Pre-schooling in Karachi

Going through the kids advertiser, Daily Dawn Karachi, this caught my attraction ” Montessori and test preparation for Grammar School, Convent of Jesus & Mary, St Pauls, St Joseph’s, BVS Mama Parsi, Habib, Foundation, Bayview….

Damn! Education in this city is standardized to an extent that the young toddlers will first have to join a preparatory class before competing in the admission tests.
Recently my 13 month niece (and the parents) got interviewed for her admission(Growing trees). My brother had to wait in the queue to get the form and even the parents (though highly educated) had to prepare for the interview.
The poor kid will start going to school when only 18 months old!

The question is have the standard of education really gone this high that even the young ones have to go through all this preparation? Also, If the toddlers already know the basics what role does these (pocket ripping) Montessori & kindergartens play?

35 Comments so far

  1. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

    Unaiza, for your first thought, I would say only this: Get ready……soon, it will be your turn.

    For the 2nd thought: If you or anyone want to earn a quick buck legally, then open a school in Karachi. Doesn’t matter what level it is, it is guaranteed that it will make you (the owner) a millionare many times over.

  2. Lies (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

    I’ve seen people stand overnight (or at least have their chowkidar do it for them!) outside schools to get admission forms.

  3. MB (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

    Unaiza who told you that its a sign of standard ?

    Its a matter of sub-standard…..

  4. Farhan (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 10:44 pm

    I have 2 kids , imagine what I’ve been through , I was once told that cause my child has born and I failed to register before that so I’m not qualified , my youngest 1.5 yr old will be joining a mont sorry soon for CJM prepration

  5. Noori (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

    I attended International School of Choueifat, Abu Dhabi and an Ivy League university for my undergraduate degree. Was it worth it? Heck, yes! The amount of money I earn now (and will continue to earn in the future) far outweighs what I paid for tuition. hehe
    I was recently surprised to find that even though my boys were just 2 1/2 years old, they may already be way behind in getting prepared for kindergarten.Children have enormous learning potential. From the time they are born they are learning about the people and things in their environment. These years from birth to kindergarten set the foundation for much of what children will be learning in kindergarten, the first and second grade and beyond. During the first five years of life the amount of information that can be learned and the potential for learning far exceeds any other time of a child’s educational history.

  6. Kashif (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

    abhi say kya tension hay?

  7. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

    unaiza, jumma jumma ath din bhe nahi huway aur abhe se bachoun k education k fikar?

    on a side note, umar, you re lucky that your wife is too much “door andesh” :-)

    on a serious note, education is business since beginning ,nothing new at all.

  8. Saad Durrani (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 12:37 am

    Gracious me, you do not need to give an entrance test for Montesorri or Kindergarden. Total rip-offs. If we prepare our children to be smart enough for Montesorri then what the heck will the school is there for?

    Unethical, a disgusting practice. By submitting an Entrance test at Montesorri, you are denying the right of a child to be have a good education.

    Sheesh! Shame on everyone of us who quietly accept these trends.

  9. faruk (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 12:38 am

    i have to go tomorrow morning for my 2 year old son we’ve been through registration interview and now i have to pay thick amount in the morning.

  10. MB (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 1:50 am

    “education is business since beginning “

    Not sure about beginning but sure here it is……..
    And definitely in Karachi

  11. wasiq (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 2:09 am

    “attention”…..How many times have i told you not to invite the CAA kids to the party…unn ki mama bahut “tight” hai…..

    education is a matter of life and death….be serious…don’t waste your time…not even a second…

  12. Imran (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 2:21 am

    If standing in queues and parental interviews are not upto the mark for admission in pre-school, there’s always the madressah’s to send your children to :)

  13. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

    where there is a demand, there is a supply; these plays schools and montessori schools do well because parents especially mothers are not ready to fulfil their roles.Is it rocket science that you have to teach to the kids at that age? …NO….then why send them for tuitions? teach them yourself, problem solved. You can spend time with your child and talk to them and let them discover life around, feed their curiosity and teach them what they are eager to learn, thats what these schools do….they give these children the attention and time which parents don’t give them but are ready to BUY! why make it an issue when you have created the monster yourself.
    Getting into the elitist school is again something parents do to satisfy their egos, nothing to do with the child or his nurturing.Its a status symbol to have your kids study in KGS or CJ&m or Bayview…..why blame the system….

  14. JayJay (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

    First five years of a child’s life are to play and simply to enjoy being a kid. Why put them under unnecessary stress at this raw age when they have a whole life ahead to face various tensions. Let them have fun. They should watch Teletubbies or Dora or whatever, jump on beds or trampolines, eat lollies, spill food, mess around, play dolls or dress-up, get toilet trained, enjoy rides on shopping trollies. Don’t make them follow a daily regimen of getting up early to go to school and retuning home tired. Learning comes naturally to them. Parents are best teachers. Pre-schooling does not give children any head start – their parents’success in the field of education can attest it.

