Last updated: August 20, 2019
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Kindergarten Readiness

 

Once upon a time, children were known to be happy-go-lucky beings. Aged, cynical grown-ups watched them play and wished they could return to being a kid. Not anymore though. Gone are the days when kids skipped through childhood and had not a care in the world. Now they have worries too – getting though preschool, then being able to get into kindergarten, and then most importantly, making it through kindergarten.

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Science and technology have made unimaginable progress. The business world is booming. The pressure to rake in the money is becoming an infectious disease. Given the situation, parents want their children to be ahead, all the time. The rat race becomes more intense and the onus is on the education system. Children in a kindergarten classroom are being fed everything that can possibly be crammed into their little minds. Earlier on, children in preschool were expected to know the basics – their names, alphabets and colors. The trend has clearly changed. A student in preschool is being trained in every aspect of life and if they’re not, they better be getting home schooled, or getting into kindergarten will be one big problem.

 

Some of the things a child needs to know to be able to even get through a test are shocking. In an article titled Kindergarten Readiness, Irene Taylor lays down a few of the skills that educators agree a child needs to have – recognize shapes and sort objects by color, size, and shape, use scissors, crayons and a pencil correctly, know his address, be able to hop on one foot, skip and walk backward, and bounce and catch a ball.[1] What if my child weren’t athletically inclined? Out he/she would go. Sample this – kindergarten content of elementary schools state that students will learn to “identify story elements: plot, setting, characters”, “understand that stories have a beginning, middle, and end”, “begin to form letters with control over size or shape” and “comprehend relationships between numbers 1 to 30”.[2]

 

Yes, the times are changing and the education system has to undergo a revamp from time to time. No longer can rote learning be the norm. The syllabus will have to include more than reasoning and logic. Yes, knowledge and information gain prime importance and children will need to be able to brace themselves for a highly competitive future. But to impose this change on children who are sometimes below the age of 5 could be a decision bordering on sadism.

 

In 1983 a federal panel released a study entitled A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, which concluded that schools in the United States were not succeeding in teaching our children. “School districts around the country responded by instituting more rigorous curricula,” says Lorrie Shepard, Ph.D., professor of education at the University of Colorado in Boulder, who has studied the issue of kindergarten readiness. To make sure that children were keeping pace with the new expectations, schools also began administering standardized tests to their students, even first-graders. “The consensus was that youngsters needed to be better prepared for the first-grade tests, and so kindergarten became more academic,” Dr. Shepard says.[3]

 

As a direct result of such a decision, kindergarten entrance exams (yes, a five year old can take an exam!) are something both children and their parents dread equally. So they have to ensure that their kids are getting into the right schools – ones that will train them sufficiently well to make it through to good kindergarten schools. There’s another problem. A preschool, unlike kindergarten does what it’s supposed to do. Children are given the fundamentals of education but that’s not sufficient. Parents have to put in the extra effort since pre-school learning does not amount to too much. Parents should ensure that ‘kindergarten readiness’ skills are being taught. Parents often have to visit the preschool teacher and make a note of the skills that are being taught. A preschool teacher will be the best judge of a child’s capability and is able to give parents a fair idea of what a child’s skill sets are and how he/she rates when compared to others of the same age group. This is presuming that parents aren’t sending their kids to preschool at the age of two.  Here’s when it gets bizarre – there are readymade kindergarten exam papers that are available, just so that your child can get familiar with the pattern, improve on speed, not make too many mistakes, not use the eraser too often, you know what I mean. Kindergarten screening practice is essential. Phew! He might as well be preparing for his entry into medical college.

 

Recently, a decision was taken on the minimum age at which children could enter kindergarten: at five years. It was a good and necessary change that had to take place. Considering that kids in kindergarten are now being taught what first graders studied, it is imperative that the child is slightly more mature. Books form a large part of the curriculum, reading and writing begins very early and even problem solving is thrown in for good measure.

