Local Goa News

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pre-primary school, is it really cool?

Panaji: No sooner do their children approach the 'terrible twos' than several parents scramble to send them off to school. The growth of this trend in Goa is attributed to several factors.
Some parents say they are unable to keep up with the mental and physical energy of their toddlers at home, while others point out that they need some space to resume professional life. Then there are some that worry about losing out on the admission quota of the school concerned if they choose to enrol their children any later.

TOI looks at this marked change in lifestyle and how it could impact a child's development, for better or for worse. While several parents across India prefer admitting their children in school during the toddler stagetwo-and-a-half years on an averagein other countries, like Finland for instance, children begin formal education only when they turn seven. The Scandinavian nation, incidentally, has the happiest students in the world, as per findings published by the US-based Centre for Teaching Quality (CTQ) Collaboratory, an incubator for teachers' bold ideas and innovative solutions.
It also figures in the top five happiest countries across the globe in the 2016 world happiness report prepared by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
The same report places India at the 118th spot, behind even Pakistan (92) and Bangladesh (110).
And while there is no collaborative report on the happiness index of Indian students, the increasing number of school dropouts and the incidence of suicide and high-risk behaviour in the student community paints a bleak picture.
The school education department in India, through a government resolution (GR), fixed the minimum age for admission to nursery at three years from the 2015-2016 academic year and six years for Class I by 2018-2019. This is similar to countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan.
When it comes to Goa, some parents make a conscious choice to send their children to pre-primary schools, while for others, it is out of certain compulsions. For instance, one parent says she sent her toddler daughter to a pre-primary because she was afraid she would lose out on the admission quota at the primary school level if she enrolled her any later.
On the other hand, Panaji-based professional Samantha Fernandes (name changed) has been sending her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Ria (named changed), to a play school in the vicinity of the capital city to "allow her to pick up social skills early on".
Another parent says his two-and-a-half year old is learning hand coordination by way of playing with paints and learning simple skills like how to eat and cut fruits. Picking up simple life skills, he opines, is more important for the child in his/her first six years.
"Pre-primary schools for three-year-old children should introduce a play-way method with a smaller group of children. Practical learning should be encouraged to make learning better," says president of the Goa Psychology Association, Amita Quenim.
Then there is a concern about the right kind of mental engagement.
A couple of parents who have enrolled their two-and-a-half-year-old children in pre-primary school, say, "It was becoming increasingly difficult to mentally stimulate our children. We could always have plopped them in front of the television or given them a phone to play with, but that was not how we wanted to engage a growing, developing mind."
Both these sets of parents, in consultation with psychologists, settled for play schools where their wards are imparted informal education in an interactive, stimulating environment. As they look at it, the benefits are endless. Their toddlers, who are single children, have found a socializing platform, are learning early to cope with separation anxiety, are involved in various interesting activities and outings and are picking up vital skills.
Some experts, however, think otherwise. "Three is definitely too young an age for children to begin formal learning," says consultant psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author Dr Belinda Viegas, adding that most children would not be able to cope with the psychological demands (concentration, understanding), social demands, as well as the physical ability to hold and manoeuvre a pencil at such a tender age. Yet, she clarifies that she does not think there is any ideal age at which to enrol a child in school as "this varies from child to child". "A very young child in school may have coping problems, which could manifest as behavioural problems, like inattention and hyperactivity, later," she explains.
Corroborating Viegas' statement is a study by India's National Bureau of Economic Research titled, 'The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health', which has unearthed strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels better.

TOI Goa News

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