Admissions to Indian nursery schools have turned into Darwinian contests, where the parents are scrutinised more rigorously than the children.
Admissions to Indian nursery schools have turned into Darwinian contests, where the parents are scrutinised more rigorously than the children.

Cupboard bare for nursery pupils



Braving the crisp winter chill, they queued all night waiting for the gates to be flung open.

As the sun rose, the queue became longer, snaking all the way down a neighbourhood street.

The line could have passed for homeless people waiting desperately for food coupons, if not for the Louis Vuitton handbags and trendy sunglasses.

They were a group of parents waiting nervously to embark on the toughest challenge of their lives: having their children admitted to nursery school.

Until a few years ago, training their kids to recite rhymes and alphabets and mimic animal sounds would have got the job done. But with growing competition amid a surging population and a woeful shortage of private schools, nursery admissions have turned into a Darwinian contest.

Students are selected under a points system introduced in recent years, where the parents are scrutinised more rigorously than the child. Points are awarded for the child's knowledge of nursery rhymes, but also the parents' educational background.

More points are awarded if parents attended the school or if they live nearby.

The competition for points is fierce. The queue outside The Shri Ram School, one of Delhi's most esteemed educational institutions, was one of many outside India's 75,000 private schools in January, when the mad rush for application forms for this year's admissions started.

It has become an annual ritual. The fight for admission to the country's primary schools is like that at Ivy League colleges in the US - highly competitive and very expensive.

The annual fee for primary education at The Shri Ram School is about 150,000 rupees (Dh12,450), more than double the average fee charged by some of the most reputed engineering colleges in India.

It is considered exorbitantly high in a country with an annual per capita income of about 45,570 rupees.

Primary and secondary education constitutes more than half of India's 1.8 trillion rupee education sector, says CLSA, a research company based in Hong Kong.

A 2007 report from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization showed university education, which is largely subsidised, costs less than half of what Indian families paid for basic primary education of their children.

India's education system, the report said, "runs the risk of excluding children from poor families".

Trident Microfinance, an institution based in Hyderabad, has tried to fix the problem by offering loans of between 300,000 and 1 million rupees to private promoters wanting to set up schools for families below the poverty line.

Trident's only condition is the schools should not charge a monthly fee of more than 400 rupees. It has so far financed 16 such schools.

But such rare efforts have not solved the shortage of private schools.

CLSA estimates that between 25 million and 30 million children are enrolled in private schools. That is more than double the number enrolled in government-run schools, which are widely criticised for a poor standard of education.

"People keep asking if there is such a huge shortage, then why new private schools are not coming up," Parth Shah, the president of the Centre for Civil Society, an independent research and educational organisation based in New Delhi, said last year. "The licence raj is to blame."

The process to start a school is fraught with red tape, Mr Shah says. A number of licences and regulatory clearances are required, which can take a long time.

"The licence raj has kept the supply of schools well below the demand and the existing private schools are milking the shortage," he says.

Mr Shah estimates private schools in New Delhi take 5 billion rupees a year from the admission process.

But a new trend of corporate funding in the education sector from this year is expected to bring change.

In March, the private equity fund Sequoia Capital invested 250m rupees in K12 Techno Services, a company in Hyderabad that offers a range of professional services such as curriculum development, infrastructure development and teacher training to more than 60 schools.

Last July, Sequoia Capital teamed up with Song Investment Advisors, another company in Hyderabad, to invest 750m rupees in K12 Techno Services, which expects to expand its network to 500 schools by 2015.

In February, the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) invested an undisclosed sum in Indus World School, a chain of co-educational schools promoted and run by the education company Career Launcher. In March, HDFC invested another undisclosed sum in Kaizen Private Equity, an education-focused private equity fund.

Renu Sud Karnad, the managing director of HDFC, says the company regards education as a "recession-proof business" that offers very "decent returns".

Also in February, Tree House, which runs a chain of nursery schools in Mumbai, filed a request for an initial public offering to raise 1.5bn rupees with the country's stock market regulator, which is yet to give its approval.

