What Age Should Your Child Start School?
There are often quite a few tears on the first day of school (mostly mum’s, and sometimes these are tears of joy). Children that looked like overgrown giants at kindy suddenly look tiny and helpless when decked out in their new oversized school uniform. So is five too young for our babies to be sent off to primary school?
Too Young – Say the Swedes
Five years old is considered far too young if you’re from Sweden, where most kids don’t start school until the ripe old age of 7. The Swedish philosophy behind a later start is to give children a longer period of self-generated learning, which they believe encourages a natural curiosity in learning without the pressure of tests. Rather than sitting children down to learn the alphabet or count, teachers respond when the child shows interest. This, they believe, allows children to develop at their own pace and to get a better sense of who they are, before they’re judged in relation to others. Swedish educators say their main goal is to teach children: "To be a good friend and believe in their own abilities.”
Too Old – Say the Brits
Four-years-old is the average age a child starts school in the UK, Wales and Northern Ireland. Why the rush? Those in favour of starting so young argue that four-year-olds are capable of learning the more formal skills like reading and writing, and that starting school early enables children to get a head start in learning. It is also thought that an early start provides an opportunity for children from less advantaged backgrounds to make up the deficit in their learning, as well as providing protection for children from difficult homes.
What does the research say?
Most countries in Europe don’t kick off primary schooling until the child is 6-years old, although many of these countries have pre-school systems which the majority of children attend to prepare them for the classroom.
There’s a lack of conclusive evidence concerning the benefits of starting school at different ages. The best available evidence suggests that teaching more formal skills early (in school) gives children an initial academic advantage, but that this advantage is not sustained in the longer term. so there appears to be no long term benefit to an early start.
There is also some evidence that children who aren’t mature enough to start school early may be at more risk of anxiety as well as lowered self-esteem and motivation to learn, especially if they struggle during those first few months.
What do you think?
Do you think five is too young? We’d love to know your thoughts - please tell us in the comments below.
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