I have spent the last few days spot-fixing.
To be precise, fixing a spot for my daughter in a school for her eleventh standard. This was an exercise, it turned out for me, shadier than actual spot-fixing because I had to meet a lot of educationists.
Without putting a too fine point on it, some of the educationists I ran into this week would definitely leave many of the bookies with a marked sense of inferiority complex. The main difference between bookies and some of those who run schools today is bookies follow certain rules.
There is no such compulsion for schools. They can make money in every possible way. And they do. One school had, among other fees, something named, ‘Onetime Annual Payment’ (for Rs 6,000). I wracked my brains over what this annual payment could be for, and only eventually I could figure out that they had merely named it so because calling it ‘Forest brigand Veeraappan Memorial Fund’ would have been too obvious. I mean it was pure and simple ransom, especially since the fee was not for books, dress, lab, sports or other activities for which the school was anyway charging separately.
Also, with teaching becoming a highly competitive field, many institutions have expanded their core competency to include, — why not? — textiles. Many schools, upon carefully studying the modern education scenario, have rightfully figured out that all students, whichever education stream they may be pursuing, need —- I suggest you write this down —- good uniform. And accordingly, many schools have bolstered their faculty by roping in top-notch tailors.
‘You can buy the dress material for the uniform from the textile shop that we specify and you can give it for stitching in the prescribed style with the tailor that we have identified for the same,’ the administrator in the school that my daughter was about to join said.
‘Why this tailor, why not some other,’ I asked rather naively. ‘Because we supply the school’s monogram only to this tailor. You cannot get it anywhere else,’ she replied.
Now, in case you are wondering what this monogram is all about, well, it is the insignia/symbol of the school printed or stitched onto the uniform so that it allows the teachers and other staff to identify that the students studying in their school are indeed from their school. To put it differently, the monogram on the uniform prevents students from attending any other school.
As a parent, while choosing a school, you will face problems when your child scores:
1) Low marks
2) Very high marks
The first situation is pretty easy to handle, as, by a general rule, no mark is low enough that it cannot be improved by the hard work of paying more money.
The second scenario is the one you have to be very wary of because, getting good marks has — I suspect this is one of the important effects of worsening global warming situation — become rather easy.
For instance, I find a lot of people, including my daughter, have scored full marks (in terms of grade) in Hindi in the X CBSE Board exam. And, as far as I know, my daughter’s primary skill in Hindi is she can recite verbatim the Munni Badnam Hui song.
English is another subject that many students have attained the equivalent of full marks. This, for a generation that has, for all practical purposes, done away with vowels when writing, is not exactly normal.
If, for some strange reason, there is no trouble from the school, rest assured your child will compensate for that.
My daughter, as a responsible student focussed on scholastic excellence, was clear about the kind of school that she would go to. ‘Dad,’ she told me in a firm voice when we were short-listing the possible institutions for her to try and get an entry into, ‘I don’t want a boring school. I mean I don’t want to attend a girls-only school. Co-ed is more fun’.
‘I thought we are discussing schools here, a place where people go to study,’ I said a tad sharply. But — this has to be among the fundamental laws that govern this universe — sarcasm never works with teen-age children. The response usually is a slammed door and a sulk longer than it takes for a Rahman song to grow on a normal person.
So, like all parents, I had little options before me. And I agreed to the school that the daughter chose. And I agreed to the terms and conditions of the school. And I paid all they demanded. To recover from all these, well, I need to involve myself in actual spot-fixing in the coming weeks.