Gone are the days when parents waited till their child was at least three years old to send her to school, and of course, ‘classes’ were added on much later. Nowadays toddlers as young as 1.5 years are being sent to playhouse or pre-school to give them an early start and prepare them for a bright future.
Many of our readers have asked us for an article on the right age to start school, to enrol children in classes, etc., so we decided to give you the information you are looking for. What really is the appropriate age at which to send your child to school? What about enrichment classes or extra classes — do we need these? When do we send children to these classes? Issue 12 (May-June 2013) of ParentEdge had a detailed article on enrichment classes, what these involve, the benefits of these classes, etc. In this article, we focus on how, as a parent, you can decide on when you want to enrol your child in school, as well as in other classes.
The right age to send children to school: Interview with Archana Pental, New Delhi
What is the correct age at which children should start formal schooling?
I personally feel the correct age as far as India is concerned is around four years. Some working parents would prefer three; western countries prefer six+, which I feel is a little late. Four years is the ideal time, because by this age, the child has developed physical skills, eye-hand co-ordination, is emotionally and socially mature, and is also able to control her emotions to a certain extent.
What is your opinion of the pre-schools and nursery schools that small children are sent to — sometimes at the age of 1.5 years? Are these necessary?
I think at that age, children should be allowed to stay at home with their parents. These are the formative years when they can imbibe qualities and social skills from their natural surroundings, especially their parents. Pre-school and nursery school at that young an age do not seem necessary. It’s very important for them to spend their formative years learning family values. Let them have fun when they are young, learning what is important to them and at their own pace!
What about extra-curricular or enrichment classes for very young children — should children be sent for these?
Learning should be fun for the child. These enrichment classes can supplement school learning — of course, they are not a substitute. Since these classes are basically based on the skill or talent of the child, this decision is best left to the parents. If a child is gifted or shows inherent abilities in a particular area, the parent must send the child to a class to hone that skill. Send them to summer classes, teach them to articulate, to understand the world around them — that’s what is important. Filling up their days with classes is not required. I personally feel that at a young age, children can pick up a lot from their parents themselves and from their surroundings too!
What, according to you, is the right age to begin these classes?
These classes should be about channelising the child’s energy and time into a meaningful pursuit of creative instincts. For this reason, I would say, the older a child is, the more ready she is for these extracurricular activities. And don’t push your child into something she does not enjoy or is unable to cope with simply because you feel that it is important.
Can a parent provide a child with the kind of stimulation required at this age without sending them to classes?
Of course! I think a parent can provide much more stimulation and teach the child a lot more than these extra-curricular activities can! Parents are incredibly talented and have knowledge of many things that cannot be taught outside of home.
Once the child starts regular schooling, should she continue to attend enrichment classes, or is what she learns at school sufficient stimulation?
The stimulation provided in school is definitely sufficient. Schools have many hobby classes, sporting activities, debating clubs, etc. which enhance a child’s awareness and show her where she stands amongst her mates. They create an atmosphere of healthy competition. I think once the child has started regular schooling, the amount of exposure and stimulation she receives is more than sufficient for her.