Students can be admitted to Class 1 only at the age of “6+” years instead of the earlier practice of “5+” years, the Education Ministry told States and Union Territories on Wednesday, reiterating its earlier direction. Currently, several States and schools follow disparate age formulas for Class 1 admissions
The Centre’s reminder is in line with the latest National Education Policy’s emphasis on improving foundational learning by bringing early childhood care and education under the formal schooling system and moving it from the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to the Education Ministry.
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Until the NEP 2020, children in the age group of 3 years to 6 years were not covered within the 10+2 structure of formal schooling. Under the new structure, children aged 3 to 8 years come under the foundational section — including three years of pre-school and two years of primary school — followed by preparatory, middle and secondary sections in a 5+3+3+4 formula. The strong base of early learning from age 3 is “aimed at promoting better overall learning, development, and well-being,” according to the NEP.
‘Quality preschool needed’
The Department of School Education and Literacy has now reiterated directions to all States and UTs to “align their age of admission with the policy and provide admission to Grade-I at the age of 6+ years”, according to an Education Ministry statement. It urged them to ensure accessibility to three years of quality preschool education for all children, whether they were studying in anganwadis, or in preschools run or aided by the government, by NGOs or by other private players.
According to a response furnished by the Centre in the Lok Sabha in March 2022, there are wide variations in the age criteria currently followed by States, with 14 States and Union Territories allowing Class 1 admission for children who have not completed six years. In Assam, Gujarat, Puducherry, Telangana and Ladakh, children who have turned five can get admitted to Class 1. In Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala, the minimum age is five plus.
Cut-off dates differ
C.B. Mishra, principal of Delhi’s Prudence School, says that a uniform cut-off date for calculating a child’s age is needed. States such as Delhi consider April 1 in the year of admission as the date when a child should be 6 years old or older, while many other States consider January 1 or July 1. The Central government-run Kendriya Vidyalayas also use July 1 as their cut-off date.
The “6+” rule was implemented in Kendriya Vidyalayas in the last academic year. A group of parents challenged the order before the Supreme Court which quashed their petition on the grounds that the decision was based on the NEP.