Given my software engineering background I took a very structured approach to the whole process (much to my wife's amusement who does many of these things instinctively). Made a list of criteria (distance, timings, class strength, no. of floors which is an important parameter considering the burden they carry, fees, syllabus followed - state, CBSE, ICSE ...) and started visiting the schools to collect data. Just like in software (or any other area) it is easy to capture the functional specifications. But the soft or non functional aspects are always difficult. A visit helps to give a notion of some but not all. For eg: the responsiveness, attitude of the staff, openness in sharing information on fees, formalities do give some indicators. However the quality of teaching cannot be easily perceived. One can take opinions from other parents but again these are colored by thier own values, expectations.
There were schools we liked but had to drop since admission was not available or they charged exorbitant fees (upto 1 lakh!). These posh schools which their steep fees ensure that only students from a certain section of the society get in (either intentionally or otherwise). This shapes the behavior and culture of the students who study there. A family friend of ours who has a daughter studying in such a school while their son is in a more modest school have had bitter experiences of this. It seems the daughter is ashamed to say that her brother studies in the "not so posh" school. Also they have parties for which they get choreographers (at a cost), expensive dresses etc. While parents put their children into such schools perhaps because of their achievement these are the unfortunate side effects.
The other end of the spectrum are alternate schools like CFL, Shibumi (in Bangalore) while there was only one that I could find in Mysore - Arivu. It was an attractive option - very reasonable fees, experiential learning not going to the extreme in terms of doing away with exams etc, the main challenge was the distance - about 12kms from where I reside.
The final alternative was to home school if nothing works out!
I guess as one of bosses would say we are all of middle-class mentality. We want something in the middle of the road nothing too extreme. Our expectations are modest and we are ready to work a life time towards those modest goals. We are sceptical of any overnight get rich proposals. Similarly anything which rejects all current systems is also suspicious. I guess systems were working reasonably well, there were still dedicated teachers who delivered even if they did not inspire, the food we bought in shops had some nutrition, was safe, we could trust our leaders to generally do well for the country. There were always exceptions but the general feelign was of trust of various systems.
Unfortunately this has eroded over time. We are trying to seek solace in systems which are now focused on "business of making money". It is time to get involved in each aspect of our lives to the extent we can and make a difference - whether it is the food, it is the education for our children. Perhaps the middle ground is a mirage and no longer exists?
BTW the school hunt is still on. Will post once the marriage is finally over!