  15. shobz (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

    it’s all about oneupmanship (hope i used the right word).I remember an incident where a primary school rewarded children for reading books. some parents actually went the extra mile helping their children read books so that they would win. I guess the school failed miserably because they wanted their students to read books and learn from them. Parents usually tend to be anal retentive and hyper competitive. It’s like everyone desperately wants to be on top of the ladder so that they can boast about it. It’s not about the lives of their kids. It’s more about their own social lives and their standing in society if they dont get accepted. Then there are people who want to join the club of “trendy people”. I hate such people cause they are all pretentious. Get a life all you parents who wait endlessly to have their kids enrolled in some school which is supposedly the best.

  16. Concerned (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

    Shobz all the reason you stated are basically wrong, most parents who do send their kids to school and help them out, are trying to do this for the kid. It might help social status and all too but in their mind they are trying to help the kid. I admit it doesnt really work out but hey at least they mean well.

  17. Concerned (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

    Just to point out to people who say getting your kids into a good school is abt status symbol, it might be a little abt status but some of these elite schools do manage to really groom the kid.

  18. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

    @ concerned,

    Do you really believe that the parents send their children to the elitist schools and for private tuitions to get groomed and that also at the age of 2.5 and 3.5 years?

    Elitist schools can ensure….Networking, yes, Gift of the gab, yes, Social staus , yes but grooming….no that can be done at home, only some effort and time is required on the part of the parents.

    The best thing that parents can give to their children is not an admission into the elitist school but their love, attention and TIME….not the today’s “quality time” but TIME ….the 3 or 4 yr. old does not understand quality but learns from observation and interaction and the best comes from the family and parents. Even what they learn in school needs to be reinforced at home. Parents have to be role model for their kids, otherwise you can forget all about a well groomed and an all rounded personality.

  19. shobz (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 4:06 am

    sure concerned. keep telling yourself that. I stick by my opinion. I have seen a lot of people who care more about their social status than the lives of their kids. There are plenty of good schools out there. One doesn’t have to be so obsessed with getting into a good school.

  20. Concerned (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

    Saima. Netwroking and gift of the gab are very very important and are considered part of grooming.

    Shobz. cant change ur mind, just dont put all parents who send their kids to these elite schools in the same boat, not all of them are doing it for the social status

  21. Abdul Sami (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

    What is the eligibility criteria of various top schools for selecting toddlers in pre-schooling? I mean wat is the minimum qualification for Parents? and wat they ask from Parents in interviews?

  22. Absar (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

    Ah! The Pakistani post-modern education syndrome! It really is a shame to watch these cute little things waking up at 7 in the morning to get ready for school! I have two bhanjas, both around 3 now. They started school about half a year back, and at that time, they were declared ‘overage’ for Montessori! Personally, I am strictly against sending BABIES to school.

    None of the parents I know are sending their infants to school by choice. They’re only doing it because if they don’t they’ll run into problems at the primary school level. There should be a national law prohibiting parents from sending kids below a certain age to school. And that ‘certain age’ should NOT be 18 months! :P

  23. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

    you don’t need a national law as in the local system you are not required to put your children through these rigours of play schools. It is when you have to put your children to the few elitist school( following GCE or GCSE curriculum) that the parents have to face this torture.
    For 100 seats there are 1600 applicatons in some of these schools, what do you expect would happen?

    If parents have lost faith in their ability to educate their children at that young age then someone will take advantage of the situation. Do Parents really think the fresh graduates (earning 3000-5000 a month and sometimes with no training ) teaching in these schools can nurture and groom their children ?

    Parents are the best guides and teachers for their children, take up the responsibility and stop complaining.

  24. Concerned (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

    @ Saima

    Why oh why is doing GCSE considered elitist, my father is from the MIDDLE CLASS and I am sure he had to make quite a few sacrifices to make sure I went to one of these schools, u know why? becuase it grooms you (I will stick to that word). Parents can just teach a certain amount, it is important to go to a good school to get somewhere in life.

  25. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

    Saima. Netwroking and gift of the gab are very very important and are considered part of grooming.


    Grooming means smart and neat appearance.
    I have seen children dressed sloppily with unruly hair in these elitist schools, where the PARENTS are sent constant reminders by the administration to pay attention to the appearance of their children.

    I repeat schools cannot groom young kids, it happens at home. Thats where they pick up the best or the worst of the behaviors and attitudes.

  26. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

    Why oh why is doing GCSE considered elitist, my father is from the MIDDLE CLASS and I am sure he had to make quite a few sacrifices to make sure I went to one of these schools,


    GCSE in UK is not elitist but in Pakistan it sure is.

