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Raising age of primary school entry will ‘improve literacy’

For first grade of primary school the age will be raised from the current five years and eight months to six years

The plenum could vote into law on Friday a bill raising the primary school enrolment age to six, and pre-school to five, the chairman of the House education committee said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the committee meeting, Kyriakos Hadjiyiannis said the bill includes an increase in the age limit to five for pre-school education, which is currently four years and eight months.

This would come into effect for the school year 2019-2020.

For first grade of primary school the age will be raised from the current five years and eight months to six years, effective from the school year 2021-2022, Hadjiyiannis said.

In the interim, the bill provides that from the school year 2019-2020, for primary school, the age limit will be raised from the current five years and eight months to five years and ten months until the final change to six is implemented in 2021.

Children to be enrolled in both pre-primary and primary will have to have reached the requisite ages by August 31, just prior to the start of the school year.

Hadjiyiannis said it has been scientifically documented that the children who are enrolled at earlier ages cannot keep up with their somewhat older peers, and develop learning difficulties.

“What is worrying is that this weakness is transferred into their secondary education,” he added.

He said the new arrangement would not create a need for additional teachers, while pointing out that it will be what is pedagogically correct and that “the purpose sanctifies the means”.

The government has previously said that increasing the admission had been a main suggestion from a committee of experts tasked with the promotion of literacy in public schools, and is also part of efforts to improve and upgrade the educational system.

“A series of research data, both international and local, and the experience of teachers and parents leads to the conclusion that at the age of five years and eight months, which is the admission age to primary school, some children, mainly boys, are cognitively and emotionally too immature to follow the primary school curriculum,” the education ministry said.

The change, it believes, will yield multiple benefits for pupils as it will enable children to attend both preschool and primary school with greater learning and emotional readiness and maturity.

“This will help them to more effectively follow the curriculum, which will be enriched to give children new learning experiences. This change is also one of the preventive measures that can be adopted so that the rates of students with a high probability of remaining linguistically and mathematically illiterate are reduced.”

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