Criteria and Procedure

An Academic Note for Circulation and Discussion

Apeejay Stya Education Research Foundation 
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Admission in Nursery Schools:  Criteria and Procedure


1.0             Introduction

The question of admissions to nursery schools, especially in the bigger cities of the country, has been a matter of intense debate in the educational circles during the past few decades. The issue is so contagious that it has now become an integral part of public discourse on education. The issue has engaged the attention of teachers, educationists, parents on the one hand and of the media and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working for children’s welfare and rights on the other.

The matter relating to Nursery admissions has engaged the attention of Delhi High Court since 2003. Initially, the parents had approached the Court against the admission policy of a particular school, which involved conduct of the Children’s and parents’ interview. The Court decided the case in favour of the school and observed that the school was within its rights to admit children on the basis of their performance in the interview. Subsequently, an NGO, Social Jurist challenged the practice of holding tests and interviews through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the plea that subjecting a four years’ child to the rigours of an oral test turns out to be a traumatic experience for him/her and therefore, should be discontinued and admissions should be made by the draw of  lots. However, the schools opposed the petition on the plea that interaction with children and their parents was essential to make selections as they cannot accommodate all the applicants whose number far exceeds the number of available seats.

Finally, in May 2006, a division bench of the Court comprising Judges, Virendra Jain and S. N. Agarwal, in their brief order said: ‘No public school shall call children and their parents for interview for admission to nursery and primary classes without prior permission from the Court’. The bench also observed that the procedure of interviewing small children for admission to these classes was arbitrary. The Court has in several orders earlier directed the schools to chalk out alternative methods for admission to these classes. The Court said the “private schools in Delhi must find out an alternative process for admission, which will then be followed by other states”. With this as the back drop, insightful discussions are going on to find out academically defensible and administratively feasible solution to the issue under discussion.

2.0             Analysis of the Problem 

Due to rising aspirations about their children’s success in life, middle class parents in urban areas have developed the perception that early start in schooling shall equip the children to negotiate the public and competitive examinations later in their life with confidence. It is felt that the advantage of early schooling is further enhanced if the child is enrolled in the Nursery class in a school which provides quality care and education to children. Moreover, a Senior Secondary School with a Nursery (Pre-Nursery) wing is the first choice of the parents as it relieves them of all worries related to admissions at the subsequent stages like primary stage or secondary stage. A child enrolled in the Nursery wing of a Senior Secondary School can continue to study in the same school, if he/she so desires and if his/her progress and achievements in studies meet the expectations of the school.

The quality of education imparted in a school depends on several factors such as availability of adequate and appropriate infrastructure and equipments on the one hand and availability of motivated, suitably qualified and competent teachers on the other. In addition, the academic environment generated by the imaginative leadership in the school is the most important determining factor for the quality of education imparted in an institution.  Some schools have established their reputation over the years as ‘quality institutions’ and, therefore, are most favoured and sought after institutions for admissions to different stages including Nursery stage.  The reputation of a school as a quality institution leads to a mismatch between the number of available places and the number of aspirants for admission.  This mismatch is the root cause of the problem concerning admissions to Nursery classes.  Needless to say that there is a linear relationship between the magnitude of the problem and the size of the gap between the number of available seats and the number of admission seekers.  This is a singular reason which contributes to the complexity of the problem

However, the other schools, which are not so well reputed, or the newly established schools, which have yet to establish their credibility do not face this problem.  In fact, some of them have to compete with other institutions of similar standing to attract children for admissions.  Hence the problem of Nursery admissions is primarily of the ‘well-established and reputed’ institutions.  Such institutions, over the years, have devised several criteria to select children for admission as they do not have facilities to accommodate all the admission seekers. 

The most common criteria include ‘interviews with children’ to assess their mental caliber and potential for learning and ‘interviews with parents’, to assess their ‘financial standing’ and to ascertain their educational background and potential to provide academic guidance to children at home.  However, these criteria have been criticized by the parents, educationists, psychologists and others interested in the education and welfare of young children.  It has been pointed out that a formal interview of 3-4 years old child turns out to be a traumatic experience for some of them.  It is unfair to subject a child of four years to an oral or written or skill test in a formal situation. Has the child come to learn or should he/she have learnt and come? Is a serious question to ponder about, particularly when he/she is taking the first step towards his/her education. School admission for children below 6 years by any kind of test should be stopped because measures used to assess a child are not valid

The practice of holding interviews has led to the mushroom growth of ‘Preparatory’ or ‘Play’ schools, where even two year’ olds are coached and prepared to face interviews for admissions at the Nursery stage.  The existence of preparatory schools proves dis-advantageous for those children, who are unable to join such schools due to various reasons.  The practice of holding interviews with parents puts those children at a disadvantage whose parents are neither well-educated nor financially very sound.  In fact, first generation learners and children with poor social-economic background should have a higher claim for admission to nursery education, which being a school readiness programme, prepares ground for their continuation at the elementary stage of education.


