Educational Theory · Musings

Cohorts are not the answer

Of the many things that our government could be doing to improve the lot of kids in the education system, this ISN’T one of them.

Yes, I have a bias. I could not envisage sending my 5 year old off to school when it was almost time for her to go. I couldn’t see how she would cope with the long days, and quite frankly, I wanted her to have a childhood full of free time, exploration and fun. No, I’m not an overprotective, paranoid about the wicked world, mother.

I began to read more about childhood development and growth as the time drew nearer, and read, and read and read. I listened to experts talk about their research. In these times of ‘don’t trust the experts’ I know just how outdated that sounds.
I then took what I learned from all of this reading, watching, listening and I weighed it up against what I could see in my own home, in front of my own eyes. I didn’t abdicate my decision to ‘experts’ but I took on board what they said and engaged my own ability to think critically.

At no point in all that reading did I come across anything that advocated for children entering earlier formal learning environments. In fact, pretty much everything I came across – that I could assess as ‘independent’ information – said the exact opposite. We should be sending our kids to school and a formal learning environment at a much later age. Especially boys.
We should be advocating for kids to be entering into academics after the age of 7… NOT at 5 or even 4.

It worries me then, to read this statement,

Of 1117 public submissions on the cohort proposal, nearly three-quarters were supportive, including 76 per cent of parents and 80 per cent of teachers.

If you are the parent of a young child, or have friends or family who are one of that 76%, please, please, please do NOT sit back and let this happen without any research on your part.  Please, for the sake of your children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, get people to look at the extensive amount of work done on the developmental process that children go through.

And think about what you want your education system to look like – will we continue to take steps towards following the high-performing Asian model of stress-filled academics that can burn children out, or will we follow the integrated yet high performing Finnish model which allows for developmentally appropriate learning and plenty of free time to bed in all that knowledge acquisition.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers which option I think would serve our country’s children best.

At what point did it become acceptable to stress out and measure every aspect of our kids?  When did we stop thinking about them as kids and start thinking of them as vessels that need to be ‘filled with education’ so that they are ‘prepared for the real world’?

If you have kids in school, the only time they’re actually in the real world is when they’re out at the grocery shop helping you pick stuff off the shelf.  School is not real life.  It isn’t even a work-like environment, unless all of your colleagues come from the same socio-economic group, your very local neighbourhood and share your birth year.   Please do us all a favour and disabuse anyone who suggests it ‘prepares them for the real world’.

School isn’t a bad thing. Kids need to learn, and not everyone is able to or wants to educate them at home. That is totally fine. There are fabulous teachers out there who do a great job of it.  For them to do a great job though, requires they have kids in their classrooms for whom the work is developmentally appropriate and who are physically and emotionally ready for the experience.   The more we squeeze the starting age lower, the less we are listening to the ‘experts’ understanding of what goes on with our children’s brains, bodies and emotions.

FOMO on behalf of our kids’ early educational attainment and their future is going to create a new generation of Millenials, only this group won’t be the all about me generation, they’ll be the anxiety ridden, never feeling like they are smart enough generation.  All that testing, grading, ranking and comparing to others will do wonders for their self-esteem… won’t it?

Yeah, right!


Here is the link to the Stuff article that inspired this part rant, part plea.

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