Thursday, April 24, 2008

How soon is too soon

(This being India)

The front page of the newspapers today informed me that the draft of the Right to Education Bill has been finalized by the Central Government in India. And the best part about it, our children will start school later. Hallelujah, someone out there has been listening to us, griping and grumbling about how infants were being dragged into the schooling system by unscrupulous elements, at an age when they were still finding the language to inform us that they needed to go to the potty, and more often than not, needed diapering of their yet untrained bottoms before they could be let loose in public situations.

My son started playschool at 1 year nine months. I admitted him late. The term had begun in June. He would have been 1.6 had I started him in as the term started. And of course, out here, there is no concept of admitting a child on the basis of his average age, it’s a wide spectrum that starts from the beginning of the year to the end of said year, which gives children born at the start of the year almost a year’s lead time on the poor critters (like the brat) who have the bad taste to be born at the fag end of the year.

The bill, in its finalized draft state, proposes to fix the minimum age for admission to preschool at 3 years 10 months. The bill prepared by the Human resource Development Ministry says the admission age for Class I should be five years and 10 months before the beginning of the academic year. The brat will be 5 years, 6 months when he gets into Class I. Four months under the cut off date. And he, being wondrously slow as a learner. Any surprises that he is having trouble catching up with the rest of his class.

In Mumbai, though, the age for admission to pre school and pre primary has not been fixed by the state government. What with mamma and toddler classes coming into the picture, I think we’re now rushing off from our maternity leave to get our kids into playgroups and schools, while they’re still suckling at the breast. Okay, I exaggerate a bit. But you get my drift.

Most schools in Mumbai typically admit children between two and two and a half years into their pre school. For Pre Primary, that is Jr Kg, the minimum age needs to be 3 years. For Class I, the current cut off is 5 years. At five years, these kids are writing capitals, lower case, two and three letter words, three word sentences, they know their numbers, the counting, seriation, graphs, ordinal numbers, skip counting till 100, ascending order, descending order, greater than and less than, single digit addition and subtraction already when they move from Jr Kg to Sr Kg, and in senior Kg they will learn multiplication and division.

For the record, the brat just about has got a grip on capital letters, and I do his three letter word revision with capitals. He knows his numbers, but the rest of the stuff is beyond him, and I have not forced him to get into it. He will grasp it, as soon his brain is capable of doing so. And if the rest of the kids in class are doing the portion perfectly, more power to them. They also have an eight to ten month lead over him most of the time.

Also to my delight, comes the sentence, “If any school is found subjecting the parents or children to screening for admission a fine of Rs 25,000 will be imposed. A repeat offence will invite a fine of Rs 50,000. If any school is found guilty of taking capitation, the fine will be upto ten times of what it has charged.”

This spells doom for all the so called “refundable deposits” that most school charge during admissions, which start from the modest Rs 25,000 depending on the school, and go upto a few lakhs for the better schools.

And very interestingly, the days of 50 to 60 students packed three to a bench in the average schools also seems to be done for. Hopefully. The draft has also framed a set of norms for private schools on teachers’ qualifications, student teacher ratio and infrastructural mandatories. Schools without playgrounds, dirty premises, teachers with no proper qualifications (just the proper channels through which they applied for jobs, and worse, underpaid and overworked teachers, and therefore disgruntled and disinterested teachers). They seem to hopefully, among the many factors which will be impacted by this bill, if implemented.
Failure to comply with any of these could lead to a closure of the school. Do we see any harassed parents turning cartwheels on the street?

Of course, this will result in unnecessary confusion and running around to plan babies to meet cut off dates, but it makes infinite sense. And it does give one hope, that maybe, just maybe the education system is slowly and steadily getting rationalized in this country. Now if only someone working on that draft could take a look at the absolutely ridiculous syllabus our children have to suffer through. One brave day I will post a month’s syllabus to give you guys an idea of the utter horror that a four and a half year old has to confront.

The day the syllabus at the pre primary level gets rationalized will be the day I truly will celebrate.

What is the age cut off in your part of the world, folks?


scribblermom said...

hi.. we just took admission for Genie in playschool, she wl be 2 in June. With this new bill, i wonder if she might have to repeat a year...

indosungod said...

Kiran cut-off in our state (Maryland) is 5 yrs on Sept 1 for admission to KG.

Hasn't age limits always been there? In TN where I went to school cutoff for LKG was/is 3 by June. There are ways to get around this, push the birthdate up by 6 months or so and there, your child is of the right age to enter school. Some of these methods are suggested by the schools themselves. I can vouch for this personally.

DotMom said...

should be 5 years old (on Sept 30) for kindergarten (equivalent to Sr.K.G. in India), 6 for Grade 1. This is in Virginia, USA.

If a child birthday is on Oct 1-30, the parents can submit a special request to be admitted to that class and it will be considered on a case by case basis.

SJ said...

In Oregon, USA the child needs to be 5 yrs old (in Sept) before getting into KG.

Sandeepa said...

Kiran, your posts are true gems

Cut-off in our state (New Jersey) is 5 yrs by Oct 1 for admission to KG in most towns. Some do have a late cut-off of Dec 31.

Sandeepa said...

One more thing is there no hard & fast rule about pre-school here. The child can skip pre-school altogether, many do if it suits the parents

mummyjaan said...

Children need to be at least 4 years old in September to join 'school'. Which is 2 years of kindergarten ('Junior Infants' and 'Senior Infants') before Grade 1.

Preschools/Montessoris generally take children around 3 years of age. They prefer the kids to be toilet-trained but it's not essential. Apya went earlier (2 years and a few months) because the daycare and preschool were run in the same facility and I wanted her to be around other children.