In my line of work I have sometimes had parents enquire about child readiness for starting school. Or I have been told by some parents that their kids are behaving badly because they started school early (four years and 6 months or 5 years old). Or I have teachers thinking some kids are naughty because they started school too early. I have heard some individuals say that it’s okay to star girls early but not boys while others have said the opposite. Now recently, a study by Cambridge university has recommended that children should start school only around the age of 6 and prior to that should attend play-based schooling (aka preschool here). In NSW, children can start school around 4 years and 6 months and definitely have to be at school by the age of 6.
Now, I haven’t yet understood the whole hue and cry around the age of starting school. I will admit I have not read any research articles on this but what I remember from my studies is that the age or cognitive ability of a child is not as important as their social and emotional maturity. Fair enough. But based on that, wouldn’t each child differ? Who is to say a 4 year old is not socially and emotionally mature enough to cope with school. Most of the other research says that children who are enrolled at a later age are academically at a disadvantage.
I started school when I was 3 years and 6 months old. Yes, I did.
In India, the schooling system has two kindergartens. There is a lower kindergarten and an upper kindergarten where we have to wear a uniform, follow rules, attend assembly, sit in a classroom, copy from the blackboard…pretty much all you do at school. We learn to read and write and count. I remember craving to attend school. I would play ‘school’ at home where I was the teacher (but of course) and my grandparents, parents and uncle were my students. I was excited when I attended school and according to my mum, I didn’t cry unlike every other kid. And then, a few days later after seeing everyone get attention for crying, I did so too. But just for a day. I had to sit for tests and exams since Year 1. I was the youngest in my class but that’s because I’m a January baby. And unlike what the guys at Cambridge are saying, I wasn’t fucked up. They reckon pushing a child to learn at an early age will be a disadvantage and that’s why prior to age 6, a child’s life should involve a lot more play.
I think children should have a balance. The problem today is all work once they begin school and most of the ‘play’ is on the computer or in front of the telly. Also, by attending school, children learn to follow rules and structure. They learn to share and develop their social skills further. They learn patience. They learn that not everything goes their way. How are they going to learn all this at home (especially if they are an only child)? The longer they remain at home interacting with only a few other children, the longer they are likely to take to adjust to school. Again, I understand there are individual differences and when I am talking, I’m sort of taking a generalistic viewpoint (Pretty much like how the researchers do…which probably doesn’t help my case!)
I guess though, to cut a long rant short, why do we need a specific ‘age’ to have to send kids to school? When a child seems ready to learn, send them to school. Period. And then see that there is a good balance between work and play. Get them into sport or music or dance (without pressurising them!) Get them outdoors. Don’t put them for extra Maths and English tuitions in Year 1. That will fuck them up!
What do you think?
I know there’s many parents out there — what did you do or what do you plan to do with regards to your kids? Is age important?
What about others…when did you start school?
And if anyone can share any other research, please do. (I will try to go to the uni library soon and look this up! It’s not purely for blogging…will help me professionally as well)
So do share. I am curious.
Until next time,