 

Given what a child is expected to know before he or she is five, what do parents do if they realize that their child will not be able to make it? They don’t have too much of an option. Skipping a year and training the child to pass the entrance tests is what will work. “Nowadays parents concerned about such pressure often choose to hold their children back for a year. Ironically, this solution exacerbates the problem.”[4]

 

Is the information influx in five-year-olds all bad? Not really. It has been noticed that children who are trained from a very early age to cope/deal with larger amounts of study material are likely to fare better in their later years. Statistics for children in elementary school show that nearly a decade ago around 11 percent of children had to repeat a grade while in elementary school, whereas only 5 percent had to repeat in 2004.[5]

 

As set standards are getting higher, today’s generation is doing a relatively good job of being able to deal with it and excel. On the other hand, there are exceptions. This rule of five being the minimum age is yet to come into effect in several schools. So parents of four-year-olds consider putting their child into kindergarten as soon as possible. Little do parents realize that the youngest ones in the class are the most uncomfortable and unprepared. The difference between a child that is not yet five and ones that are five and above is very distinct to any kindergarten teacher. They pose a real challenge. The syllabus that needs to be taught to this group of mixed ages also becomes a problem. How does one set the curriculum – based on the youngest student or the oldest one?  It seems like educators are forgetting that in a classroom, there will most probably be children of varying social levels. The environment they come from will be drastically different and one cannot expect every child to be topping the class, without keeping in mind his/her situation back home. Also, most children at that age are unaware of what they can and can’t do. When told to do something that may be a little beyond their capabilities, it is seen to affect them negatively. Low self-esteem and peer pressure issues begin very early.

 

“To impose a strict structure on children in kindergarten totally violates what we know about early childhood development,” says David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University. Even worse, Elkind notes, “children feel stupid when they are asked to do something that they are developmentally unable to do.”[6]

 

Teachers and policy makers are forgetting that children are not adults and making them finish school faster will not make them any better adults. While teaching adults, the principle is often to teach them something and then teach them something tougher. Children are not on the same page. Most times, they’re comfortable being where they are and pushing them further, making them carry heavier packs is only going to retard (pun unintended) their journey towards adulthood.

 

Add to this the fact that kindergarten schools are also planning on making students come in for the entire day, full five-day week, and are beginning to phase out the ‘nap-time’ blessing. Why? It give teachers the opportunity to tutor them better, spot a weak student and give him an extra lesson or two and assess all their students on a regular basis. A child will also be able to shift easily from kindergarten to first grade. After all, it is for the child’s benefit. “The new schedule would give students 29.5 or 32.5 hours of school time each week, compared to their current 23.5-hour schedule.”[7]

 

Parents are being given the option of whether to send their children to school for an entire day or opt for a half-day schedule instead. While some parents are of the opinion that a few extra hours in school would do their children good, some others believe that there are definite levels to which a child can be pushed. Beyond that, spells danger.

 

Five-year-olds in school for seven hours with no time to rest. Are we setting inhumane conditions for our children? The more competitive a society becomes, looks like the more its children will have to suffer. Parents who try an alternative method, giving the child adequate choice between work and play can be sure that their child will not turn out to be a dull, old, geeky, frustrated Jack. Immensely successful yet with a childhood they will remember fondly – is that a remote possibility?

 

A child is a child is a child and one cannot stress on that enough – not to over-expectant parents, not to a demanding and unrealistic education system and its promoters. Ask of them, but not too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

1)    Faith, Miss., The Kindergarten Debate : Is your child really ready?, 26 March 2007. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/168431/the_kindergarten_debate_is_your_child.html

2)    Glavin, Kristiana., Full-day kindergarten gets mixed reviews. 26 March 2007. http://www.newcanaannews-review.com/ci_5418460

3)    Levine, Beth., Is your child ready for kindergarten. 26 March 2007. http://www.sesameworkshop.org/parents/advice/article.php?contentId=902

4)    Star, Linda., Kindergarten is for kids. 26 March 2007.  http://www.education-world.com/a_issues/issues325.shtml

5)    Taylor, Irene., Kindergarten Readiness, 26 March 2007.  http://preschool.suite101.com/article.cfm/kindergarten_readiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Taylor, Irene., Kindergarten Readiness, 26 March 2007.  http://preschool.suite101.com/article.cfm/kindergarten_readiness
[2] Star, Linda., Kindergarten is for kids. 26 March 2007.  http://www.education-world.com/a_issues/issues325.shtml
[3] Levine, Beth., Is your child ready for kindergarten. 26 March 2007. http://www.sesameworkshop.org/parents/advice/article.php?contentId=902
[4] Levine, Beth., Is your child ready for kindergarten. 26 March 2007. http://www.sesameworkshop.org/parents/advice/article.php?contentId=902

 
[5] Faith, Miss., The Kindergarten Debate : Is your child really ready?, 26 March 2007. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/168431/the_kindergarten_debate_is_your_child.html
[6] Star, Linda., Kindergarten is for kids. 26 March 2007.  http://www.education-world.com/a_issues/issues325.shtml
[7] Glavin, Kristiana., Full-day kindergarten gets mixed reviews. 26 March 2007. http://www.newcanaannews-review.com/ci_5418460