When Shefali Gupta (name changed), a resident of Punjabi Bagh, had a daughter a few years ago, she was expecting a lot of congratulatory calls. What she didn't expect, however, was the call she got the next day from a playschool chain.
"I got call from the playschool, which has a franchisee in our neighbourhood, asking me to book a seat for my one-day-old daughter. I have no idea where they sourced my number from," said Gupta."When I told them that I would not admit my daughter to a playschool for at least the next two-and-a-half years, the lady on the other side said that the charges would go up by then and if I booked a seat now, I would get up to 50% discount on the prevalent rates," she said.
"The playschool, in fact, insisted that I can send my daughter as soon as she is one year old," she said.
And this is one of the many instances that showcase how, over the years, the age at which a child has his or her first brush with education has been decreasing.
"Many playschools now enroll even one-year-olds under their toddler programme, which is sometimes also called the orientation programme or the mother-toddler programme," said Sumit Vohra, founder of admissionsnursery.com, which helps parents seeking nursery admission for their children.
"Experts say that a year of pre-schooling is enough before a child starts formal schooling but it seems that these days, there is no minimum age for a child to start going to a playschool," he said.
"It has also become a status symbol for some parents. Many also feel their child will start speaking early if they go to a toddler programme," he said.
In most countries, sending a child to pre-school is optional and the age for mandatory schooling varies from four to six years. In USA, about 60% children attend pre-school and the figure is just 30% for France.
Attendance for nursery and kindergarten for these two countries, however, is 100%.
Well-known educationist Shyama Chona feels there is no standard that can be applied to the right age at which a child can be send to a play school.
"Every child has distinct needs and it also depends on the family conditions - for instance if both parents are working and can't depend on their domestic help to leave the child behind," she said.
"It is just a play way and if the baby is small, they get a nice social group where they can spend a day," she said.
"However, it is a different matter if the child is not ready and wishes to stay back at home. It should depend on the child's will," she added.
Chona also feels there shouldn't be any regulation on deciding the child's minimum age to attend a play way.
"The decision should be democratic and left to the parents," she said.