Vikaspuri to #16 (19). Others have retained or marginally improved or lost rank compared to 2018-19.
Be that as it may, within the community of India’s franchised preschools, exciting days are ahead with mergers and acquisitions activity intensifying. In May 2017, the EuroKids chain acquired the Kangaroo Kids and Billabong (primary-secondary) chain of an estimated 100 pre-primaries and K-12 schools. Subsequently in September, KKR & Co, a globalised cash-rich US-based private equity firm, acquired the 1,100-strong EuroKids chain, and more recently the Kidzee chain of preschools whose number is estimated at 1,900 institutions.
With big money flowing into ECCE which is mercifully spared the bull-in-a-china shop attentions of the Central and state governments, India’s preschool education sector is set to make a great leap forward.
Also read: Noida’s best preschools 2019-20