    In the schools following GCE/GCSE curriculum the fee (for a grade 1 student ) is 15000-20000 rupees for a quarter( in some cases even more than that) and if you add networking cost which includes b’day parties, gift and casual get-togethers then it would come to 25000 or more.Thats the cost for a class 1 student. For O’ levels the cost comes to 120,000 to 150,000 per year…..whichis beyond the reach of a middle class man….I wonder how your MIDDLE CLASS father paid that money?

    You are too modest to call yourself MIDDLE class if your father paid that much for your education.

  27. Concerned (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 11:45 pm


    There is a thing called social grooming, u might have heard of it. this helps out in both those things i mentioned earlier.

    As for neat and tidy, at least reminders are sent in these schools. And do you mean that kids are tidier in non elitist schools?

    As far as my father being middle class is concerned, my father grew up hyderabad living in a small house, sharing a room with god knows who all. He was actually lower middle class, but he managed to make something of himself and I am not sure how he paid our fees bec he had a salaried job and never really had the chance for much funny business.

    Also I am not sure where you are quoting numbers from but it has been a while since i went to school so i dont rem the fees. i think it was abt 15k per quater and tht was when i did my olevels and A levels.

    And Saima, like I said before to get somewhere u gotta sacrifice other stuff for a good education.

    The middle class can still afford Olevel and Alevels fees and I have seen many middle class families do it. Its just abt how badly u want to send your kids to one of these schools.

  28. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

    it has been a while since i went to school so i dont rem the fees. i think it was abt 15k per quater and tht was when i did my olevels and A levels.


    If we consider your 15k per quarter cost for O/A Levels, it comes to 60,000 rupees per month (without the cost of networking), EVEN a while ago that was a lot of money for a middle class family, let alone in today’s day and age.

    60,000 rupees in tuition fee for one child is not what a middle class family can afford no matter how badly they want to give the best education(?) to their child.

    I am quoting the figures because i am not a struggling middle class parent but very much a person of the affluent class who has been associated with education and these elitist institution in many roles.

    As for your reference of social grooming read the definition below: (then reflect)

    Social Grooming; In humans, include aspects such as gossip, sycophancy, flattery, and other behaviors and communications fulfilling the same purpose as social grooming behavior does in animals by which animals who live in proximity can bond and reinforce social structures, family links, and build relationships. Social grooming is also used as a form of reconciliation and a means of conflict resolution in some species.

    How many of thes aspects are covered at school is anybody’s guess. you learn behaviors at home and through your role models, especially parents.

    Finally if your middle class father and lots of people like him can make something of themselves without going to these elitist schools then hopefully other middle class children can also do that…..what we need is the will and honest struggle to learn and succeed not the elitist schools.

  29. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 6:02 pm

    Read 60,000 rupees PER YEAR instead of month in the second line…sorry!

  30. Concerned (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 6:59 pm

    @ saima

    I give up, no point arguing with you. I am not sure whether you are against the schools or Olevel and Alevels. There are lots of other schools who teach olevels too at much cheaper prices (abt 2-3 k).

    Just out of curiosity wht school did u go to?

  31. Concerned (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

    oh yeah and I totally agree with your honest struggle to suceed bit, obviously parents and morale play a big role in where u get to in life but schools do too.

  32. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 8:13 pm


    This post was about the problems and tortures parents face at the time of admission of young kids of 18-3.5 years into elitist schools…for which they send their kids to expensive pre- schools, montesorri schools and private tuitions.

    All I said was the elitist school can’t teach anything at that age which a child can’t learn at home with parents.

    I am not against any system but the wrong impression that elitist school can ensure good education and success in life and that children become better learners in those schools, especially at the young ages of 3-6 years.

    Children need their mothers and their attention and company more than any school in the world.Thats where the young child learns the most.

  33. saima Nasir (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 8:37 pm

    Just out of curiosity wht school did u go to?

    @ concerned,
    I went to a nationalised school and did my SSC……but my parents made sure that we( their children) go beyond the prescribed text books of that time. We were made to read good books in urdu, english, history, science, religion and would sit down and discuss it at home or when with friends(they even kept an eye on what kind of friends we made)…..thats why I say that the influence of parents is great in the formative years of life…TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS come much later. once you get on the right track, its diffcult to falter.

    Educational institutions can only polish the sculpture that the parents carve but the all the features and the face is given by the parents….

  34. Concerned (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 8:52 pm

    @ saima

    And I am guessing you dont consider polishing sculptures to be grooming. I am not saying parents dont play a big role, I am just trying to add to tht.

    Also I was mainly defending the GCSE curriculum.

  35. FS (unregistered) on February 14th, 2007 @ 9:29 pm

    London/Amrika have same issues!!

    In my humble opinion, the main tradeoff between private and public schooling (comparable to the o-level non-o-level debate here) is between access to “the Network” and lack of drive which can result from a sense of entitlement the private school environment can create.

