ABU DHABI // Education chiefs have banned schools from interviewing children for kindergarten places.
The ban comes after parents complained that children as young as 4 were being placed under intolerable pressure, and that the interviews were unscientific and selective.
Parents whose children were rejected after an interview felt a deep sense of frustration, Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister paper of The National, reported.
The ban was welcomed by parents who described the pre-admission interviews as unnecessary.
"Children at this age are too young to be subjected to such an assessment, and why is the child's future being decided in one interview?" said Lina Barqawi, a mother of two.
Mrs Barqawi's daughter attended an interview at the age of 4 and could not handle the pressure.
"She started crying as she entered a room full of strangers. We had to spend a long time before we could calm her and she started answering the questions," she said.
Her younger son, who is in KG2 this year, endured a similar process. "I just feel that this interview is unnecessary. Why are schools demanding that the children are on a certain academic level?" Mrs Barqawi said.
"Why are they depending on parents to educate their children before starting schools? Is this not their role? I feel that it put an unnecessary burden on the children."
Hamad Al Dhaheri, executive director for private education at Abu Dhabi Education Council, said Adec had appointed a team to look into the parents' complaints. Based on its findings, the regulator has banned pre-admission interviews from the next academic year.
Mr Al Dhaheri said access to education was a guaranteed right regardless of creed, ethnicity, nationality or language.
All Emirati and expatriate children have the right to an excellent educational environment in public and private schools, Mr Al Dhaheri said, and he will be holding meetings with private school principals to discuss the decision.
Mr Al Dhaheri urged parents who have encountered selective processes such as interviews at private kindergartens to come forward to the authority.
"Communication with parents is very important for us. Without this communication it would not be possible for the private education department at the council to know of such practices, which we do not accept," he said.