If you take a new-born baby for admission in a pre-school, chances are that the school management will tell you that you are nine months late. There is no state policy to guide parents about the minimum age limit for their children to attend school. Normally, the age limit for admission in most pre-schools is three years, though some schools are even open for children who are just 30 months old.
Small kids don’t have ability to solve their problems and face difficulty to communicate in a class-room environment. They don’t feel comfortable in a strictly disciplined environment at this age, and in worse cases, choose to live with their problems instead of solving them. For small kids, a small punishment can have an awful effect on their personality and childhood behaviour. Sometimes, it becomes very difficult to get out of the spiral of fear without counselling or a change in physical environment for children.
On the other hand, we rarely hear anything against the standards of private schools. These schools should not be allowed to set new trends without realising the damage they are doing. There should be a proper education policy in this regard and all schools must follow the minimum age standard.
Many private schools also have a ‘minimum age’ policy but sometimes they are involved in supporting private pre-schools. The students from their ‘allied’ pre-schools are accommodated during admission tests and interviews. This practice is not confined only to the private sector; many semi-government and trust schools also favour candidates from their preferred pre-schools. We have, no doubt, a large number of children who don’t go to school, but the state must enforce a minimum-age policy for attending school.
Some studies show that children younger than six years of age should not attend school because it can cause developmental harm and lifelong mental-health problems among children. In Norway, which tops the highest Human Development Index in the world, the minimum age for attending school is six. The legal school-attending age for all other European countries is either seven or six, except Northern Ireland where it is only four. Its high time the state addresses this problem and purge the irresponsible practice of sending under-age children to school.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2014.