x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Kindergarten interview ban is a sound move

An interview is an unreliable way to assess the intelligence of a child as young as four

Imagine this: your four-year-old child can’t write all the letters of the English alphabet. And he doesn’t answer every time you ask him a question. Is it time to start worrying about his impending “interview” for admission to kindergarten?

Every year, hundreds of parents in Abu Dhabi go through this anxiety as kindergartens and nurseries enrol new students.

The problem is that an interview is an unreliable way to assess the intelligence of a child as young as four. The very prospect of such an interview can create a false sense of urgency in parents and place the child under months of gruelling and unnecessary pressure.

That’s why the decision by the Abu Dhabi Education Council to ban schools from interviewing children for kindergarten places should be welcomed. As The National reported yesterday, the ban comes after parents complained that their young children are being placed under intolerable pressure.

Common sense tells us that not only is this method of selection impractical, it is also unscientific. The procedure compels many parents to turn their children’s fourth year – which should be devoted to playing with friends and listening to stories and songs – into a study exercise, where the child is taught everything from numbers, colours and shapes to vocabulary and spelling. While learning these things are important for the child, it should not be part of a misguided measure that has no place in modern education systems.

Additionally, most children of this age are taught not to talk to strangers and, as a result, they might find it difficult to open up in an unfamiliar environment. Young children are also moody and may choose to remain silent even if they know the answer to a question.

Moreover, kindergartens that conduct these interviews are dodging their own responsibility, which is to prepare children for the formal schooling that will come later.

As Lina Barqawi, a mother of two, said: “Why are they depending on parents to educate their children before starting school? Is this not their role? I feel that it put an unnecessary burden on the children.”

Ms Barqawi is not alone to be confused. Kindergartens need to have clear enrolment guidelines, but no child should be deprived of admission on the basis of an interview.