In a circular on Tuesday, the department said the minimum age for a child to enrol in class 1 will be 6, up from the current 5 years 5 months. The move drew mixed reactions from stakeholders, leaving many parents, schools and teachers worried. But preschools and experts hailed the decision. “My child is July born. What happens to him? Will he be allowed to move on or asked to stay back?” said an anxious parent.
“Many parents want to enrol their children in grade 1 at a very early age, even when they may not be emotionally or developmentally ready. Most schools in Bengaluru bring in too much academic rigour even in grade 1, so I think this move will ease pressure on children and make parents slow down a little,” said Swetha Sharan, founder of Bangalore Schools, a Facebook group with around 50,000 members.
“The announcement has caused a lot of parents in my group to worry about what will happen to children already enrolled in UKG in a preschool this academic year. Hopefully, we will have more clarity soon,” she said.
Karnataka Council for Preschools Association said 6 is the apt age to start class 1. Pruthvi Banwasi, secretary of the council, said: “Parents should not fear losing out. They have to see it as an advantage that their children who will be elder to others will have better learning outcomes in the class. It is not that the children have to vie for a government job and worry about retirement age like in the past,” he said.
“The lower age limit that is in practice in states like Karnataka and Maharashtra resulted in widening age differences and poor learning rates in many classes. This decision of age 6 for grade 1 not only aligns with NEP and RTE, but is also age appropriate for learning outcomes. We do need to think about second-order consequences and the impact on the transition generation,” said Kavitha Gupta Sabharwal, Neev Early Years.
The council suggested that preschools start a separate preparatory stage for children who will have to repeat UKG. But Association of Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools of Karnataka has written to the chief minister and the department asking them to reconsider the decision. “SATS does not allow a child to be detained in a class one more time. Will parents allow it? What will be the psychological effects on children asked to stay back for one more year while their peers move on,” asked Shashi Kumar, secretary of the association.
“If the government wants to make such a regulation, it should start from pre-primary. Set an age limit for entry to nursery so that we can plan entry to class 1 accordingly,” said Kumar, adding lack of flexibility will result in children dropping out of the system.
Managements of Independent CBSE Schools Association said the government should roll back the decision. “We, private schools, did not arbitrarily enrol children. We did it based on the earlier age criterion mentioned by the government. How can they announce a sudden change from next year? Who will convince parents to repeat a year? Let the minister himself try doing that,” said Mansoor Ali Khan, secretary of MICSA.
All-India Teachers Federation also opposed the move. “The government has not implemented all the elements of RTE Act. No subject-wise and class-wise teachers are appointed. Instead of looking at blank areas, they are coming out with new rules,” said executive secretary Basavaraj Gurrikar.