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Supreme Court: Minimum age criteria for class I admission is six years

April 26, 2022

The Supreme Court on Monday observed that children should not be sent to schools at a very young age keeping in mind their psychological and mental health. “There is a kind of rush to send children to schools. Parents want to start as soon as their children are two years old. This may not be conducive to their psychological health,” remarked a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh in regards to an appeal by a group of parents challenging the minimum age criteria of six years for admission to Class 1 in Kendriya Vidyalaya for the coming academic session.

Challenging an April 11 order of the Delhi high court, a group of parents claimed that the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan (KVS) suddenly changed the admission criteria for class 1 to six years just four days before the admission process which was slated to start in March 2022. The previous minimum age criteria was five years.

The bench added: “There are studies to show that there is a right age to admit a child to school. Don’t push the child too much. It may impact his ability to grasp and read. There could be psychological impact.”

The petitioners further argued that the change in age criteria without any prior notice is prejudicial to the interest of the students who have the right to participate in the admission process. This also violates their right under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

But the Apex Court quashed all their statements. “The problem is that every parent feels that his or her child is a genius who can adapt at any age. Think about the child and his psychological health. There is a right age to start everything and that also includes schools. In fact, there are some studies to show children do better when they do not start very early,” the bench told the counsel appearing for the group of parents.

The bench said that this is in sync with the National Education Policy (NEP), which has fixed the age criteria with a view to ensure uniformity in admission age. 21 states have implemented the six-plus regime for Class 1 under the NEP, which came in 2020, pointed the lawyer appearing for the central government.

“According to the New Education Policy and also Ministry of Women and Child Development’s policy for early childhood care the minimum age criteria for Class I admission of a child is six years instead of five years. It also distinguishes that 0-3 years falls under child care facility (playschool). So, if one is sending their wards to a playschool at the age of 10 months, they need not worry as there would be no formal education,” said Dr Swati Popat Vats, president of the Early Childhood Association (ECA, estb.2011) which has a membership of 38,000 preschools countrywide, and president of the Association for Primary Education and Research.

Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan (KVS) has just followed the government policy and the Apex court decision too is justified as it is abiding the policies of NEP 2020.”Parents too need to understand that there is an age to begin formal education before which there is no need to pressurise them,” said she.

Vats further stated that the problem is not age, the problem is that each state has a different age group. It is important that all the states in India come under one roof and follow an uniformity in age for admissions to schools.

The court then proceeded to dismiss the appeal, affirming the Delhi high court’s order. The Delhi High Court in its April 11 order,  had rejected the parents’ plea, stressing that these children have not  been prohibited from taking admission. “The only effect of the impugned guidelines is to shift their eligibility to the next academic year which in my view cannot be a ground to interfere with the impugned guidelines especially when the respondents have already received over 7 lakh applications for admission to Class-I for the academic year 2022-2023,” the HC said.

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