I know! Controversial huh!
…because you probably did it and you feel that your child is handling it well or can handle it. After all, they are either coming tops of the class or is doing well above the 70s grade point.
Sadly this thinking is not only misleading but is proven to have downward effects.
Before we highlight reasons why this doesn’t make for best education practices, take a look at the age at which children of these top 13 countries in education (based on Math and Science scores) begin first grade.
1 Singapore – 7 years
2 Hong Kong – 6 years
3 South Korea – 8 years
4 Japan and Taiwan – 6 years
6 Finland – 7 years
7 Estonia – 7 years
8 Switzerland – 7 years
9 Netherlands – 6 years
10 Canada – 6 years
11 Poland – 7 years
12 Vietnam – 6 years
13 Germany – 6 years
Do the average. It’s about 6 years.
Do you see any country beginning primary school at 5-year old? There must be many reasons behind that. Those reasons I will argue are deeply rooted in nation building if you research further.
We see many young children struggling so hard. Hard enough just to match and catch up; troubled at the thought of disappointing their parent or being perceived around school by teachers and friends as a ‘slow’ learner. This usually puts a strain on the love for learning and willingness to do more.
Agreed. Many mistakes are made and sometimes there may be no turning back… but at whose detriment?..children….and at the satisfaction of whom?… parents. Isn’t that twisted already?
Why is this one year in the life of a 5-year old significant in building lifelong skills for learning, critical thinking, creativity, innovation and invention?
Simply put, because there are typically significant distinctions in physical characteristics and abilities between ages 5 and 6.
Now, many claim that their child is ‘gifted’ or a ‘genius’, but the yardstick for measuring whether a child is actually gifted is so comprehensive that most claims fall flat when reviewed. In addition, it is not done for the average pupil which is why detailed study must go into it.
Look at this.
Pupils should not be subjected to full classroom tuition until the age of six to off-set the effects of premature “adultification”, it was claimed.
Dr Richard House, a senior lecturer at Roehampton University’s Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, said gifted pupils from relatively affluent backgrounds suffered the most from being pushed “too far, too fast”.
He quoted a major US study – carried out over eight decades – that showed children’s “run-away intellect” actually benefited from being slowed down in the early years, allowing them to develop naturally.
Many bright children can grow up in an “intellectually unbalanced way”, suffering lifelong negative health effects and even premature death, after being pushed into formal schooling too quickly, he said.
Most Nigerian schoolchildren already start nursery and primary school earlier than their peers in many other developed countries; as we continue struggling as an underdeveloped country. To what extent have we been able to apply this resolve towards a given benefit,,,personally and nationally?
Among most (especially in the private sector), children are normally expected to be in primary school by age 5, as most are enrolled in nursery education at age two or three. They are being made to perform certain tasks that impede on their natural born instincts. Instincts that lead to self construction of knowledge that naturally lead to new inventions, innovations and self discovery.
A primary education specialist John Coe says that the notion that learning more earlier nets better results is not supported by academic research.
He says: “There is a unanimity of view among professionals and academics that this is beginning to exceed the personal and developmental capacity of children who are five and six years old.”
Dr Terry Wrigley an academic coordinator says “Many five-year-olds will struggle to name 3D shapes or ‘instantly’ subtract seven from 16. Young children are becoming very skilled at using technology but how many five to seven-year-olds will be able to learn how to ‘create and debug simple programs’? Take a child’s understanding of time. Anyone who has gone on a motorway journey with a child or planned a birthday party for one will know that young children of this age struggle with the concept.”
All these speak to the importance of practicing age appropriateness in our school settings.
What is even more scary is the tasks our pupils are given to perform. If one is being honest with themselves, they will find that children are served with ‘limiting’ content; practiced with narrow opportunities for meaning making. Tasks that should be left for an older aged child with that sort of already developed reasoning capacity. On the other side, sadly, most are being coerced to memorize certain concepts to prove capacity. This isn’t right.
Why should a five-year old be made to solve a two-digit addition/subtraction problem without being made to learn the rudiments behind quantifying two digit numbers?
What will be the need to use two-digit numbers at this age to solve real life problems during play or free time?
This is most likely why our students do not relate numbers or Math with real life thereby struggling so hard with it. Others are given an average of 10 subjects to study without mastering the foundational skills needed for them.
This is the age where hands-on experiences help them to form theories to explain “how” and “why” things happen. Sadly, we tend to kill that spirit of inquiry when we make them do tasks that gives no room for that. On scrutiny, most curriculum being used leave very little room for pupils to engage in the learning process. They are either large and peripheral in volume or narrow and overdone; leaving no room for problem solving skill development.
While the focus for 5-year olds towards proper child development includes;
1. play and learning ( It’s still how your child learns and builds social, emotional and thinking skills)
2. expression of feelings (better control of emotions, patience, open to reasoning etc
3. thinking (developing longer attention span for identifying details)
4. talking and communicating (to build strong collaboration and leadership skills) etc……
…we encourage you wait for your child to be holistically ready in all of the above because of its numerous lifelong benefits. Benefits of maturity and social development are important because we spend longer years as adults.
There are developmental spurts at approximately ages 5-6; 11-12; and around 15. This is referred to the executive center of the brain. It is responsible for rational thought, problem-solving, planning, attention, creativity, self awareness, understanding and interpreting emotion. That is why these key stages are essential to moving into formal stages of primary school at 6 years when the brain is developed for handling some level of content.
There is a misguided notion that children should be more independent earlier, and do things faster and better than their peers if they want to achieve success.
It is an unrealistic goal that places tremendous pressure on each generation to achieve the impossible. We put the brain through more than 25 years of development and experience to go through a crash programme lasting only a few short years.
Having noted all the above, this would be somewhat different if your child is gifted, and this must be checked thoroughly and confirmed to be so.
It is the job of educators and parents to understand the science of learning, the demand/benefits for natural growth in learning that allows for deep learning. Deep learning that brings about smooth and less straining success, the kind that culminates in future fulfillment.
Just that one year makes all the difference.
Think about the year before puberty for boys and girls and how natural changes bring about so much in the lives of teenagers. If managed wrongly, their lives could change forever.
It is becoming obvious that we may be putting the cart before the horse all these years; as we note that the understanding behind new inventions and innovations is still long coming. A good education system naturally leads to new developments.
I can confidently say that this parochial system of education affects the health and growth of our country as a whole.
We must begin to teach using developmentally appropriate methods and strategies. So that our pupils are taught to learn how to learn; NOT learning how we teach. What I term as ABRACAMATICS. Click to read my short thoughts on that.
I have carefully left out issues of funding where many argue that they’d rather their child finishes early to save cost. This is another misconception because you’ve saved what can be quantified at the risk of your child’s overall success in life; not only cognitively but emotionally and socially. There is increasing evidence to this.
We have to rethink our ways and reconceptualise our education practices for the greater good. Your thoughts are always welcome.