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PESHAWAR, June 9: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education Department has decided to start pre-primary or nursery classes in government primary schools for children below five years of age, sources said.

It would be the first such initiative by the education department to pay attention to the education of children who come to the primary schools, but are not registered because of their lower age.

For this purpose, a project titled “Early Childhood Care and Education” would be included in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa budget 2013-14 that would be tabled during the budget session of the provincial assembly likely to be convened in coming few days.

Presently, the registration age for children in the primary schools is five years and the unregistered children coming to schools are usually of three to fours years of age, a primary school teacher told Dawn. So far there are no special arrangements for the unregistered children rather they sit with the registered students of the starting primary class called awal adna.

The teachers usually do not pay attention to the unregistered students, he said and added that they left the school for homes prior to the scheduled time.

The sources said that around Rs300 million would be allocated in the upcoming budget to the project under which early childhood education rooms would be established in 500 primary schools.

“There will be informal education in the early childhood care and education rooms,” said an official of the education department. He said that such rooms would be decorated with different materials to develop interest of the students. Different attractive education tools such as colourful charts, toys, pictures and cartoons would be displayed inside these classrooms.

A non-governmental organisation has already taken such an initiative in 2011 by establishing early childhood education rooms in selected primary schools in four districts, including Peshawar, Buner, Abbottabad and Battagram. The sources claimed that the education department took this initiative keeping in view the fruitful results of those schools.

The teacher said that usually the unregistered children couldn’t learn Urdu and English alphabets and digits in regular class meant for students aged five and above. The number of unregistered students in each primary school is usually between 20 and 30, he said.

In the elite private schools, special classrooms for the students of three to four years old have already been established, preparing the students for formal education, he said.

Principal of Regional Institute of Teachers’ Education, Peshawar, Attaullah Khan said that pre-primary education classes had already been successfully functioning in the developed countries. When children go to schools in their early days and find good classroom environment they just start developing interest in education, said Mr Khan.

He said that retention rate of the students could be enhanced if the government succeeded in establishing early childhood care and education classrooms in primary schools.

The educationist said that colourful charts, toys, paintings, pictures of flowers and animals inside the classrooms besides children of the same age playing with each other would minimise their fear of the teachers.