Age of education: Most schools in Dubai and Sharjah say they have not received any official circular on the new cut-off age for KG 1 admissions Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Confusion over a new Ministry of Education (MoE) ruling raising the entry age for KG 1 to three years and eight months has put many schools in a quandary as they have already announced their lists for 2014-15 based on earlier cut-offs.

Schools in Dubai and Sharjah said they have not received any guidance on the new age limit and have admitted children who are three years plus as of April 15, in keeping with the old rules.

In Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) has already enforced the new regulation from January 1. Bangladeshi schools are required to meet the new criteria from January 1, Asian schools from March 1 and Ministry of Education (MoE) and other curricula schools from September 1.

However, most schools in Dubai and Sharjah said they have not received any official circular on the new ruling, though they have heard about it through word of mouth and newspaper reports. Their websites still carry the three year plus cut-off in admission criteria for KG 1. A worried lot, schools are at a loss on what they should do in the light of the new ruling as they have already closed their admissions.

“It’s not the new age limit that is the problem, but the fact that we haven’t been informed about it — and in time,” said the principal of an Asian curriculum school in Sharjah.

“What we would like to know is whether this ruling is applicable for the term starting 2014 or 2015?” asked another principal.

In the absence of any circular from the ministry, schools say the possibility of telling the now under-age children and their parents that admissions will have to be withdrawn is weighing heavily on them. One school said as much as 20 per cent of its admissions will be affected if the new cut-off is applied.

XPRESS queries to the MoE and Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) did not get an immediate response.

Schools have submitted their admission lists to the MoE and are awaiting approval to get a clearer idea.

Razia Zafar Ali, principal of the Leaders Private School in Sharjah, said while registrations were completed in November, interactions with parents and students took place this month. “We usually announce the results the same evening or the next day and parents are required to pay the fees in three days time.”

She said the school has a cut-off of three years and eight months in its first list and three years and six months in its second list this year. “The third list has some children who are three years and five or four months. We can put up the list only when we get the approval,” said Ali.

Another school

Another Sharjah school, which has taken in three years-plus students, said it is seeking clarity on the new ruling, and hoped that it would not apply from this term. “The admission process is long drawn. There are many factors we go into like preferences for siblings, staff children, alumni children and of course the distance factor. The whole exercise will have to be undertaken again if the new rule is for 2014,” said the principal.

As it turns out, different curricula schools have had different entry levels. While Western schools take in children older than three years and eight months, Ministry of Education, public, Indian and some other curricula schools have younger entry levels. “Does it apply to these curricula? We are told it is on MoE’s website, but can we know where we can find it?” asked a principal.

Despite the confusion, schools say they are all for a higher age criteria. Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications, Taaleem, which has long been following the three year eight-month norm, said: “We have always aligned our schools with international norms so students can easily integrate back into their home country’s education system and graduate at the same time as their peers.”