KGS admission blues and the pursuit of (academic) happiness
How is a school, where a majority of students take tuition after school, still considered the best?
Saturday, March 16, 2013 was probably one of the few very anticipated days in the academic calendar. For many, it was undoubtedly a defining moment for their kids.
Yes, it was the day when one of the most prestigious schools in Karachi held its admission test for entry into class three.
Success would mean victory, triumph and a sense of academic achievement par excellence. Failure would spell doom, despair, depression and a social stigma - in other words - for some nothing short of a calamity.
The so called pursuit of academic excellence, if that is what we are after, comes with a heavy price – mentally, physically and monetarily. Initial preparation starts with finding a tutor who has apparently broken the code - they know what exactly to teach, how to teach it and how to make your kids the super stars that they are not.
So the hunt starts one year earlier and it’s not easy.
You sometimes need to pull a few strings, have some references and only then are the experts willing to take your child. One actually pre-screens to assess if the child has the potential to be tutored. The monthly charges can vary from anything between Rs12, 000 up to Rs20, 000. A group may consist of five to ten kids and there may be three to four groups ranging from class three to ten. Not too difficult to do the calculations of how much tax free income this accounts for.
The anxiety levels start to increase a few weeks before the test.
That’s when the appointment slips are made available and you just cannot afford to relax on that window of opportunity that exists for only 90 minutes in the morning. In this day and age when technology has transformed the world, you are still required to queue as early as 6am, depending on how unsure you are of missing the bus.
How different could boot camp have been, I wonder.
Clearing the first hurdle is the precursor to the interview for your child and both parents. One must be on their best behaviour and not forget the well-rehearsed answers they have memorised like a script for a play.
The three to four minute interview is surely good enough to assess the child’s potential or lack thereof.
A peculiar question is asked - whether the child has had any extra tutoring. I wonder if that influences the outcome because surprisingly, those kids with expert help mostly do make the final cut.
And then comes the test.
Parents drop their kids off and wait anxiously for the three hours or so to pass. Notes are exchanged once the kids are out. There are frowns on the faces of some and smiles on others.
“This was such an easy test” a kid says with overflowing confidence.
Her parents are not too sure and try to hide their apprehension with a forced smile.
Such are the pressures.
Saturday, April 20, 2013 and the results are out!
Facebook statuses are updated promptly and likes are obtained simultaneously. Congratulatory messages are sent as are consolation messages. The senses of victory or despondency become realities. Some talk of their lives being over and share a tearful story; others cannot get over the feeling of euphoria and jubilation.
Every parent strives to give the best schooling to their child but I question the parameters that define a good school.
It is important to understand how well a particular school is performing today rather than reflecting upon its glorious history and legacy as a benchmark of its current academic excellence. Prestigious schools may so be called but I fail to comprehend their standard of education when a large segment of the student body from junior section to senior section takes after school tuitions.
If the faculty is good enough why is there a need for extra aid?
If the students are good enough why do they need help?
There are lesser known schools that have produced equally good if not better results and, charismatic and confident students. Aspirants to these schools do not invest thousands of rupees in preparatory classes because apparently, that is not a prerequisite. Yes, these students also attend tuitions but that may be acceptable as they are not meant to be the best.
Mostly, such elite institutions’ stature has now become a reflection of their social acceptability and legacy rather than the quality of education they impart. Yet, everyone continues to be part of the rat race.