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11/06/2017

Baby Samurai goes to school

What an ordeal, sending your baby (yes baby) to school in Indian megacities...

india,education,parenting,school,school system,hindi medium,corruption,montessoriSince my son crossed the fateful (it seems) 15 months threshold, the first question I am asked is: “so, he is going to school?” That said, I have a feeling that this obsession with schooling is specific to the people of my residential society, because I was actually told, by the founder of a crèche chain, that in India parents are reluctant to send their children to school before 3 years. During these first years, the child is considered as an extension of his parents, a small animal that needs to be fed, changed and put to sleep – it covers his primary needs without caring for his or her own personality, nor any concern about his/her ‘development’. I must say that with extended families, kids naturally ‘socialise’, hence it is a non-issue. This lady has met is on a mission: explaining to Indian parents (especially those who are working and those who live in smaller families) the concepts of socialization etc. Apparently his sermon reached very well the ears of my neighbours, since all these rich people, exposed to Western culture, look at you like a monster if you don’t put your little one in school very early.

Except that I decided to not let that deter me, and to think for myself, puting things in perspective. In France, for example, crèche is rarely a choice, but a requirement due to the professional activity of the parents and the unavailability of the grandparents who enjoy their retirement and are not willing to get back to full time parenting with a baby. From there, one can find benefits to crèches of course, but a child cannot play with other children until at least 2 years, or even more. Before that he builds his individuality and has no place for this kind of interaction with other humans of his age. I hadn't read anything beforehand, simply trusting to my intuitions, but literature quite agrees with my state of mind. And me, I have had a great nanny, a great house with a park equipped with children at the end of my garden, so I never saw the need to impose car rides (traffic jams) and early schooling to my boy. And monetary considerations were not even considered in this decision, but they could have, since a year in a ‘good’ crèche and/or pre-school costs almost minimum 2000 euros... So I took the risk of being perceived as a bad mother, what do I care?

India,education,parenting,school,school system,hindi medium,corruption,MontessoriThat said, I’m always open to suggestions and able to challenge myself enough, so I did try two local crèches which had a ‘mother-child’ program, when my son was 15 months. I also took my nanny along. After 3 hours, in both the centres, we left with a bad headache. I had expected playing and fun; I landed up in hell, one has no idea how noisy teachers can be. And they sing and they scream, activities one after the other at a crazy speed, not a moment’s inattention permitted to the children: don’t look away, ‘U for umbrella’. They disgusted me. And comforted me in my low opinion of Indian schools which give an exaggerated importance to the kids’ development and academic learning. My baby would have to wait 18 years before going to school! (Or at least 3 years ;) ).

My neighbor, the one I would have liked to become friend with, that I looked up to as an example and to whom I had asked advice when we moved in, lost a lot of points for insisting so much that I put my son in one of these schools where her daughter goes, poor kid.

Except that. My nanny started acting funny. Knowing very well that it would be really tough toindia,education,parenting,school,school system,hindi medium,corruption,montessori find a gem like her, I preferred to look for school options, earlier than I had planned. I selected 4. A Swedish one – but I had to cross it off my list because they don’t take children before 3 years and half (actually my son would be almost 4 and half before being admitted, as children need to be 30 months in April and not a week later), one between home and office and 2 Montessori schools. Montessori was recommended to me by a friend. But beware, in Gurgaon, almost all the schools are named ‘International Montessori Schools’ – even if they are very much Indian and adopt only a few Montessori concepts. Anyway, the site of the Montessori Foundation gave me the name of the only two schools accredited in Gurgaon (not one in Delhi!)..

We were first to meet between a ‘normal’ school. For that, we had to take an appointment and visit outside the school hours, carrying a checkbook (the visit is not free and seats go fast, so if you like it, it is better to register on the spot, the secretary said) and a completely convoluted questionnaire – the question “kids love pleasing their parents; can you give us an example?” made me rack my brain, in vain, and after a few hours, my husband could come up with something... My child is amazing, but up till 2 (and even now, most of the time), he couldn’t give a dam about my well-being, let me be honest. And right after we had to go see the Montessori school which had answered my mail. I didn't like the name, ProductiveMinds, precisely because I was afraid of the pressure of the learning, but well, let us keep an open mind.

india,education,parenting,school,school system,hindi medium,corruption,montessoriOur first meeting was cancelled. A missed act. And for a good reason! No sooner had I pushed the gate of the second school that I knew our quest would end there. Only one classroom, the children of all ages are all together. Each one does his own activities, in silence (no ‘master’ bellowing Jingle bells in the middle of July). A garden where kids can go to freely, with even a vegetable garden. No uniforms. And flexible pick and drop hours. Sold! And I am not even speaking about, ‘small’ bonus, the learning benefits of this education for children... This school makes me happy to live in Gurgaon, that says it all!

