Entrance exams are bad for young children. It is high time for Nepalese urban society to learn this

Abinash from Bhaktapur visited one of the renowned schools in Kathmandu three weeks ago for a first grade entrance exam. Like him, hundreds of school children went there for the same reason. After a few days, when the school released its result, Abinash’s name was not on the list.

It made him sad.

“The result saddened Abinash for a few days; we couldn’t wait to see him sad,” says Archana, Abinash’s mother who prefers to be known by a pseudonym. “But, somehow, we managed to convince him, and now we have registered him in another place. Luckily, he’s having fun there.

There are a number of schools, especially in Kathmandu, which hold very competitive entrance exams for the hundreds of young children, and only a few of them can pass the tests. Surprisingly, there are also institutions dedicated to organizing entrance preparation courses for these young children.

But, experts believe that such exams are undesirable for young children who are looking forward to the first grade, because failure there will have a long-term psychological impact.

The emphasis reserved for academics

Lately, a discourse on the relevance of entrance exams for young children is taking place in different parts of the world. According to an article published by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in March 2022, such examinations can be an obstacle to the growth and development of young children.

Entrance exams, according to the article, examine the academic content of children. However, many kindergartens do not provide lessons above the pre-primary level and instead focus on preparing students to be ready for the first year at another school. But, unexpectedly for them, the entrance exams ask them academic questions.

Representative image: a review

“World literature shows that a heavy focus on academic subjects during the early years of a child’s life puts undue stress on a child and negatively impacts their motivation, self-confidence and attitude towards life. ‘school,’ the article read.

But, on the attraction of urban Nepalese society to the trend, the article comments: “Many educators and parents in Nepal may not regard these non-academic skills and attitudes as important factors. They tend to focus on immediate learning outcomes that they believe are directly related to later academic success.

Instead, the article indicates that non-academic skills and attitudes and approaches to learning actually play a fundamental role in supporting children’s long-term learning trajectories.

Why is it wrong?

Psychologists also say that it is inappropriate to hold entrance exams for young children.

“Such examinations can put undesirable pressure on these children. Students who fail the entrance exam may even feel inferior at a young age,” says psychologist Gopal Dhakal. “This is a totally wrong practice.”

Corroborating the UNESCO article, Dhakal also asserts that every child is unique and talented in their own right, and their abilities cannot be judged based on the entrance exam. He says that children should not be compared to other contemporaries.

“Instead of sending children to schools that have competitive entrance exams, parents should take them to schools that have a supportive environment for child psychology,” says Dhakal. “Children can only perform well in schools that have such an environment.”

Dhakal urges parents to motivate their children in every possible way if their child has failed an entrance test.

Constraint or desire?

Photo: Pixabay

But, schools have their own constraint.

Among many schools, St Xavier’s School based in Jawalakhel is one of the academic institutions that hold highly competitive entrance tests for young children. It recently held a grade one exam, in which 3,272 children participated. Among them, only 175 children were able to appear on the list.

The school says it’s her compulsion to conduct the entrance exams.

“The number of places for students is limited, but the number of students who aspire to enroll in our school is significant,” explains Rajendra Acharya, administrative manager at St Xavier’s School. “The situation forces the school to organize the entrance exam for young children.”

Potential alternatives

The pedagogues also denounce the fact of having young children pass entrance examinations and advise the schools and organizations concerned to find alternatives to it.

“Schools should jointly adopt a system of placement testing to understand students’ interests and orient them to schools accordingly,” says Bidya Nath Koirala, an educationist and former director of the education department at Tribhuvan University. “Young children should never be referred to as failures.”

But, Koirala admits that it is still difficult to start the placement testing system in a country like Nepal.

But, he says, “in developed countries like Nepal, the practice of denying the enrollment of children on the basis of an entrance exam is considered a crime”. He says denial also means the deprivation of basic rights of the child.

As a child-friendly alternative to the entrance exam, UNESCO suggests that local governments promote random and fair processes such as lottery or lottery, either manually or using any what computer application.

“If the school wants to do the assessment, it must be done based on holistic development or early learning and development standards and not based on potentially dangerous paper-and-pencil tests,” reads the statement. ‘article.

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