But the education business is fraught with regulatory risks.

India's Right to Education Act, which promises free and compulsory education to all children aged between six and 14, was passed last year and is ironically the biggest hurdle to corporate investments.

The legislation mandates all schools, private and government, reserve 25 per cent of its seats for children from poor backgrounds. Schools cannot directly charge these children and India's state governments are required to reimburse their tuition fee to schools.

But there is fear among schools as to whether state governments have the will and the funds to pay. There are many public petitions filed in Indian courts by education barons.

The future of investments in India's education sector depends on how the government tackles these regulatory risks, experts say.

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY S23 ULTRA

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Storage: 128/256/512GB/1TB (only 128GB has an 8GB RAM option)

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Main camera: quad 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2 + 200MP wide f/1.7 + 10MP telephoto f/4.9 + 10MP telephoto 2.4; 3x/10x optical zoom, Space Zoom up to 100x; auto HDR, expert RAW

Video: 8K@24/30fps, 4K@60fps, full-HD@60fps, HD@30fps, full-HD super slo-mo@960fps

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Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare

Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC

I/O: USB-C; built-in Galaxy S Pen

SIM: single nano / nano + eSIM / nano + nano + eSIM / nano + nano

Colours: cream, green, lavender, phantom black; online exclusives: graphite, lime, red, sky blue

Price: Dh4,949 for 256GB, Dh5,449 for 512GB, Dh6,449 for 1TB; 128GB unavailable in the UAE

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: seven-speed

Power: 620bhp

Torque: 760Nm

Price: Dh898,000

On sale: now

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY S24 ULTRA

Display: 6.8" quad-HD+ dynamic Amoled 2X, 3120 x 1440, 505ppi, HDR10+, 120Hz

Processor: 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, 64-bit octa-core

Memory: 12GB RAM

Storage: 256/512GB / 1TB

Platform: Android 14, One UI 6.1

Main camera: quad 200MP wide f/1.7 + 50MP periscope telephoto f/3.4 with 5x optical/10x optical quality zoom + 10MP telephoto 2.4 with 3x optical zoom + 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2; 100x Space Zoom; auto HDR, expert RAW

Video: 8K@24/30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, full-HD@30/60/240fps, full-HD super slo-mo@960fps

Front camera: 12MP f/2.2

Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare

Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC

I/O: USB-C; built-in Galaxy S Pen

Durability: IP68, up to 1.5m of freshwater up to 30 minutes; dust-resistant

SIM: Nano + nano / nano + eSIM / dual eSIM (varies in different markets)

Colours: Titanium black, titanium grey, titanium violet, titanium yellow

In the box: Galaxy S24 Ultra, USB-C-to-C cable

Price: Dh5,099 for 256GB, Dh5,599 for 512GB, Dh6,599 for 1TB

Cases of coronavirus in the GCC as of March 15

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The specs

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Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September

LOVE AGAIN

Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5

MATCH INFO

What: India v Afghanistan, first Test
When: Starts Thursday
Where: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengalaru

Tentative schedule of 2017/18 Ashes series

1st Test November 23-27, The Gabba, Brisbane

2nd Test December 2-6, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

3rd Test Dcember 14-18, Waca, Perth

4th Test December 26-30, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne

5th Test January 4-8, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

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The Bio

Name: Lynn Davison

Profession: History teacher at Al Yasmina Academy, Abu Dhabi

Children: She has one son, Casey, 28

Hometown: Pontefract, West Yorkshire in the UK

Favourite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Favourite Author: CJ Sansom

Favourite holiday destination: Bali

Favourite food: A Sunday roast

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Rating: 4/5

Dunki

Director: Rajkumar Hirani 

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover

Rating: 4/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

SPECS

Toyota land Cruiser 2020 5.7L VXR

Engine: 5.7-litre V8

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 362hp

Torque: 530Nm

Price: Dh329,000 (base model 4.0L EXR Dh215,900)

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Advocate at Al Bahar & Associate Advocates and Legal Consultants, established in 1994

Education: Mr Al Bahar was born in 1979 and graduated in 2008 from the Judicial Institute. He took after his father, who was one of the first Emirati lawyers

Company Profile

Company name: Yeepeey

Started: Soft launch in November, 2020

Founders: Sagar Chandiramani, Jatin Sharma and Monish Chandiramani

Based: Dubai

Industry: E-grocery

Initial investment: $150,000

Future plan: Raise $1.5m and enter Saudi Arabia next year

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Donate towards food and a flight by transferring money to this registered charity's account.

