The Ministry of Education and the Abu Dhabi Education Council have sought to put an end to parents’ concerns regarding age for admission into kindergarten. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News Archives

UAE: Children must be three years eight months old to enrol in schools in the UAE, the Ministry of Education and the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) clarified once again to put an end to the confusion among parents.

The confusion began when the ministry issued a circular earlier this year stating that a child should have completed four years of age as of July 31 to get admission into KG1.

Parents whose children go to Indian schools that are under the jurisdiction of the ministry — this includes those in Sharjah and other northern emirates — were concerned because they thought the circular meant that their children have to be four years old to enter school, which would mean that they would fall behind other pupils who go to Indian schools in Dubai, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which allows the admission of children before they are four years old.

Clarifying the issue, Marwan Al Sawaleh, Undersecretary at the Ministry, told Gulf News that since the decree was issued later this year, Indian and Pakistani schools are exempted from the admission criteria this April. However they must abide by the circular issued by the ministry from the 2014-2015 academic year.

When it comes to schools that follow other curriculums, Al Sawaleh said: “Students can enrol in kindergarten at the age of 3.8 years old. By the end of the academic semester they would have completed four years of age.”

Educational authorities in the emirate of Abu Dhabi said when it comes to schools under its jurisdiction, they follow the same criteria: a child must be aged three years eight months by April 1 of the year of admission.

This will ensure that the child is four years old by July 31 of the admission year, in keeping with the Ministry of Education decree No 820, the Adec confirmed to Gulf News in a statement.

“The Ministry of Education’s regulation, signed by the Minister of Education, did not include any clause for age exemption,” the Adec’s Private School and Quality Assurance Department said.

Parents have had doubts about the age for admission in Abu Dhabi schools, but Adec’s clarification reiterates the new age requirement for the 2014-2015 academic year, which was announced by the authority last September.

School principals have also said that they are only accepting children who meet the age criteria.

“We are following the regulation conveyed by the Adec. In addition, we find that children who are aged younger than three years have not matured enough to handle all the responsibility of KG 1 education,” said Rajendran Padmanabhan, principal at the Indian Modern Science School that currently has 650 pupils.

He clarified that the ruling only applies to new admissions, and not children moving up a grade.

Responding to concerns that children who join school at the age of three years eight months will be older than their counterparts in India when they leave school, the Adec statement said students who join at this age will finish Grade 12 at the age of 17, and join university at the age of 18 or so.

Padmanabhan agreed that children will actually leave school at the right age.

“When they finish Grade 12, they will be about 17 years 8 months, and 18 years is the most common admission age for students joining university,” he explained.

V.K. Mathu, adviser to the board of governors at the Abu Dhabi Indian School, held a similar view.

“The age criteria will become applicable from the 2014-2015 academic year onwards, but it poses no real problem of the child being too old when he leaves school. In fact, many Indian states also require children to be aged four in the admission year,” Mathu said.