Since then, the nanny came to better feelings and Baby Samurai started school at 2 years and 9 india,education,parenting,school,school system,hindi medium,corruption,montessorimonths. And everything went very well! I even got to stay a few days in the class to adapt smoothly (I mean, I got to adapt, not my son who got accustomed very quickly).

And this leaves me at least 2 years of respite, before having to dig into the selection of the next school, which is no easy task. For example, there are Indian and British curriculums. Then you must be selected and prepared to pay astronomical amounts. Education, like health, is a business in India. And not a very clean one, according to this study on corruption. And if you don’t believe me, please watch this movie, Hindi Medium, based on real events and which staged a rich family coming from a modest background who is denied entry to schools and thus pretends to be poor to integrate quotas. Super funny but frankly a little bit disturbing too...

india,education,parenting,school,school system,hindi medium,corruption,montessoriBecause beyond the financial question, there is the pressure on the kids, this race to performance, where everyone has to be the best in class because they are millions (yes, millions, the whole middle and below classes who aspire to get out of the shit thanks to the education of their offspring) behind to get the first place – but what does it even mean first place? Happiness is being sacrificed to the altar of financial and social success. All this without neglecting the extra-curricular activities. I often wonder when do they sleep these kids? And when do they play? Or just spend time with their parents? I hardly ever see any of them at the park…

And then, there is also the whole problem of a lot of poor kids (84 millions as per the last census, in 2011) not having access to education for logistic or cost issues… Or to a not-so-good one…

07/03/2017

Working in India: Income taxes

After discussing salary, here come the taxes!

Here is what the Government has in store for 2017-18 income taxes (ouch ouch ouch):

India,working in India,salary,income taxes

Let's go back to the Foreign guy example, the one who gets 1,00,000 Rs per month or 12,50,000 per year:

inde,salaires,impôts,tranche d'impôts,pan

Apart from the taxable income, he can get exemptions (amounts that can be removed from the gross salary before calculating taxes), because yes, you can reduce your taxes:

  • For the lines 1. C) à 1. H) / the maximum amount to be deducted is indicated in the 'yearly' column
  • An amount (deduction under 80C) of maximum 150,000 Rs per year, which includes an investment and/or the Provident Fund (see next post) on the part paid by the employee

So our guy, if he provides proof of maximum amount allowed for exemptions, he will be able to save up to 6% of taxes! Not bad no?! And he will pay 9% taxes even though he falls under the 30% slab! Otherwise, with no exemption, he will pay 15% taxes.

Let's see how in the table below:

inde,salaires,impôts,tranche d'impôts,pan

 

In India, taxes are directly deducted from your salary every month. But you still need to fill an 'Income Tax Return'. So if you have paid too much taxes you will get reimbursed (and now it goes amazingly fast) and if you have paid too less you will have to pay. To fill up this return, it is pretty easy and you can even do it yourself by connecting on this website (making sure you got the Form 26 from your employer). It is done yearly, before end of July. And you need to submit the proof at the time of renewing your Employment visa.

If you are not registered it, you can do it here (you only need your PAN number). 

And if you don’t have a PAN number, you have to get one if you work in India. You can also do it yourself, and start here

More info here on taxes: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/tax/latest-inc...

06/26/2017

Working in India: the salary structure

If you want to work in India (and not as a chef, translator or nurse), and you’re aiming at getting a normal Employment Visa (in other words you don’t have the Holy Grail, the OCI), then you must earn at least 100,000 rupees per month.

This year, I had to understand the Indian salary structure – it was about time you could tell me. I banged my head on the walls as my HR consultant was just NOT making it any easy! But now I think I understand it. So this is what it looks like (I can also provide a (very) precious excel file) for a foreigner who earns the minimum of 100,000 rupees per month or 1,20,000 a year without the bonus):

India,working in India,salary,salary structure,wage,minimum salary for foreigners,employment visa

About exemptions, with the example above, if you provide medical bills up to 15,000 Rs or of rent up to 2,81,000 Rs you can get tax reduction.

Be aware! This break-up or a similar one (sometimes there are some variations in the components of the 'Package' must be provided during registration to the FRRO (or in any case I was asked to in 2016 at the Gurgaon FRRO).

More info here on the wage structure: https://quikchex.in/salary-structures-india-need-know/

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