How early do parents start looking for schools for their toddlers? The time when parental anxiety over schooling sets in appears to be receding by the year, and now, it starts when the child just about turns one.
With the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) not laying down clear cut rules on the age criteria for pre-nursery, nursery and even class one admissions, schools have set their own limits. Though the department announced norms last January, both for kindergarten and Standard One, the order was altered midway leading to much confusion.
Adding to the mess is the varying criteria adopted by the top city-based schools while offering admissions for pre-nursery.
Admission age ranges from two years six months to three years 10 months depending on the school. For lower kindergarten (LKG), the range is from three-and-a-half years to four years 10 months.
Many managements and teachers say that parents request them to admit children young, citing that their child’s date of birth falls a few months short of the cut-off date. However, early childhood educators warn that both managements and parents should not enrol children into formal schooling before the age of four.
Manilal Carvalho, principal, Delhi Public School Bengaluru East, says, “During every admission season, parents plead with us to admit their child even though they are underage, as they fear that they may lose out on one year. But I explain to them that enrolling a child who is not ready for schooling would make it very difficult for the child to cope. Despite this, they insist that we admit them.”Pre-school or nursery?
Another dilemma parents face is whether to enrol their child in the pre-school or nursery section of a full-fledged school. For instance, Pooja S., parent of a two-year-eight-month-old has decided to enrol her daughter in the pre-nursery section of a popular school. She says, “I did not want my child to travel many kilometres and be in a formal school environment. But I took the decision as it would ease the transition to LKG. More important, I can avoid the hassle of trying to obtain admission in LKG.”
However, Ms. Carvalho said that many schools have more seats in LKG as compared to nursery to accommodate children from other pre-schools.
Saranya Sundararajan plans to enrol her two-year-two-month-old son in a Montessori pre-school between the age of three and six. “I do not want regular schooling as I do not believe in black board-based education in the early years. I prefer an interactive life-based education in his initial years,” she explains.Trainers without training
Whether the parents chose to enrol their child for kindergarten or Montessori, early educators feel that many school managements and pre-schools are not adequately trained.
Rajalakshmi M.S., Head of the Department, Early Childhood Education and administration course, VHD Central Institute of Home Science, says that pre-school should not introduce formal writing until the age of five. “The fine motor coordination and neuromuscular development of the child would not have set in until five years. There is a need to ensure that pre-schools teach age appropriate skills. While they can allow them to read and colour using crayons, they should avoid asking the child to use pencil until the age of five,” she says.
She also said that although many pre-schools project themselves as Montessori schools, they either do not follow the Montessori Method or club it with the traditional chalk and board method. An advocate of a multiple intelligence approach, Ms. Rajalakshmi said that a good childhood centre should ideally have corners and the child should be left free to choose whether he/she wants to play with pictures or engage with numbers through games and activities.
“I have seen many children in UKG being taught the tables. The child has the ability to grasp and will learn it by rote, but without understanding anything. Therefore, there is a need to be very careful about what the child learns in the first few years as they are the formative period.”
She pointed out that there is no regulatory mechanism and uniformity and each pre-school has its own syllabus and curriculum.
Divya B.A., a Waldorf early childhood educator, said that parents often tend to set difficult goals for the child, which is not achievable. “Parents and schools should not urge children to write when their hands are not ready. In fact, once their motor skills are developed, they will be able to write in a couple of months,” she said.
DPI promises new norms
With the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) not laying down clear cut age criteria for pre-nursery, nursery and class one admissions, schools have set their own limits. The lack of standardisation has been a matter of concern for parents.
Last January, the department had issued a circular during admissions under the RTE quota that the lower age limit for LKG admissions would be three and upper limit would be four years and six months. For class one admission, the lower age limit was five and upper was six years six months.
However, in March the department retracted the circular and extended the upper limit for both LKG and class one admission by three months, which led to confusion.
While Section 20 of the Karnataka Education Act 1983 highlights how the age should be computed, it fails to fix an upper and lower limit for admissions.
Officials said that since both orders were issued in the form of a circular, they have very little legal binding. They are hoping to issue age criterion shortly.
This child-centric approach was developed by Maria Montessori. The fundamental principle is for educators to believe that a child is naturally eager to learn and gain knowledge. This method facilitates the physical, social, cognitive as well as the emotion approach of the child. The teacher acts merely as a facilitator and the child learns at his/her own pace.
This term was coined by Friedrich Fröbel. The child learns through singing, drawing and games. However, this method involves guided learning. Play and other activities are designed to make the child learn.
This method was founded by Rudolf Steiner. It aims to integrate various faculties in the child and gives importance to imagination and hands-on activities. Teachers have a lot of autonomy in designing the teaching methodology and curriculum. The assessment of a student is integrated into day-to-day activities while testing is introduced at a much later stage.