Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Citizen Police

A recurring irritant on my daily commute is seeing so many people disobeying the traffic rules. The ones who irritate me the most are the people who go down one-ways, park on main roads under no-parking signs, stop during peak hours on the road with a driver inside as though that is not equivalent to parking and people who cause log-jams at traffic junctions by approaching from the wrong lane.

I keep thinking the fines should be increased so that it pinches. Then I think that there aren't enough cops on the roads to monitor all these... which in turn leads me to think that there should be a way to empower citizens to fine such law-breakers. But that option has too many grey areas - who should be empowered, who selects this empowered set and how do you prevent them from misusing that empowerment?

One idea that I think has a lot of potential is to create a public website which allows citizens to post photos of such law-breaking incidents. The traffic police can then send tickets for fines on the basis of such evidence - if required with a print of the incriminating image!

Anyone out there who can help get the approvals for such a system from the Police commissioner?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

School updates

It now appears it is quite difficult for getting admission even for a 2-year old! Out of the five other people that we know who also applied to the same school - none have made it so far. One has got "prospective admission" for three months which will be reviewed after that... another has got a second interaction lined up - because a sibling is already in that school - so they are going to give it another go...

Now I am feeling luckier... and empathizing with my friends' stresses...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

School hunting!

We have been school hunting for the last few months. Well actually, we looked around for schools in September, made up our mind for a particular one and then applied to it when "bookings" opened in November.

It's been an interesting experience and stressful too.

It appears there is a huge demand for schooling and most people keep telling me that Education is the best business to be in. In fact, few of my friends have started a play-school on a franchise from a national brand!

Initially, we thought it's too early to look for a school since he is just ready for play-school... but then realized that most schools are "admitting" students earlier and earlier... the 2 schools we shortlisted both belonged to the same group and had a play/kindergarten school that was a feeder school to the 2 primary schools. So it made sense if he got into their play school since he would automatically then go on to their regular primary school as well...

We kept a look out for when the school would start issuing application forms and on the appointed day in November, my wife to the school early at 6:30 am to stand in a queue to accept the forms which would be sold from 9:00 am.

The form had strict guidelines on when it has to be submitted - approximately four days from when it had been issued. The trickiest portion was that we had to decide which of the 2 primary schools we wanted to opt for him to finally go to after four years of play/kindergarten school. This decision cannot be changed once the form is submitted and so entailed a fair amount of debate, discussion on the schools, their methods, facilities, fees and so on. Plus discussions with friends whose children went to these schools about which is better. One school is better established, older but also follows the older system of education. It also has smaller school grounds and lower fees. The other one is newer, bigger grounds and follows a more contemporary education system but also has much higher fees. It also seems to have more "rich-kids" and hence the worry that our child may not fit-in or even worse, get spoiled!

To further complicate matters, the demand for the two schools differ - the older school has far higher demand from parents and therefore the chances of your child getting admitted in the playschool are much lesser if you selected the older school!

Working out all the permutations and combinations, ifs-and-buts, positives and negatives - didn't really take us forward towards a clear decision.

Finally, we decided at the time the form was being submitted, when my wife was at the school office to submit the form - over the phone and she filled it in and submitted the form. We opted for the new school. Positives were the education system that we liked - negatives were the high cost of fees and the possibility of the child getting spoiled... and of course a positive - potentially better chance at admission into the play school.

Then started the wait for the interview call which we received only in January. Meanwhile, came the distressing news of a common friends' child having been refused on an earlier day when their interview call had come. Apparently, the child did everything well but other kids did better than him. Stress levels were rising for me now!

My son isn't even two years old and we haven't really pressured him to "learn" per se - things like numbers, alphabets, nursery rhymes, etc. And then came various reports of how other kids his age could do many of these things - talk about pressure!

Anyhow, our interview call came. That morning, we made sure he was dressed nicely and looked like a nice little boy :-) and then we made sure we were well turned out and dressed well to! Then a quick prayer and off we went to the school!

The entire "interaction" was fairly well organized and stress-free as far as the child was concerned. There were quite a few other parents as well and you could tell from the forced care-free expressions that all the parents were worried - their child shouldn't suddenly get into a bad mood, should suddenly decide to behave badly, etc... and so were we!

Soon we were called inside - they told us only one parent can accompany the child inside - which we did know earlier . The plan was for my wife to take him in - but the previous night she suggested I should take him in - so along with him, I went in.

We were ushered to a table with toys and they asked that the child be seated and allowed to interact with the items available. Luckily my son played with the various toys - and seemed to know what to do with them. There were a few scary moments - when I didn't know what one toy was and when he suddenly refused to leave once we were done - he wanted to continue playing! Anyway, we made our way out - said Thank you and left.

We were under the impression that we would need to wait a week before the results would be announced and I was working at calming myself to not get stressed till we heard the results. Thoughts like the fact we had not applied to any other schools, or that they may suggest other kids did better than him, etc. played on my mind all that morning.

I was relieved of my misery later that afternoon though - my wife called and said she had received a call that our son was selected! Thank god for that!

It's been an interesting and learning experience... two things that I got out of it are:
1. The first debate was about the kind of school and the type of children that went to that school. Based on all the discussions and introspection, I have come to the conclusion that basic grounding of a child such as humility, care for others, ability to cope with different situations, rounded-ness, etc will come from the home... the school will have an impact - but a large part of this is not really dependent on the school but on the parents.

2. There was a lot of debate about the fees and whether you should opt for an expensive school which will pinch far more on the pocket and require you to stretch more. It seems to me that if we want our next generation to do better than us - we must send them to better school - which might invariably be a little more expensive that what you can comfortably afford. It's not just the quality of education - many schools may have equal or better and may be less expensive - I think it's the whole package - the kind of teachers, the kind of students who attend, the infrastructure, the culture, etc - everything put together will create an eco-system that moulds the child in certain way .

3. There was also a lot of debate about the whole system per se - and how the schools are making money, have unreasonable demands, etc. My view on the subject is that if a school is better, it will have more demand - the more the demand for the school, the more it can choose to dictate the rules and choose its pupils. Hence to be fair to the demands of a free market - we must recognize that they have a right to frame their rules - and play by them if we want to send our children to these schools.