What Is The Right Age For Kg Classes?
Starting school is a major decision that parents have to take for their tiny tots. The right age to start kindergarten, or kindergarten age, varies from country to country because it depends on many factors. In many cities in India, there is a minimum age limit to enroll your child in school. This is to prevent children who are too young for school from being admitted into the school.
Although there is no upper age limit, many schools do not encourage children to join kindergarten after the age of six, unless there is a valid medical reason. However, there are many suggestions regarding the right age for kindergarten, especially when we take children’s developmental abilities. This brings us to the question, what is the ideal age for a child to go to kindergarten?
What is the recommended age to start kindergarten?
Kindergarten, including play school, is seen as the time when children are developing their social, linguistic and physical skills. This is usually by the age of 3. Academic skills are not the only pre-requisite for joining a school.
In many cases, we meet students who are already familiar with the Alphabet song, the first ten to hundred numbers and nursery rhymes, even before they join kindergarten. Although it is commendable that children are able to remember and recite all of these, it is not necessary that they know any of these before they join the school.
What is more important is that the child has a certain level of self-sufficiency. So, it would be best to enroll your child in school when they are able to communicate their basic needs- the urge to go to the toilet, hunger or thirst, discomfort while sitting, running or eating, and such.
Having said that, redshirting, or the decision to delay the start of schooling is slowly becoming a common practice, especially after the Covid lockdown. This may not be the best decision for your child, either. A simple way to decide the right age would be to check with the school in that you wish to enroll your child in. Most CBSE schools recommend that children attend kindergarten, starting with ‘Pre-school’ between the ages of 3 and 6.
Is it okay to skip pre-school?
Sometimes, parents worry about their children being old enough for school. A solution that they arrive at is to skip pre-school and start with kindergarten. There is a common belief among parents that their kids might perform better when they start a year later. Despite many parents swearing by this, there is no proof that delaying schooling by a year would result in better academic performance. However, most students have better social and communication skills when they join the school at 4.
Pre-school equips children with the basic know-how required for school. They develop various skills during their time at pre-school including communication. Pre-school is the place where children develop the ability to listen to and follow instructions, indulge in group-play activities and learn to interact with peers. They also learn about basic shapes, sounds, colours, and so on.
The best time to join pre-school is after the age of 3. However, some schools admit students when they are 2.5 years old, while others like to wait till the child turns three. It would be a good idea to identify the learning strategies that the pre-school has in place, and take a look at the curriculum that the school follows. This will give you a fair idea of how suitable the school is for your child. A good understanding of the pre-school and what it can offer your child is the key to making the best of the first stage of your child’s education.
According to the National Education Policy of 2020, children between the ages 3 and 5 can be admitted to school. The decision to enroll the child in school depends mostly on how the child is able to cope. As a parent, you can check if your child is able to do the following on their own.
Go to the bathroom
Put on their clothes
Ask for water or food
Express joy or sorrow
Interact with others
First and foremost, bathroom skills are an important criterion for children being ready for school. Being able to articulate their need to go to the bathroom, is necessary for students who come to school, even if they use diapers. The second most important factor is that they are able to chew food and feed themselves. Many times, we have come across instances where children are not taught to chew, and the parents expect teachers at the school to miraculously teach the students to chew nuts and food that could be a choking hazard.
Some children exhibit separation anxiety. Emotional development is another important marker to assess if your child is ready for the Foundational Stage, as the NEP 2020 puts it. Although most children are nervous to leave their homes during the first few days of school, they grow accustomed to the school atmosphere soon and are able to leave their homes without creating a fuss every day. Therefore, it is essential that parents prepare themselves and their children to be away from each other during the duration of the school day.
In addition to these requirements, the children should also be able to learn to share, play with others, and communicate their needs to the caretakers and teachers.
What should I look for in the school?
Owing to the many choices that are available in every city, choosing the right place for your child could be an arduous task. The most pressing problems that parents face when they enroll their children in kindergarten are a focus on studies and less on the play, and a lack of quality.
With many educators focusing on early childhood education and understanding the need to incorporate play into learning, there are many options available today. Just as it is important to identify the strengths of a school before you seek admission for your child, there are a few factors that can help you decide if the kindergarten is suitable for your child.
Affiliation to a school- There are many institutions that work only with children of ages 3-6. They are stand-alone kindergartens. These are specialized centres for Early Childhood Education. They come with a set of advantages- that they follow one of the popular methods in Early Childhood Education (Waldorf, Montessori, etc.), they are headed by a passionate educator, and they focus entirely on building your child’s soft motor, gross motor and linguistic skills. The downside to this is that these schools are not a part of a larger institution, and the admission process to primary school could prove to be a hassle. Also, stand-alone schools may not follow norms for age limits, and admit children earlier than required. Therefore, the parents would have to check if the kindergarten meets their age and curriculum needs, and if it is part of a larger institution.
A good curriculum- There is a common misconception among parents that a kindergarten curriculum cannot vary drastically between schools. This could not be further from the truth. Since this is the first step in education, and children start schooling at an early age, the curriculum should cover various skills. The focus should be on developing the child’s skills. The curriculum should also be flexible enough to meet the needs of children of an age group (3-5 years), rather than a particular age. While enrolling your child, understand how the curriculum would be appropriate for their age. This would also help you determine if you are enrolling your child in school at the right age. A curriculum that includes the development of soft motor skills and gross motor skills, along with numerical and linguistic abilities would be best when you enroll your child in school at the age of 3 or 4.
Learning through play- Since children begin schooling by the age of 3, the Foundational Stage should focus less on writing and academic skills, and more on acquiring skills through play. The ideal kindergarten for your child to go to at the age of three would be one with sand pits, water troughs, outdoor play, lots of activities, and learning language through songs, stories and role plays.
A nurturing environment- A toddler who is still exploring its surroundings and curious about everything it sees. You can make an informed decision about enrolling your child after you have observed the school and how the teachers behave around the students. A nurturing environment where the children are encouraged to ask questions is integral to early education. In the absence of such an environment, it would be a good idea to delay the beginning of school for your toddler. However, if the school that you select has an environment that facilitates learning through play, captures the child’s imagination, is caring and makes the child enthusiastic about attending school, then the age of three would be ideal to start schooling. There are some schools that also recommend play groups for children who are two and a half years old.
The NEP talks about children beginning school at the age of 3. It also talks about the first three years being the Foundational Stage which is important for developing motor, linguistic and social skills. The common consensus among administrators of schools is that there is pressure from parents to enroll students who are underage, or not yet ready for formal education. Therefore, we would recommend that you check the checklist we have provided, so you can determine the right age and school for your child.