By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi
A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has banned the city's private nurseries from interviewing parents or children before admission.
There is a lot of pressure to get into school in India
At the moment, children and their parents have to go through lengthy and often harrowing interviews before being admitted into private nurseries.
But the practice has been strongly opposed by parents who say the process traumatises them and their children.
The court ruling is affect hundreds of thousands of children.
"We welcome the court's decision. It's a progressive step," a lawyer representing the parents, Ashok Agarwal, told the BBC.
'Right to say hello'
"The court's decision brings to an end the cruelty against three-to-four-year-old children, who were subjected to the torture of interviews with their parents," he says.
Principal Usha Ram believes the court ruling is a mistake
But the city schools have questioned the court ruling.
"If we are not allowed to interact with the parents or the children, then how do we select?" asks Usha Ram, principal of Laxman Public School.
Mrs Ram, the chairwoman of the National Progressive School Conference which represents 110 Delhi schools, says, "A parent is handing over their child to us for 14 years. Do we not have the right to say hello to them?"
Mrs Ram says her school receives a large number of applications every year and the informal interaction with the parents and the child helps them select.
Earlier in the year, the Delhi High Court formed a five-member committee under the chairmanship of Ashok Ganguli, head of the Central Board of Secondary Education, to formulate a set of guidelines for nursery admissions.
The committee submitted its recommendations to the High Court on Tuesday which have been accepted by the court.
The committee has set 100 marks to be awarded to each admission-seeking child on the basis of certain eligibility criteria:
- Children living in an area of three km from the school to be given 20 marks - the numbers reduce as the distance grows and those living more than 10km away will get no marks
- Preference for the disabled children
- Preference for girls
- Preference to siblings of children already in a school
- Preference to children of former students
- No discrimination against children of single parents
The committee says above all the admission process should be entirely transparent and the management discretion should be reduced to the minimum.
Under the current system, the nursery admission process is what most parents describe as "harrowing".
In most schools parents are made to write out lengthy formal forms and both the parents and three to four-year-old children are grilled by a panel of interviewers.
A large number of expensive playschools have also mushroomed across Delhi to prepare tiny tots for the interview process and often children as young as 18 months to two years are admitted to them.
The new admission process will have to be followed by more than 1,600 private schools in the city.