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The Ministry of Education standing the ground on the issue of underage admission is welcome.

The ministry in May revoked the admission of 890 PP students (below 5.5 years old) in public and private schools across the country. Parents, proprietors and principals of private schools then submitted a petition to the Prime Minister on June 13 and suggested that the government to set five years (as of March 2019) as entry age for PP.

The argument from the parents, proprietors and principals of private schools is clear and understandable. There are other factors that impel this decision from their side. There is now the middle class to consider where both parents are working. And there is severe shortage of babysitters or helpers.

But then, let’s look at and understand the point that the education ministry is making. It will not allow request from the parents, proprietors and principals of private schools, however it is constructed, taking into account children’s development stages and well-being based on global research findings and practices. It is a valid argument. When the child is not ready to learn or go through the school system, where is the real benefit?

However, there is also a serious problem with the education ministry. If age criteria for admission of children in class PP in both public and private is six or are children born on or before February 13, 2013, how is this monitored? A circular from the ministry says that if there is space after the admission period, the schools have the discretion to admit children who are five and half years old or older to Class PP.

The argument must rest here. 

Going by research by educationists worldwide, by the age of 6, a child’s brain is almost adult-like. Learning is significantly dependent on the basic language and higher cognitive capacities the brain has developed in the early years.

The ‘right’ age to start school could vary depending on the environment a child is brought up in, but that cannot, and should not, compel us to meddle in the system that is better informed. A study by well-placed university has found that kids whose parents waited to enrol them in kindergarten by age 6 (instead of 5) had measurably better scores on tests of self-control by the time they were 7 and 11.

The ministry must carry out a serious study considering the socioeconomic development and the many changes occurring in our society today. But we cannot settle for convenience of a few, because we are talking about education and the future of this country.

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