When Pranitha Rao (name changed) sent her son Ujaan to play school when he was 19 months old, she wondered if she was doing the right thing. But when she observed that her son seemed happy to go, Pranitha relaxed.
But at parent-teacher meetings, Pranitha would often hear complaints about her child. “He is very sweet, but just doesn't sit in one place or pay any attention,” her son’s teachers would say. This would dishearten her and she often wondered what went wrong.
Well if Stanford researchers are to be believed, then the cause of low self-control in school at early ages might have a lot to do with age. Thomas Dee, a Stanford Graduate School of Education professor conducted a research with Hans Henrik Sievertsen from the Danish National Centre for Social Research. They found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73% for an average child at age 11. Dee and Sievertsen also observed that the effect of delaying school on hyperactivity and inattention did not fade over time, but increased.
Countries like Finland and Germany (where schooling is considered ideal around the world) start school pretty late. Their kids do not seem worse in later ages. They might not have the advantage of knowing a few things earlier, but they gain something called childhood. And guess what? Finland scores well in international tests of 15-year-olds.
Most adults from our parents’ generation started school at the age of 6. The concept of school before age 6 (nursery school and play school) only started in the 80s and now, we find play schools in every corner of the street in urban India. Pre schools have become a serious step in a child's education ladder.
Primary schools are known to prefer children who have been to a preschool. Working parents feel preschools provide a formal method of learning to their children early on. But what we often overlook is the fact that at an early age, children have limited attention spans anyway and need what is called unstructured play, which may be far more beneficial for their growth.
Some early schools recognise this and allow freeplay time. More often than not, it is during this time that the kids are at their happiest.
So while preschools might be inevitable for us urban parents, let's not take the teachers’ “doesn't pay attention” comment too seriously. And if presented with a choice, delay school like the Danish, Finnish and Germans, maybe?
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Disclaimer: This article was originally published in qz.com
Also read - Schooling Begins At Home