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The Supreme Court on Monday took a grim view of the parental anxiety over schooling, observing that children should not be sent to schools at a very young age in the interest of their psychological 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.

The bench was hearing 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 upcoming academic session. The parents, challenging an April 11 order of the Delhi high court, 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 started in March 2022. The previous criteria was five years.

The bench added: “There are studies to show 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.”

In this case, 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, and also violates their right under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the petitioners argued.

But the top court was unmoved. “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 further found favour with the mandate of the National Education Policy (NEP), which has fixed the age criteria with a view to ensure uniformity concerning admission age. During the hearing, the lawyer appearing for the central government pointed out that 21 states have implemented the six-plus regime for Class 1 under the NEP, which came in 2020, and that the policy has not been challenged.

The court then proceeded to dismiss the appeal, affirming the Delhi high court’s order. In its April 11 order in the same case, the HC rejected the parents’ plea, saying they have not been debarred from seeking 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.

Educationist Meeta Sengupta said, “Early learning sets a good foundation for achievement at school but must be led with kindness and care. Early years’ systems that build curiosity, exploration and other abilities are good but others that force children to memorise and perform too soon are not. Finding the right age to start school is really more a question of finding the right care. Schooling can wait, care and guided curiosity are essential.”
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