In the UK we send children to school earlier than in many other countries in Europe but is this really a good thing? Especially as we still end up with some children leaving school at 16 unable to read properly or add up. Research shows that children who start school as much as three years later as in Sweden and Finland soon catch up with British children and overtake them in literacy and numeracy. However, when I first heard this research, I felt a bit resistant to the idea of children starting later. There is part of me that wants my son to start school sooner rather than later. Think about the savings in childcare for a start. Alas my son is born in October and I have almost a whole extra year of childcare to pay for. I also think that he will be ready at 4 to socialise with other children and be stimulated and occupied. So is it unrealistic not to get children to start school at a young age particularly when many parents need to work? This led me to look further into the research on this issue. What do they do in other countries to keep young children occupied if there not going to school? I found out that young children in other countries are in some form of childcare under 7 but it is more play based than our primary schools. These kindergartens work more like a preschool where children can choose what they want to do rather than being forced to sit down and learn. Perhaps this is the solution, allow children to be in play-based classrooms up to 7 years old but still all day. We could easily adapt our schools in the UK to allow more free play. However, I know that some parents may still feel uncomfortable with this idea. You may feel that play based schooling would hold children back and I have this concern too. On the other hand, I believe that play-based classrooms can still enable those children who are ready to read and write early to do so. Those children who are ready to learn will naturally choose to engage in reading and writing activities just like they do at preschool. However, many children are not really ready to read until they are 6 or 7 so the current system of teaching reading early may make them feel incompetent. Starting school so early may also be responsible for the reason why many adolescents feel apathy towards school by aged 14.
Is starting school at 4 too young?
February 1, 2012