THE ADMISSION TEST: The Problem and Possible Solutions in a Nut Shell

Ø      What is an Admission Test meant to do?

·   Admission test is, meant to select children on the basis of ‘merit’?

Ø      What does an Admission Test actually do?

·   It can make little children go through the drill and practice of tasks like reading, writing, number work for which they are still not ready.

·   It can destroy Childs’ self confidence and self esteem through the experience of ‘rejection’.

·   It can convert happy, useful play schools/Nursery schools into coaching classes.

·   It can deprive little children of a happy, care free childhood

Ø      What can Admission not do?

·   It cannot serve as a valid measure to test childrens’ ‘merit’ at this young age

Ø      What must be done?

·         By Policy Makers

o          Ensure implementation of Yash Pal Committee recommendations which states.... “holding tests and interviews for admission to Nursery class be abolished

o          Support/plan establishment of more quality schools to reduce gaps between supply and demand for such schools

o          Promote concept of “ neighbourhood school” as recommended  by the Education Commission 1964-66

o          Improve quality of education in existing government schools.

·         By School Management

Adopt Child-friendly admission procedures like

o        Computerized random selection

o        Quota-based random selection

o        Comprehensive programme based selection

o        First come first serve basis

o        Draw of lots etc

o        Neighbourhood school concept

·         By Parents

o        Look for a good school rather than only a ‘known’ school

o        Support school management in trying out alternative admission procedures

o        Influence schools not to adopt ‘Child-unfriendly method’ for admission in the interest of the child

o        Do not pass on their anxiety to the little child

Ø      What School Management must not do

·   Donations in cash or kind for admitting the child

·   Oral or written test or skill test in a formal situation

·   Formal Interviewing the child or its parents

·   Admitting a child based on the income of his/her parents

·   Discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, category or religion

·   Ask objectionable and irrelevant questions in the form which embarrass and hurt the sentiments of the parents



§         a

Box- I




3.0 Principles Underlying Admission Procedures

To evolve alternative procedures for nursery admissions, it is imperative to define the parameters or the principles which should form the basis for the admission procedures other than the much maligned interviews of children and their parents. Some of the principles are briefly mentioned below:

(a)    Every Child seeking admission to the nursery class should be accommodated preferably in the school of his/her choice. Elementary education for the children of 6-14 age group is now recognized as a fundamental right of every Indian child as per the provisions of the Constitution of India. Though Early Childhood Education (ECE) of the children of below 6 years is not a fundamental right, yet its contribution towards achieving the goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) can hardly be exaggerated, as it ensures their retention in the school. Therefore, children coming forward to avail themselves for Nursery education on their own and that too at their own cost, must be accommodated in nursery school and no child should be denied admission.

(b)    The number of children admitted to a school should be in tune with the availability of resources, both human and physical, such as teachers, classrooms, play materials, playground, etc. The teacher pupil ratio in nursery classes should be around 25 pupils for one teacher.

(c)     The universal declaration of human rights (1948) and the UN Convention on Rights of the child (1989) give the parents right to choose the type of education best suited for their wards. The parents’ right to select a suitable school for their children’s education ought to be respected. India is a signatory to this committee

(d)    A child of 3-4 years of age should not be detained in the school for 5-6 hours in a day like the children of higher classes, that is, primary, upper primary or secondary classes. This implies that the timing for the Nursery classes should be delinked from the timing of other classes.

(e)    The school timings of short duration for nursery classes get unnecessary increased if the children are required to spend long-time in commuting from residence to school and back. The commuting time in the case of nursery classes should be minimum possible. I other wards, the distance between the child’s residence and the school should not require commuting time of more than 15 minutes

(f)       Excessive homogeneity in respect of the socio-economic background of children should not be insisted upon. Inclusive setting encompassing children from diverse backgrounds lead to their effective and better socialization.



