India: Competition for places starts at nursery level

India: Competition for places starts at nursery level

At IT consultant Sumit Vohra's house, the conversation at the dinner table revolves around whether his daughter, Amaaya, will get into a top-ranked school in Delhi.

Amaaya is three years old. Around the world, parents sweat over getting their children into the right schools at five or six. In India, where private schools start at the nursery level, the fretting starts even earlier.

"I am tense and anxious about what will happen. Can we crack the admissions? Even my parents are stressed," said Mr Vohra, 42, who started a website to help other parents around the time he was getting his elder daughter into nursery school four years ago. She got into Delhi Public School, one of the city's top private schools.

Demand far outstrips supply in the top private schools. Though 80 per cent of the schools in India are government schools, where education is free, many parents feel the best education is available in private schools. So even parents who can barely afford it prefer to enrol their kids in private schools instead of government schools.

Hence the stiffest competition is to get into the top private schools - by some estimates, there are not more than 3,000 of them - spread across the country.

In Delhi, for instance, there are a handful of schools that receive as many as 6,000 applications for 67 to 80 nursery spots, according to one survey.

While some parents register their children in schools the moment they are born, others hire tutors for children as young as three to teach them colours, the alphabet and a bit of counting so that they can ace nursery admissions.

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