Most of us have heard those stories from our parents, grandparents, relatives, maybe even teachers.
When modern schooling in the country first started to expand in the late ‘50s, students for schools, set up in makeshift huts with a few teachers, had to be picked up from the villages.
Parents hid their children, declared some to be not normal, and put forward those, who probably had an inclination towards mischief.
They went to school with perhaps only a single set of clothes, the ones they were wearing, and with nothing on their feet. They studied in Hindi and, by the time they completed primary education, many were in their late teens.
Too old to go for further schooling, but perhaps just right with the basic reading, writing and other functional skills to work, in various capacities, for the government that was literally run with a white collar workforce from outside.
This generation understood the value of academic education in a rapidly changing Bhutan that was slowly but surely being pried open to a world beyond the mountains. Their children were sent to schools, and some joined when they were not even six, the stipulated age to enter the education system. But it was not a problem then, because the school system was expanding, and schools had room to take in the underage.
Part of the logic was not to miss out on higher learning opportunities, like they did, because of the age factor. Besides, it allowed room for failing a class or two, and still not being too old.
Older children being in lower classes was still a widespread phenomenon even two decades ago, but many were given double promotions and moved up because they had mentally developed to grasp more complicated concepts taught in higher classes.
Today, the trend is such that most parents want to put their children in school as early as possible, or least much earlier than what government schools stipulate. The logic remains the same – start early, finish early.
How deep rooted this trend has become is best illustrated in a recent case, where a parent actually manipulated census records of the child to make him older, and therefore eligible to join a government school.
In many urban centres, many young parents are putting their kids to school earlier, in private schools, not only to start early, but also because of other pressures of living in a nuclear family. With maids and baby sitters of affordable rates hard to come by, the better option is to start their schooling early.
But there is a reason why starting school is set at six years. What perhaps has not been explained is why it is so. In some European countries, schooling years start at seven, based on extensive research that a child’s mental and emotional faculties need to be developed to a certain level.
Parents need to know why six is the best time to send kids to school.