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21 Jan, 2009 06:53

Indian parents queue for private schools

India has an enviable reputation in hi-tech areas like IT and scientific innovation. This is largely due to the quality of the country’s education system.

But with the population growing fast, places at the best private schools are at a premium.

Admissions for the next academic year are now under way, and Indian parents are working hard to get their children in to the best establishments.

Every year, thousands go through the process of applying and meeting school heads in the hope of winning places for their youngsters. Each of the private fee-paying schools has about a hundred places, and the competition is tough. Most applicants fail to get places.

Parent Nidhi Chopra said he “applied last year also for nursery and it was a very bad experience – didn’t get through anywhere. So I am applying this year also hoping for the best, but it really is a very grueling experience throughout,” he said.

Selection by interview, of both parents and children, has just been replaced by a points system. It's hoped that this will make the process less arbitrary and more transparent – especially in the light of allegations of money deciding admissions. But the new system is said to favour those who live near the school, and already have a connection with it.

As parents struggle to get their children into the best private schools, the government is coming under criticism for the poor quality of state-run schools.

Brother Dominic Jacob from Mount Saint Mary’s School says education is the key factor in improving a society.

“Education is the primary thing. I am sure politicians do realize that but they don’t want to do anything about it because keeping people illiterate will give them an advantage for votes,” he said.

Pressure for places has put India’s education system under the spotlight. It is now hoped that the politicians will deliver the schools that will provide equal opportunities for all Indian children.