Update on Benjamin’s school 2

March 3 wm

This is a follow up post about our challenge in searching for a school to enroll Benjamin. We are facing difficulties with how the schools are assessing the student’s kindergarten readiness.

We cancelled our admission to one school which he passed a strict assessment that included a session with the school’s resident speech and behavior therapist. The school fees were too expensive for us. I know, I should have known before applying right? Yes, but the website didn’t mention all the “miscellaneous fees” that added 35% to the base tuition.

I continued to look for another school. There must be one out there for my son!

Benjamin is turning five years old in October this year (2016) and will be in Kindergarten 2 class (FS2). This poses a challenge due to the fact that the slots are few, especially in schools with fairly affordable fees. If the school has existing Kindergarten 1 students, slots for Kindergarten 2 depends on whether there will be kids who won’t enroll for the next school year. Or if the school decides to expand the number of classes for KG2 (which is less likely).

Long story short, I found another school that opened admissions for KG2. I visited the school and liked what I saw and I also asked around some parents who I know has children there. I paid the assessment fee of AED500 and waited for the schedule of assessment. We went this morning, with high hopes.

After a few assessments on his belt, I am proud to say that Benjamin has gotten the feel of the whole procedure. He was very relaxed amidst the crying children at the reception/waiting area. I am so happy for my boy! He was taken to a room with a teacher and we wait outside. I saw him walking confidently through the corridor, with a stranger holding his hand and he did not mind. I crossed my fingers.

After 30 minutes or so, I was called to see the foundation stage head teacher. Benjamin was seated in front of her desk, just waiting. He was still, with eyes fixed at the globe on top of the cabinet. Benjamin LOVES maps. (I have delayed buying a globe for him. I suddenly felt guilty.)

“Hi, thank you so much. I have to tell you Benjamin is really shy at first…” I started to explain ahead. The head teacher interrupted my nervous banter and answered,

“Oh no, Benjamin was really chatty. He wasn’t shy at all! He was very social!”

I swear I saw rainbows and unicorns when I heard that. I felt my cheeks burning. I envisioned him walking through the colorful school corridors with his favorite Thomas bag. My boy finally found his place!

But my joy was short lived.

“However mama, we have a problem. We have given him a WRITTEN TEST and I’m afraid to tell you he did not do well at all.”

My heart sank. Benjamin was looking around and talking to himself, pointing at the colorful murals this time, counting 1, 2, 3 loudly at the objects on the walls.

The teacher showed me the test paper. He was supposed to write all the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 1-10. There was even a section where they blanked out the letters to test if the child knows what letter comes after a certain letter. He was EXPECTED to have mastered gripping the pencil and writing the letters and numbers perfectly. At four. From the nursery, from home. What were they doing at the nursery?! I was asked.

March 1 wm

Although he brings home his worksheets from the nursery with completed tasks, I am very aware that Benjamin still lacks writing skills. His pencil grip is weak and when I ask him to practice at home (which I honestly will admit, I dread having him do “homework” at this age!), he says he is already tired.

Moms with kids at the nursery, tell me: Do kids at your nursery school WRITE a lot? Is that how nurseries should work? I feel so LOST.

“We only have 1 year before he goes to Year 1. There’s not much time. The children in Year 1 will be writing sentences and essays (seriously she said THAT). He will be left out at his rate right now if we accept him as is.”

Seriously, since when did Year 1 students write long sentences. And essays?!

March 2 wm

“But we will give you another chance. Practice his writing at home and you can come back in a month. We will give the written test again.”

To be continued.

(Photos posted here are taken at his nursery school and posted at the nursery’s Facebook page.)


  1. Grace! First of all big hugs! This whole process of finding kindergarten for B. sounds really frustrating. I don’t understand this process of assessment. Made me think of college admission test/process way back. These are just kids. Aren’t kids supposed to just play in kindergaten?

    From what I hear, kids are just playing in kindergarten here in Austria. They learn how to read and write in grade school, when they’re about 7 or 8 yo. There’s no assessment necessary to enrol in a certain kindergarten

    In daycare there’s definitely no formal schooling on learning the alphabet and numbers. Kids just play, sing, doodle, run around and sleep. I asked one kindergarten teacher if they discourage teaching kids to learn how to read and she said no. She told us they do not force kids to learn to read but they also don’t discourage. If kids are curious about letters then they “teach” them. With writing she said they don’t “teach” kids to write but they make sure they offer activities for kids to develop motor skills that would eventually be needed in learning to write.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the next post. Keeping my fingers crossed for B.



  2. I also just shared the challenges I experienced finding the right school for my daughter. Although she can write letters and numbers and can identify them, during assessment we were told that she doesn’t know phonetics and the head teacher said it’s a requirement for FS2. I felt like throwing a tantrum!

    After several discussions with the teacher and registrar, my husband and I agreed that we will find a nursery that can teach phonetics. There are also lots of youtube materials we can practice on. To be honest, I can promise anything just for her to be accepted. I’m tired of looking for school. All the best!



  3. My younger child attended nursery for 6 months before KG1. They did some writing, but i don’t think it was that much. They were, however trained well enough for pencil grip, and when she left for KG1, she can count and recognize numbers, write slowly and read letters, and knew her colors. During her KG1 interview, she did not at all say anything! She was responding though by looking and pointing at things, and took the duck when they asked if she wants the yellow toy. They offered her a chocolate, and she refused, lol! But then, we’ve been telling the girls not to accept things from strangers. We said sorry to the assessors for her not talking to them, but they said that it was alright, they only wanted to see if the child can interact or respond. She’ll be starting her KG 2 this April, and her year of KG1 was almost everyday homework of letters and numbers. They had started sight words too since January.

    The elder child had started her KG1 in Dubai but we moved her to Sharjah for KG2 since she leaves so early and comes back quite late. Sharjah schools were full when we started inquiring, and since she didn’t join a nursery previously, we missed registrations and admissions within the emirate. For her to be accepted in KG2, they gave her reading and writing test for 1-20 and ABC big and small letters.

    Unfortunately Grace, yes, they write some essays in first grade, though that comes later in the school year. It’s quite unbelievable, but they do in the elder child’s class when she was in Gr1. And smothered with homework and holiday projects.

    I think your Benj is smart Grace, and with practice he will have a better pencil grip and pass that writing assessment.

    I do concede though that getting a place in KG or FS here is more difficult than getting into the college of our choice back in Pinas 😦



    1. Back in the Philippines, the parents just pay to get a place in school for their kids, right? Or has that changed too and now with assessments?



      1. They do in SPED schools and science curriculum schools from KG or Gr 1. Two of my former classmates’ kids got in UP-IS and DMMSU, had assessments before getting through for Gr 1.

        I knew a mum before whose 2 girls were studying in a SPED school, and they were admitted for KG after some tests too. That one was in late ’90s. So much competition to get in that school in Baguio though, because they promote students that are deserving, and they accept special needs students. So those girls, who were Gr 3 & 4 that time, can communicate so well in sign language because they were all taught to do so, since they have deaf-mute schoolmates.

        The rest are still the same, your choice of school and if slot is not filled out, you get an admission.

        I’m sure Benjamin will be admitted and he will catch up with his classmates. Your little man is smart like mum 🙂


  4. More reasons for us to seriously consider homeschooling! I can totally relate to the lack of “writing skills” as my 5 year old son has to hear the same complaints from his teachers, but I don’t bother. My best wishes and love for little Benjamin! 🙂



    1. To be honest, I never understood why some parents homeschool their children till this challenge with my second child. Now, I would if I could but I work full time. Thanks for leaving a comment! I wish they’d just take him in, I am sure he can manage, with time.



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