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When should kids go to school? Pros and cons of teaching 5-year-olds

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Society has not yet recovered from the transition to a 12-year education system, when a new information source for discussion emerged: should children go to school from the age of 5?
09:47, 24 November 2020

A principal of one of Kyiv's schools violated safety rules during a lockdown
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The Minister of Education and Science Serhiy Shkarlet forced parents to think. Fairly, the news from the official literally sounded like this: Ukraine is only "preparing to discuss the possibility of starting the education of children in schools from the age of five."

That is, as of now, there is not only a specific decision but even a conscious intention to make it. And yet, the bureaucracy sometimes at lightning speed introduces the most unexpected ideas, and there is no time left for their comprehension and implementation in new realities. Therefore, 112.ua picks up the call of Minister Shkarlet to take part in the discussion of this topic. After talking with parents, taking into account the point of view of the government and psychologists, we must say the following.

When a child goes to kindergarten, parents are not afraid of his too young age. And this despite the fact that being at preschool institutions begins at the age of 2. This is if we talk about state kindergartens because private ones also accept 1.5-year-old children. But kindergarten is not only games and entertainment, it is also a certain level of education and discipline, and in such cases, parting with mom is inevitable. However, no one views kindergarten as inflicting psychological trauma on a child, early deprivation of childhood.

The idea of ​​the Ministry of Education is to continue the development of the State Standard for Basic Compulsory Education, initiated by the government. The document was adopted on September 30 by the Cabinet of Ministers, but a number of gaps remain in it. Because if we talk about the concept of the "New Ukrainian School" (NUS), then so far two cycles have been worked out, into which secondary education is now divided. The first cycle is called "adaptation" and covers grades 5-6, and the second is the "basic" cycle, which continues during grades 7-9.

But NUS is not only secondary education, it is also primary education. Now it starts at the age of 6, but quite often seven-year-olds are sent to schools. There are no clear obligations imposed on parents in this matter, and the ministry, obviously, is striving for certain unification. And therefore, it speaks of the introduction of compulsory education for 5-year-old children, although in practice for them this will mean staying in the same kindergarten. Only now this will be under the supervision of the state.

This, at least, follows from the words of Minister Shkarlet.

“The point is not that children at the age of 5 have to sit at their desks for 35 minutes of a lesson. Instead, new forms of acquiring knowledge and competencies are discussed, followed by changes in state educational standards and programs,” the minister said.

He adds that he realizes that "children at the age of 5 and children at the age of 6 have completely different levels of psychophysical development", but at the same time he refers to the positive experience of other countries, where education starts precisely for this age group of students, in particular the United States, UK, the Netherlands.

In order to successfully teach five-year-old children, Shkarlet sums up, it is necessary to take into account the peculiarities of such a group, and then learning, combined with play, recreation, and appropriate socialization, will go like clockwork. It is enough just to find the right keys for the smallest students.

Olga I., the mother of a current high school student, thinks so too. She notes that the level of preparation provided by the senior group of the kindergarten is poor. Since the kindergartens are not obligatory to visit, much is left to the caregivers. And it will already depend on their personal qualities and desires whether the child learns something or not. Her conclusion is: yes, school is needed from the age of 5.

"I am in favor of this. Because the senior group of the kindergarten absolutely does not set itself the goal of adequate preparation for school. Preschoolers are forced to use additional educational services all year round in order to have a foundation of knowledge and readiness for the first grade. And this is unnecessary trouble and unnecessary expenses for parents. And this is a huge stress for children because the senior group and the first grade are heaven and earth according to requirements. A 5-year-old child needs to be given an idea of ​​what requirements the school will put before him. Including psychological ones. Otherwise, from September 1, brainstorming will begin. It will be easier for children if they are 5 years old to prepare for the next stage gradually and competently!" says Olga.

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And Olena K. has been living in France for twenty years. Both of her sons, who are now 12 and 6 years old, were born and went to school there. The fact is that compulsory education in France begins not even at the age of 5, but at ... 3. If we talk about early education, then this country is an absolute record holder. And Olena likes it.

“Children quickly get used to it,” she says. “Because, in fact, there is no other way out. After all, mothers, at least in big cities, mostly work.” “We have quality schools,” she adds, “and this system has existed for a long time, so I am in favor. Our school is divided into 4 stages. The first is called maternelle and covers children aged 3-6 years. The second is élémentaire, for those who are 6-10. This ends primary school and the children physically move to another, to another building in another place. Because young children in France never study with teenagers. The third stage of education - collège - for children aged 11 -14 years. And after college goes lycée, which lasts until the child receives a matriculation certificate. For the smallest in schools, there are all conditions - from tiny toilets to playrooms. They have everything that suits their age," says Olena.

But Ukraine is not France, and the level of preparation of educational institutions for working with children cannot even be compared.

"NUS is just a beautiful name, Tetyana D. is indignant - what will change in practice? Qualified teachers will fall from the sky? They will have a deep knowledge of psychology?"

Tetiana's child did not learn to read and write in kindergarten, and later there were certain problems in the first grade of school. She could not do without tutors whom she recalls. Private teachers educated her daughter in all directions. But Larisa G. has a different story: her son learned to read before he was 5 years old, he is "smart and tenacious", however, being sent to school at the age of 6, he did not fit into the education system, which presupposes a certain discipline.

"The point is not at all that children are" bored "by a difficult program. Now it has been greatly simplified, children in the first grade do not learn letters, but draw sticks. The problem is not in learning, the problem is that such a 5-year-old child cannot sit out in one place for 30 minutes, he wants to play, communicate, and then he hears - sit down, shut your mouth and do what we say. My boy read from the age of 4. He was bored in the first grade, he carried toys to school with which he played in kindergarten, and He pulled them out right in the classroom. For which he received nuts from the teacher. However, other children languished in the same way," she says.

Psychologist Svitlana Roys is also against early school. She emphasizes: the NUS concept is more prepared for working with children of 6 years old, the state standard is sharpened for children of 6 years old. Both training and retraining of teachers are ongoing. But they still have to work and work in order for six-year-old children in the first grade to be safe now and to create an educational environment. Working with a 5-year-old child and a 6-year-old child, she says, are two different worlds.

"Most often, attention is paid to the intellectual readiness for school (it includes attention, memory, thinking, perception, imagination, language, the presence of subject-specific knowledge, mathematical representations, spatial-graphic training and much more), and for this, there is not enough maturity of the prefrontal cortex, and all this is still impossible at the age of 5. But there is also an emotional readiness for school (this, for example, the ability to withstand disappointment, frustration, the ability to perform a task the child does not like, the ability to regulate their behavior). And this is unrealistic for children under 6 years".

In addition, Roys adds, there is a social readiness for school: this includes, among other things, a willingness to be part of a group. And one more of the signs is to understand the meaning of the rules and the ability to follow them. A child of 7 years old already knows how to act/play by the rules, and the games of children 5-6 years old are still egocentric.

Therefore, "if we are talking about being at school for 5-year-olds, it should be a completely different educational institution," not a school ", with a completely different learning environment, approach, standards, specialists, and tasks. Because if we screwed up teaching children in 5 years, then until 10 years old, when they enter the pre-adolescent age, it will be impossible to return them to school," Svitlana Roys sums up.

Actually, whether such a "non-school" will be built in Ukraine depends on officials and specifically on the head of the relevant ministry, who is now calling for a discussion about the age of the first graders. The officials have a complete carte blanche for the development of the school, which both 5 and 15-year-olds will want to go to. Their efforts will be assessed by the students: it is in front of them that the government will take its own "school" exam.

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