    London Parents Scramble for Edge In Preschool Wars
    Applying Just After Birth Isn’t Enough, So They Send Flowers, Postcards and Beg
    February 12, 2007; Page A1

    LONDON — To get her son into elementary school at age 4, Emma Pliner signed him up at birth. When she went into labor, she took the application forms with her to the hospital.

    “I filled in the forms with an epidural in my back,” she says.

    Then, as Ms. Pliner delivered a healthy baby boy, a courier delivered the paperwork to several elementary schools. The early effort paid off: Little Charlie was accepted at several schools, including Wetherby, the school Prince William attended.

    London, like Manhattan, is one of the most extreme examples for preschool admissions mania. At nearly all private schools here, parents must apply as soon as children are born. Some schools grant spots on the basis of those applications. At others, applying at birth might merely win a chance for a child to interview and test for admission when he or she is ready for elementary school at four. Parents who don’t apply early or who move to London with a small child are often out of luck.

    Competition is increasingly intense here amid an influx of wealthy parents who work in banking, hedge funds and other financial businesses. Rich foreigners from Russia, India, the Mideast, and Hong Kong are drawn to London because it doesn’t tax income earned outside the United Kingdom. As more American banks add to their operations here, their families are adding to the throng.

    At Wetherby, the boys school near Hyde Park, head teacher Jenny Aviss advises women scheduling Caesarean sections to have them early in the month in order to secure one of five places that the school allots to newborns each month. “If you have the option, don’t wait until the 31st, have it on the first and call on the second,” she says.

    At Wetherby’s sister school next door, the Pembridge Hall school for girls, headmistress Elizabeth Marsden says one parent called the school twice a day for six months. Another sent flowers every week. One woman refused to leave the building until her child was given a place. She had to be removed by the police. Ms. Marsden says none of these efforts helped secure a spot at the school, whose tuition is $22,820 a year.

    To get her daughter, Charlotte, into nearby Norland Place School, Annette Benigni submitted forms when Charlotte was 7 months old and started calling the school when Charlotte was 3 and on the waiting list. “I called the school like a madwoman,” says Ms. Benigni. Charlotte was accepted.

    ‘Polite Harassment’

    Norland Place bursar Ian Justham, who fields most of the calls from parents, says the school encourages “polite harassment.” He tells families they may phone as often as they want, provided the calls are cordial, but he insists there is no connection between the number of phone calls and a child’s ranking on the admissions list.

    “It’s mainly to give people reassurance,” he says.

    Parents Katy and Rob Forshaw sent Mr. Justham a vacation postcard from Australia. “Here is a piece of polite harassment from far away,” it said. Their son, Cassius, was admitted from the waiting list just before school started last September.

    A lot of British children aren’t in this rug-rat race. Children enter schools at age 5, when compulsory schooling starts. More than 90% of children in Britain attend schools that are run by the state and don’t charge tuition.

    Many London schools have required registration at a child’s birth since their founding in the 19th century. Most say that such a first-come, first-served system remains the fairest and most practical approach.

    More Pressure

    Wetherby, a London boys school, allots five places to newborns each month.
    At one popular private nursery, the Broadhurst School, mothers sign up even before their babies are born. Headmistress Deirdre Berkery recently got a call from a woman who was five weeks’ pregnant. “Every year, there seems to be more pressure for places,” says Ms. Berkery, whose school is fully booked until January 2010. It has 500 names on the waiting list. Mother of two Natalie Richenberg registered both her daughters at Broadhurst when she learned she was pregnant.

    Lela Bristol, a lawyer currently at home with two children, was too late for Pembridge Hall because she called when her daughter, Xenia, was 3 months old. She also missed a place at a nearby school that selects students by lot. The Bristols are now planning to send Xenia to state school.

    “I was hit with anxiety because I was worried that I was ruining her future,” Ms. Bristol says. “We’re taking a risk sending her to [state] school.”

    Thomas’s London Day Schools, a group of four elementary schools and two nurseries, require parents to register their children soon after birth, and then test them at the age of 3 or 4. Children must write their names, do puzzles and draw pictures as part of assessments.

    Group principal Ben Thomas says the schools look for confidence, willingness to tackle new tasks and ability to grapple with new environments. Mr. Thomas discourages parents from tutoring their offspring for the assessments but acknowledges that some do anyway. Acceptance and rejection letters are mailed out in February.

    Last year, Clelia Vercueil, then 3, refused to cooperate with the assessment. Clelia, who speaks Italian as a second language, “simply said ‘no’ to everything,” recalls her mother, Ilaria Vercueil. Clelia didn’t make the cut, but she was accepted at two of the other five schools her parents applied to.

    Write to Cecilie Rohwedder at

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