There seems to be an absent-minded practice of applying any rule made for government schools to private schools as well. This is one example.

By international norms, the appropriate age for entering Class I is 6 years. In Bhutan, the minimum age for joining class PP is 6, which means the child is 7 in class 1. The reason for this is that there are many children starting school late and there tends to be a rush when older and younger students vie for enrollment at the same time. Through this policy priority is given to the older candidates.

Private schools on the other hand face no such problems. Most parents prefer government schools because they are free and private schools in fact face a shortage of applicants. So why does the government apply its admission age rule to private schools as well?

It seems to be because of is a tendency among some parents to try to get around the government rule by first admitting their children early in a private school and then transferring them back to a government school later. But it still does not justify applying the admission rule because there are alternative ways to close the loophole. It can be easily overcome by establishing minimum age requirements for each class in government schools, not just at admission time. With this rule in place, ‘underage’ students transferring from private schools will receive admission only to the class they are eligible for.

Private schools therefore can and should be allowed to follow international norms.

Furthermore, the reference date for assessing the child’s age should be changed from 1st March to 1st July. Some children are just a month or even days short of reaching the eligible age and on this technicality they lose 11 months. By having the reference date set at 1st July, there will still be some ups and downs, but on average it will be less extreme.

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