Most parents are unwilling to send their children at the age of five and a half, which has become mandatory under a recent education reform -- increasing the period of compulsory education from eight years to 12 -- while others regard their children’s access to education at an early age to be positive.
With this recent law, children who reach 66 months of age will have to register at a primary school. If parents do not submit a medical certificate exempting the child from education at that age, the Ministry of Education will initiate legal action against the parents and there will be a fine of TL 15 for every day that their child does not attend school during the academic year. The 2012-13 school year is scheduled to start on Sept. 17 for all primary, middle and high school students, with the exception of first graders, who will start on Sept. 10. Children who turn 60 months will also be able to be registered in primary school if their parents so wish.
This step has caused outrage among parents, who have concerns that their children are still not ready to begin primary school education. However, the move has met with a positive reaction from some parents who believe the earlier their children start school, the earlier they will be prepared for life. Parents who don’t consent to register their children at a primary school generally fear their children will not be able to fulfill the requirements of primary school and therefore seek to postpone the enrollment of their children by a year.
One parent who is unwilling to send her children to school so early, Merve Erdoğan Anıl, told Sunday’s Zaman that experts generally don’t approve of the enrollment of children younger than 72 months, adding: “Why do I have to send my children to school at such a young age even though I believe my children have not yet reached the necessary level of development to accomplish the requirements or tasks of primary school education at all? They [the Education Ministry] don’t have right to impose this on parents.”
Stating that her daughter, Feyzanur, is 67 months old, Anıl further added that her daughter still cries when she is apart from her mother for more than two hours, adding: “How will my daughter stay in a class for almost half a day? Furthermore, there will be some students much older than my daughter in the same class with her. Feyzanur will feel inferior to these older classmates, and her sense of self-esteem might be hurt when she cannot accomplish the same class tasks that the older ones fulfill without experiencing any difficulty. I don’t want my daughter to grow up a diffident person without enough self-confidence.”
Another mother, Vacide Ben, whose daughter, Emine, is 60 months, old told Sunday’s Zaman that although children who turn 60 months will be able to be registered at a primary school if their parents wish, she doesn’t want her daughter to attend primary school this year. “I have registered my daughter to pre-school instead of primary school because I thought the system is so new and I should wait. I don’t also believe children between 60 and 72 months will sit in their seats and will listen to their teachers during lesson time, which generally corresponds to 40 minutes in Turkish schools. As these children are at the age of playing games, they have short attention spans,” Ben further noted.
A mother of a 61-month-old girl, Göksel Çakır, told Sunday’s Zaman that she is happy that her daughter is not 66 months old or over because she would never approve of her daughter starting primary school at that age. Çakır also stated that she never believes primary school teachers will provide the right or sufficient care for children so young.
Ahmet Yılmaz, father of 68-month-old Ali, told Sunday’s Zaman that he will register his son in primary school this year because he believes it will be advantageous for his son to start school early as children are more open to receiving knowledge, adding: “The earlier a child starts school, the earlier they will start to work. I think it will be more advantageous for him. Yes, maybe he will face difficulties during this period, but I believe it will provide benefits to him in the long term.”