KARACHI: Admissions to the nursery section and class III of arguably the city’s most prestigious school, Karachi Grammar, started in March, according to a notification posted on the school’s admissions website and interviews conducted with parents of applicants.
Last year, the nursery section admitted around 120 students from a pool of 1,500 applicants, most of who had already spent around two years at the preschool level in various institutions scattered across Karachi. A child is eligible only if she or he is between the age of four years two months and three years three months at the time of entry – which is August every year.
The initial application process involves queuing outside the school on two separate days – for one hour each day – when slips for registration are given out to parents. The first day is for children who have at least one sibling already in the school or whose parent (at least one) is a former student. The next day slips are handed out to children with neither of these connections.
In the past, the rush for the slips has been such that parents have lined up at least 12 hours prior to the scheduled opening time, with some coming fully prepared with chairs and food, or at times asking domestic help and/or drivers to stand in line. That has changed somewhat but the numbers - of applicants that is - hasn’t.
Given the sheer number of people in line, one would get the impression that perhaps this school is the only decent one in the entire city. The Express Tribune briefly interviewed some of the parents - who spoke on the condition that their names be withheld as they are participating in the application process.
Some of the parents bordered on the hysterical when asked what would happen in case their child were not admitted given that the admission rate is statistically comparable to that of a top American Ivy League university. One couple said that they had placed their child in preparatory tuitions after his preschool hours so that he would be adequately “prepared” for the test that is an integral part of the admissions process for applicants to both nursery as well as class III.
Applicants for the latter stream are tested for three hours for English, Urdu and Mathematics skills. One parent said, however, that three hours were simply too long for a child so young. This parent then also admitted, however, that she was willing to put her child through this for the sake of a chance to go to such a school.
This gave the definite impression that parents, and not just their children, are being tested. As for the nursery section, the three year olds first go to the office of the school’s headmistress with their parents. Shortly thereafter, they are invited by the headmistress to come to her side of the table where they are shown a family photograph and asked to identify the people in it (this, ‘legend’ has it, was introduced some years back after a particularly industrious family used a decoy couple as parents to sit in on the interview).
After that, a teacher takes them to an adjoining room where they are tested. What they are tested on is not really known because the parents stay in the headmistress’s room and are then ushered outside to wait for their child. It is believed, however, that the test involves ascertaining the child’s motor and other physical skills as well as analytical and related organisational abilities.
They may be asked to colour an object or identify one and – this has never been confirmed but seems to be quite a favourite with many pre-schools since they all train their students to do it – write their names. Interviews are scheduled to run through the first two weeks of April but the result will not be announced till the end of the month. As one mother of a nursery applicant put it: “My life is on hold till the list comes out - and after that, it may well end.”