Starting school in Dubai

Mummy secures little Eva in the car seat and drives to the nursery. The little girl is crying hysterically as her mother hands over her bag with the morning snack and pampers along with a baby toilet seat. Eva is 18 months old and today is her first day of nursery. She will spend 5 hours at the nursery while Mummy enjoys her “freedom”. This is not fiction. This happens in Dubai.

So what do such small kids even do at nursery besides take naps and nappy changes? An 18 month old child has hardly started potty training and can only speak a few words.

Compared to Dubai, kids in the US start kindergarten at the age of 5 and in the UK they start nursery at 3 and then school at 4 or 5. Are children in Dubai more advanced than their counterparts in the UK and US and need to start learning sooner?

After spending 2 to 3 years in nursery it’s time to start school. But hey it’s not so easy. Parents have to register at a number of schools with a non-refundable registration fee of around $135 at each school. Even then a place is not guaranteed.

Ethan is going to be 3 at the start of the academic year and he has been lucky enough to be called for an assessment. Yes, even for starting school he has to go through an assessment. He is to enter a room full of strangers without his parents and answer questions correctly and confidently. He better not confuse his yellows from reds or his circles from ovals or else he will be deemed unfit to enter school. If he clears the assessment he will be put on a waiting list and if there is a place left for him, his parents will receive the lucky letter.

The whole process is extremely stressful and to add to it expensive for the parents. I went through it for my son and in the end I just had to go for the school affiliated with his nursery as I couldn’t get him admission anywhere else. I think it was easier for me getting into university in my hometown than it was getting my 3 year old in to school in Dubai!

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