Text Box: Nursery Admission Abroad
The parameters mentioned above are universally valid with regard to enrolment of young children in nursery classes. For example, in England and Ireland enrolment of children in nursery classes is allowed within the district of the child’s residence. The main criterion for enrolment at this stage is the distance between the school and the child’s residence. To prepare merit list, higher marks are awarded for shorter distance and lower marks for longer distance. The distance is measured in a straight line from the child’s home to the school (Crow’s flight). However, a few booster points are added in the case of special Needs Children or if a child deserves admission on health grounds or if his/her sibling is already on the rolls of the school. In case the number of applicants exceeds the intake capacity of the school, additional part-time places are created for the children with lower rank on the merit list. On the other hand, if some seats remain vacant after accommodating all the applicants, then children from outside the district are also allowed to take admission
It is necessary that the criteria for admission to any school to be clear, fair, transparent and objective.


4.0 Suggested Criteria for admission

Several criteria for admission have been suggested in Box 1. Each on of them is appropriate depending upon the context in which the school operates. Several ideological and practical aberrations have been argued for each criteria but these can be corrected/improved upon to mitigate any objections to their implementations. Depending upon the school and situation of the school, individual schools could use one or the other criteria as none of them involves any test oral or written, and or interview of the child or his/her parents. However, one criteria in particular, which can be examined for wider implementation is related to proximity of childs’ home to school and is presented here in some detail:

Proximity of childs’ home to school

(a)   The Education Commission (1964-66) had recommended implementation of the concept of ‘neighbourhood school’, which meant that a child must be enrolled in the schools located to his/her immediate neighbourhood. There is a view that the problem of Nursery admissions would not have arisen if the recommendation relating to ‘neighbourhood school’ had been implemented with sincerity. Above all, it would have promoted inclusion of children from diverse background under one roof which is a pre-requisite for the preparation of children for the real life. But in a city like Delhi, where the density of population is very high, it becomes difficult to define precisely the neighbourhood of a school. The schools situated in close vicinity will have overlapping neighbourhoods. The entire city can be divided into about 100 Nursery Admission Zones’, with each zone catering to approximately 1.00 to 1.50 lakh population. It is estimated that in each zone the number of nursery, primary or secondary schools shall be in the range of 20-30. Thus, the parents’ choice shall be restricted to the school located in the zone of their residence.

(b)   The schools functioning in an admission zone are not likely to be of comparable standard. Some of the schools may be well reputed quality schools while others may be just good or ‘not so good’ schools. The schools generally fix the fees and other dues charged by a school are known to the parents. Thus, only those parents will apply for admission in more reputed schools who can afford to pay the fees of the school concerned.

(c)    The schools within an admission zone should have the freedom to prepare their own merit list in accordance with the pre-determined and pre-announced criteria, which should not have any provision for oral test through interviews or interaction with parents to ascertain their educational or socio-economic status. The distance between the child’s residence and the school should be the main admission criterion.

(d)   The admission forms should be designed to elicit pertinent answers from parents. They should not raise any issue relating to income, caste, or any other divisive or irrelevant factors. It is the inclusion of some objectionable questions in the forms by some schools that have embarrassed and hurt the sentiments of parents. Directions can be issued to those schools to amend their forms appropriately.

(e)   Distinction must be made between interviewing and interacting. Interviewing presupposes an element of inequality when the interviewer is subjecting the interviewee to questioning on the basis of which his/her child is selected or rejected. Interaction, on the other hand, is more of a verification and socialisation process where the principal and the teachers interact with the parents on a basis of mutual understanding and equality.

(f)      It has already been stated that the distance between the child’s residence and the school should be the major criterion for selection of children. However, some extra weightage may be allowed in respect of certain categories of children’s. The school may prepare the merit list as under

 (i) Distance                                                                                Marks

      Upto 3 km                                                                                10

      Between 3-5 km                                                                          8   

(ii) Extra Weightage

      - Sibling studying in the same school                                 1 for each sibling

      - Wards of school employee                                                2 for each parent

      - Wards of school alumni                                                      1 for each parents

      - Siblings of the school alumni                                             1 for each school alumnus

      -  Health condition of the child necessitating

         Admission in the school                                                    2

-  Over age children                                                              1 marks if the child is six month older than the minimum presc-ribed age

g)     In case the number of eligible children age exceeds the number of seats available, the school may consider introducing two shifts. In case of nursery classes, three hours’ duration is considered sufficient as the purpose of ECE is socialization of the child and in no case formal teaching of different school subjects. The schools can easily start two shifts of 3 hours each and double their intake without creating any additional infrastructure.

h)      In case the schools do not favours reduction in the duration of the school, then they may admit a batch of students on part time basis in addition to the regular full time batch. The school may function after regular school hours or on alternate days for part time students. Needless to say that the fees for the part time batch should be reduced in proportion to their instructional time. The children having lower rank on the merit list may be offered admission in the part time programme, if they so desire. In short, efforts should be made to accommodate all eligible children at school.