Half a century after the nation attained its independence from foreign rule, it’s now plainly evident that the first generation of midnight’s children was sacrificed at the altar of experimental economics and cock-eyed socialist ideology which has beggared the country. Now the entire population has wised up that rather than government largesse and/or the mighty five-year tomes of the Planning Commission, meaningful education measured by actual learning outcomes and problem-solving skills is the passport out of the pervasive and debilitating poverty, which all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, is the defining characteristic of professedly shining 21st century India.
Against this backdrop there is a new and unprecedented interest within households across the country to provide real — rather than ritual, cosmetic — education to the nation’s children. This new aspiration is the driving force behind the belated and growing interest in pre-school and early childhood education (ECE). Hitherto pre-school education for two-five-year-olds was the preserve of amateur middle class housewives with some interest in education and greater interest in pin money, operating out of garages, gardens and spare rooms in urban India. Tiny tots were sent to learn to socialise and often inexpertly forced to start learning prematurely. Moreover it is the only sector in education which is not subject to government regulation and inspection by the country’s ubiquitous and notoriously venal school inspectors.
With dawning awareness within educators and parent communities that professionally administered ECE can give children a good start in life and generate love of learning and self-study, professionally designed and managed pre-schools have begun to mushroom countrywide, especially in the larger cities where parents tend to be more aware of new trends and developments in education. In particular, with several heavyweight education companies entering the unregulated ECE sector and establishing nationwide chains under the branded franchise model, we felt that the eve of the new academic year is a good time to beam a spotlight on ECE and simultaneously identify and encourage the country’s best pre-schools. Therefore as we did before to acknowledge and celebrate the country’s best day, boarding and international schools by instituting the annual EducationWorld-C fore Survey of India’s Most Respected Schools and awards, this time too we press-ganged the Delhi-based market research and opinion polling major C fore to conduct a survey in six major cities, where there is sufficient awareness and appreciation of the value of pre-school education.
Fanning out across the country, C fore professionals constituted a sample base of 1,232 SEC (socio-economic category) A parents (with at least one child in pre-school) and 290 principals/teachers to rate and rank the country’s most well-known pre-schools. The outcome of this valuable and informative survey — the first in Indian history — which took three months to complete and tabulate, dominates this issue. Apart from providing guidance to young parents aspiring to give their children sound foundational education, our cover story offers useful information and insights to teachers and educators.