Class Apart

The murky world of Delhi’s private-school admissions

Illustrations By
31 August 2022

KARAN KALUCHA WOKE UP early on the morning of 9 February and did something he rarely does: he prayed. His son’s future was at stake. The drawing of lots for admission to Kalucha’s “target school,” Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in Lodhi Estate, was scheduled for 9 am. Kalucha was seated in the school auditorium an hour in advance. Before long, the room was humming with anxious chatter from the parents of around three hundred prospective students, all waiting for their children’s fates to be decided. Some faces exhibited anticipation; others, resignation. There was justifiable cause for the latter. Of the 1,844 children who had applied to SPV, 63 had been admitted while 310 others had been shortlisted for the lottery. Of these, 34 would be selected in the drawing of lots, and only 11 of those would be offered admission. If you were a parent applying to SPV, the odds were abysmal: almost twenty-five to one.

By 1 pm, the verdict was out. Kalucha’s son had not made it. Kalucha was disappointed, but it was not like he had not anticipated—and even planned for—such a scenario. Why else had he applied to 19 schools across the city? “Honestly, in a place like Delhi, you don’t have the luxury of choice unless you’re an alumni or have certain credentials,” he told me. “So the strategy everyone follows is that they apply to the maximum number of schools, knowing fully well that their name might not appear in certain schools due to lesser points. But they still apply, they take a chance.”

Kalucha’s son was selected by four schools: Delhi Public School, Mathura Road; KR Mangalam World School in Greater Kailash; Amity International School in Saket; and Birla Vidya Niketan in Pushp Vihar. Kalucha ultimately decided on DPS Mathura Road. In addition to being the closest of the four to their house—a mere two kilometres away—DPS had the added advantage of being Kalucha’s old school. Both these “credentials” had secured his son an impressive 85 points out of 100 in Delhi’s points-based system of admissions, Kalucha said, making his a “very strong candidature.” 

Neha Mehrotra is a freelance reporter based in Delhi.

Keywords: schools Delhi government