UAE school admission age revised: Educators react

Changes welcomed, even as some concerns are raised

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Secondary students gather on stage ahead of their weekly assembly meeting on the last week of the school term in Wellington International School in Dubai.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Secondary students gather on stage ahead of their weekly assembly meeting on the last week of the school term in Wellington International School in Dubai.

REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh
Parents and educators have welcomed the changes made by education authorities to the minimum age for admissions of school students, but these amendments haven't come without concerns for all stakeholders.

The age requirements will change for new students enrolling in FS1, FS2, Year 1 and Year 2 (Pre-KG, KG1 and Grade 1 respectively), according to the UAE’s MoE, resolution no. (24).

For schools that start in September, this change will be applicable from the start of the 2021/22 academic year in September 2021.

The cut-off age for Pre-KG or Foundation Stage 1 should be 3 years by August 31, 2021 as opposed to the earlier deadline of December 31.

Dr Allan Weston, Principal, Greenfield International School, said: “One of the most important components is getting accurate information out to our parent community. We have done this via social media and also by emailing our primary school parents who are most likely the ones to have younger children.”

To accommodate the change, some schools will also add a new class to these learning years.

“We also have a number of prospective parents who were looking for placements in September. They have now opted for Term 3 which starts this year to beat the cutoff deadlines. As a result, we are likely to add a third Pre-KG class to accommodate the increased demand. It does create a slight anomaly for the 2021/2022 cohort of children, who will have more diverse age ranges. We have a lot of questions from parents with some thinking their children currently enrolled in school may need to repeat a year.”

Therefore, institutions are making adjustments to staffing and classes according to the enrollments.

However, for schools that start in April, primarily Indian and Pakistani curricula schools, this change will be applicable from the start of the 2022/23 academic year (next year) in April 2022.

Dr Brian Gray, Principal, Springdales School, Dubai, pointed out: “These changes only come into effect for Indian curriculum schools in the 2022-23 academic year. The changes are to the age requirement moving to March 31 as a cut-off point. This means that children entering Pre-KG (3-year-old), KG1 (4years), KG2 (5years) & G1 (6years) must have reached this age by the end of March.

For our school, parents should start deciding if the well documented benefits of entering Pre-KG mean they should take an enrollment now because there is a chance that the Pre-KG year could be a missed opportunity with the date change. We have always been strong on our belief that the earliest enrollment has an exaggerated benefit for the child because of the cognitive capacity of children in these early stages of their brain development.”

This amendment entails modification in planning, curriculum outcomes and activities as the milestones will change for each year.

Schools explained that they will need to review the learning outcomes, especially in the early years/Kindergarten and design the curriculum accordingly so as to meet the expectations of the different age groups.

Sumaiya Shaukat, KG Supervisor, Gulf Model School, said: “I believe this amendment would benefit the students especially in KG1. At the age of four, students would be able to grasp and meet the academic needs and to perform better holistically. I strongly believe, children at this age should enjoy all the aspects of the curriculum through various activities and not be pushed into the education system at a very young age.

Besides, this would help the transition for students who seek admission from FS1 to KG2 or from FS2 to Grade 1, as this will bridge the gap across the different curriculum.”

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