Representatives of parents, proprietors and principals of private schools submitted a petition to the Prime Minister yesterday appealing the government to regularise the admission of underage pre-primary (PP) students for the 2019 academic session.

The appeal comes after the education ministry last month revoked the admission of 890 PP students in public and private schools across the country. They also appealed the government to set five years (as of March 2019) as entry age for PP.

Underage students are those who have not attained six years, the criteria the ministry prescribes for PP enrollment. The ministry’s decision also means that the children would have to repeat class PP next year.

At the meeting with the prime minister yesterday, the parents said that they raised concerns on the decision’s impact to the ministry’s director general on May 13.

“All the Thimphu and Paro primary private schools on May 18 held emergency meeting with the affected parents where 500 parents shared the same views and were ready to appeal,” the petition letter states.

“However, after no changes in the decision, we further appealed to both education minister and secretary to reconsider for this year and children aged five and above were fit to join and learn PP curriculum.”

With the second term starting soon, they shared to the Prime Minister that they were faced with an urgency to inform the parents and make a planned decision for the benefit of children. They said that the circular regarding the admission age was not issued to private schools this year but only to public schools.

Even if the policy is not changed, they requested the government to at least reconsider this year’s enrollment and assured that from next year, the schools would abide by the rule.

“In public schools, children were withdrawn from the school immediately after the decision, which would’ve affected the child. Such practice is not good,” a principal said.

Some shared that if a student has to repeat next year, it would affect the children psychologically and emotionally while others requested that the ministry should inform the schools on time and uniformly of such decisions with few suggesting that decision should be informed before the academic session.

The parents’ representatives claimed that they were never informed about the enrollment age and that had they been aware, they would not have persuaded the school to admit their children. “It is for these reasons that we request the ministry to reconsider its decision this time. It’s hard for me to convince my daughter that she’ll have to repeat and she’s not ready.”

However, one of the principals said that parents were already informed about the enrollment age and many parents admit their children stating that their children could not meet the age requirement in a public school and opted for private schools since there is no one to look after them at home.

“Since we’ve already admitted underage children this year, we request the ministry to reconsider and distribute the student codes.”

A school proprietor said that private schools do not get right aged children because the public schools are admitting all students at 5.5 years and above.

Lyonchhen told the parents that he would inform the education ministry on the request to reconsider the decision for this year. He said that the decisions they take also impacts rural children and that there are other factors to consider before considering their appeal.

“If the ministry is insisting on the rule, then there might be a reason and I was told that the ministry has repeatedly informed all schools not to admit underage children,” Lyonchhen said. “If it’s only one-time consideration for this batch then we can look into it but if the request is to change the policy then the case is different.”

Yangchen C Rinzin