There are no preschoolers in India, especially Mumbai


Did I get your attention with that one? Yes, we know that many girl children are missing doing to the cultural issues surrounding dowry and cost/benefit of raising a girl. But, when it comes to preschoolers, in India, there are none.

Why are there no preschoolers in India?

Because kids start formal school as early as 18 months. No, this isn’t day care, this is often a formal school for 2-3 hours a day. (Edited to add: Some schools do use pre nursery as a true play school, so the 18 month olds do really play and socialize, but this isn’t always the case)

Most schools (read my school blog, it is eye opening) have a feeder course, which basically requires students to enroll at least by age 3. And, since many schools (illegally) have interviews or exams for nursery admission, kids do a year or two of formal school even before then.

So if formal education begins officially at 1st, when a child turns 6 the year of admission, most schools take admission for either Jr Kg (age 4) or, more commonly now, at nursery (age 3). Younger kids will be a half year younger, since most schools have a December 31 age criteria. Many schools open a few slots at first when class size can get a bit bigger.

The school year in most of India begins in June. So here’s what the pattern looks like:

school admission
School admission dates – nursery admission age for 2015-2016 Mumbai

Okay so it is 2015 right now, so you do the math, someone board in November or December 2013 are heading to school in June. Yeah, they’re still babies. Kids in Mumbai are pressured from diaper age to go to school. Parents aren’t happy unless they know their kids are learning something, so kids, unless they attend a school with an alternative structure, may face exams and homework at age 3.

What is missing from the table above is that in June or August 2015, depending on the family and school, those kids born in early or mid-2014 will usually start a mother-toddler program. Yes, chain schools especially have and encourage parents to be part of the early education year. But that early education year is really that… a one year old, in a formal learning environment.

Exactly the title here. There are no preschoolers in India, at least not in Mumbai. Most metro areas and tier 2 cities operate as the above, and even tier 3 cities at least “require” kids to start at age 3. This isn’t just for working parents, nor is it only for high fi families. Lower middle class and even lower class families who want their kids to go to a non-government school have their kids in tuitions so they can gain admission (which is supposed to be by lottery) to schools under the 25% right to education quota.

High expectations, what results?

In India most kids go to after school tutoring. This isn’t for kids who just aren’t making the grade, this is all kids. And, it doesn’t come cheap. After school tuitions – even the lady who sweeps my floors sends her kids to tuitions. But, even with that her eldest did not pass last year and had to repeat her grade (schools in India need permission to not promote a kid, so the parent, who may be illiterate cannot help their children with their school work so must spend what they have for their kids to get outside help with their school work). Since there’s legally a no fail until eight grade (standard 8), parents must agree to having their child held back. But, do parents know this? What can parents to do ensure with ALL this education, and early education, that schools are actually teaching the kids?


Stress impacts us. I really hope that there’ll come a time when I’m not hearing of kids running away because of failed exams. Or of suicides. There was one in my building earlier this year, the weekend before exams. I don’t know if exams pressure was the reason, but I can’t help it. Exam time is stressful here in India! One statistic I found was:

  • In 2006, 5,857 students — or 16 a day — committed suicide across India due to exam stress. Of course some go unreported or may be attributed to other things. These do not include the attempts either. (Source, Times of India)
  • India has the highest suicide rate in the world for the 15-to-29 age group, with 35.5 per 100,000 people for 2012, (most recent data available).

What can be done to curb this staggering statistic? More tuitions? better schools? Less stress? When there are 1.2 billion people, there’s competition, but is it all necessary? Schools are teaching to a test, and exact percentage cutoffs for the exams is basically the ONLY thing that determine admissions. Plus, what your score is on 12th, determines what you do next. Seriously. You don’t decide to be a dentist, you want to be a doctor, but your scores weren’t high enough in your science stream. With a cut throat, teach to an exam, exams are high stakes. It is sad, really. Is this what the US will see with Common Core? I surely hope not. But for now, my statement stands. There are no preschoolers in India, because, while in the US, that’s basically the sandwich age between toddler and age 5… here, there’s formal education from baby age on!

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  1. Author’s note: I realize this post is a bit simplistic and doesn’t encompass all schools. But, the fact remains that when a child is a year old, one of the first questions asked is “where will your child study?” This question alone is the beginning of the school stress.

  2. My kids have not always went to preschool but we did a homeschool of sorts for preschool. I know it is important for parents to have an option to send their kids to preschool.

  3. Wow. This is very interesting. I could see why student suicide rates are so high. I would not want hat stress and having to decide as a parent where my 1 year old will study. No thanks! I am not a fan of common core either and am thinking of home schooling when the time comes for my daughter. We are looking at maybe starting her in preschool next year but not sure yet. I am glad we even have the choice though.

  4. The more I read your posts about India the more I realize I don’t ever even want to go visit there! I can’t imagine the stress those babies are under and I hope to high heaven it NEVER happens here.

  5. The more I read your posts about India the more I realize I don't ever even want to go visit there! I can't imagine the stress those babies are under and I hope to high heaven it NEVER happens here..

  6. I’m thinking about my 3-year-old and I don’t think he could handle a formal school right now. I didn’t realize they didn’t have a different kind of preschool for kids in India!

  7. This is exactly where Common Core is taking us. I’ve been working to stop Common Core for the last two years. Legislation is being introduced in my state next week and dozens of other states are doing the same. Parents aren’t liking what they’re seeing in our public schools and are finally waking up.

  8. When I lived in Oklahoma, I attended OSU and we had one of the largest international exchange student programs. I met a lot of people from India and was always so amazed by how smart they were. I guess it could be due in part to being in school at such a young age and all their tutoring.

  9. Wow, I never would have pictured India as having the highest suicide rates. I started preschool at the age of 3. I think I loved it because I grew up by myself. Had I had siblings, it may have been a bit much.

  10. I always think it’s interesting to hear about cultural differences. Visiting somewhere gives you a light taste…but things like this we’d never know!


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