Dubai parents worry over changes to school starting age

DUBAI // Parents are worried that their children could lose out on a year’s education after new rules extended the cut-off ages for children to be enrolled in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten 1, also known as the foundation stages.

Several schools, particularly those following the UK curriculum, are in talks with Dubai’s education regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), to be exempted.

Earlier this month, KHDA announced the cut-off date for schools starting their academic year this September had changed to December 31, while cut-off dates for schools starting in April next year had been pushed back to July.

This means that children who are three years old by December 31 can be registered in FS1, or pre-kindergarten, and a child who is four years old by the end of December can start FS2 or KG1 the same academic year instead of waiting until next year. Effectively, some children will start school at least three months earlier than before.

“A lot of parents are concerned that the new ruling doesn’t give a clear idea of what’s changed,” said Sanam Siddique, mother of a one-year-old and founder of the Facebook group Dubai Schools Guide for Parents.

“KHDA’s announcement gives only partially complete information. Parents are extremely worried that their offer of admission will be retracted or their children will be suddenly moved to a different grade level than they expected. There are examples of an FS1 child skipping FS2 and being put in year 1.”