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The bio

Studied up to grade 12 in Vatanappally, a village in India’s southern Thrissur district

Was a middle distance state athletics champion in school

Enjoys driving to Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah with family

His dream is to continue working as a social worker and help people

Has seven diaries in which he has jotted down notes about his work and money he earned

Keeps the diaries in his car to remember his journey in the Emirates

Moving Out 2

Developer: SMG Studio
Publisher: Team17
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: Dual synchronous electric motors
Power: 660hp
Torque: 1,100Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Touring range: 488km-560km
Price: From Dh850,000 (estimate)
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Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants

At Eternity’s Gate

Director: Julian Schnabel

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaacs, Mads Mikkelsen

Three stars

RESULTS

 

Catchweight 63.5kg: Shakriyor Juraev (UZB) beat Bahez Khoshnaw (IRQ). Round 3 TKO (body kick)

Lightweight: Nart Abida (JOR) beat Moussa Salih (MAR). Round 1 by rear naked choke

Catchweight 79kg: Laid Zerhouni (ALG) beat Ahmed Saeb (IRQ). Round 1 TKO (punches)

Catchweight 58kg: Omar Al Hussaini (UAE) beat Mohamed Sahabdeen (SLA) Round 1 rear naked choke

Flyweight: Lina Fayyad (JOR) beat Sophia Haddouche (ALG) Round 2 TKO (ground and pound)

Catchweight 80kg: Badreddine Diani (MAR) beat Sofiane Aïssaoui (ALG) Round 2 TKO

Flyweight: Sabriye Sengul (TUR) beat Mona Ftouhi (TUN). Unanimous decision

Middleweight: Kher Khalifa Eshoushan (LIB) beat Essa Basem (JOR). Round 1 rear naked choke

Heavyweight: Mohamed Jumaa (SUD) beat Hassen Rahat (MAR). Round 1 TKO (ground and pound)

Lightweight: Abdullah Mohammad Ali Musalim (UAE beat Omar Emad (EGY). Round 1 triangle choke

Catchweight 62kg: Ali Taleb (IRQ) beat Mohamed El Mesbahi (MAR). Round 2 KO

Catchweight 88kg: Mohamad Osseili (LEB) beat Samir Zaidi (COM). Unanimous decision

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

WHEN TO GO:

September to November or March to May; this is when visitors are most likely to see what they’ve come for.

WHERE TO STAY:

Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari - Chitwan National Park resort (tajhotels.com) is a one-hour drive from Bharatpur Airport with stays costing from Dh1,396 per night, including taxes and breakfast. Return airport transfers cost from Dh661.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Etihad Airways regularly flies from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu from around Dh1,500 per person return, including taxes. Buddha Air (buddhaair.com) and Yeti Airlines (yetiairlines.com) fly from Kathmandu to Bharatpur several times a day from about Dh660 return and the flight takes just 20 minutes. Driving is possible but the roads are hilly which means it will take you five or six hours to travel 148 kilometres.

NBA FINALS SO FAR

(Toronto lead 3-2 in best-of-seven series)

Game 1 Raptors 118 Warriors 109

Game 2 Raptors 104 Warriors 109

Game 3 Warriors 109 Raptors 123

Game 4 Warriors 92 Raptors 105

Game 5 Raptors 105 Warriors 106

Game 6 Thursday, at Oakland

Game 7 Sunday, at Toronto (if needed)

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home. 

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl

Power: 153hp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 200Nm at 4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Price: Dh99,000

On sale: now

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