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Wednesday 25.04.2018 | Name days: Līksma, Bārbala
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Psychologist: six-year-old children are not ready for school

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«It is wrong to believe that the sooner a child starts going to school, the better their academic results will be. Reforms are performed aggressively, without asking pedagogues or other specialists for their opinion. We lack a comprehensive analysis of the current situation that would be based on studies, not international ratings,» says certified clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Jolanta Lamstere.

It should be said that some residents have signed a petition posted on manabalss.lv against sending six-year-old children to school.

«I can say from experience that children of such a young age are not ready for school. There is no need for them to go to school because the pre-school education programme is already on a good enough level. The teaching process is performed using toys, which are most appropriate for children of this age. In addition, they are provided with healthy sleep, fresh are, and warm food several times a day. The argument used by Education and Science Ministry that children enter their school days unprepared is incorrect. Where is proof of this? If only the child’s academic progress is evaluated, it provides a rather skewed view,» comments the psychologist.

It can lead to serious personality development disorders

The psychologist says a too early intellectualization of the child can lead to serious personality development disorders. The ability to read and write does not define one’s readiness for school.

«A child’s emotional maturity plays an important role as well – the ability to manage and understand personal and other people’s emotions, the ability to communicate, to tell about oneself, form proper sentences, etc. It is also important to consider the child’s vocabulary and motor functions. Truth be told, there should be time for games in primary schools as well. There should be more playgrounds at education institutions. It is also important to ensure that children have the option to go outside more often,» she says.

At the same time, adding that entering a big school with older children, sixth-graders often experience stress, because there are many people in school corridors during breaks. The idea proposed by authors of the reform – reforming and adapting schools – does sound like a good idea at first, but it is no more than that. Even Education and Science Ministry’s reference towards how many European countries make children go to school from the age of six is not exactly correct, says the specialist.

She shares her experience: «I have been to many European schools, and I can say that the education process of those six-year-old children is only formally called ‘school’, but the concept is the same as what we have at our pre-school education facilities. Even our children start undergoing teaching at the age of five.»

From mental overload to physical problems

When asked what consequences could there be from sending a six-year-old to school, Lamstere mentions: «It can result in mental and intellectual overload. A child simply cannot sit still at such a young age. Children want to learn about the world around them, but they do not have the patience to concentrate on just one activity for a long time. Mentally exhausted children sooner or later will require assistance from a specialist, and school psychologists’ capacity is limited. This means it is not possible to help everyone. This creates additional worries and expenses for parents.»

The specialist also says overload and nervousness often results in physical problems for children – it can cause enuresis, develop a fingernail-biting habit and nervous tic, weakened immune system and chronic diseases. If children are unable to handle increased stress, any one of those symptoms may appear. So let’s not subject our children to undue stress, shall we?

Academic success will not be better if children are sent to school at an early age

It is wrong to believe that sending children to school at an early age they will become smarter and will study better. Readiness for school is developed gradually. It is affected by a child’s individual development dynamic, parents and pre-school education before the age of seven. For some individuals, it takes longer to prepare for school life. And it should not be demanded from children who are even younger, she says.

Education reform like communism

«I am getting the impression that the new education reform, including the sixth-graders reform, is being realized in a storm. Merely declaring that we will change the way we think is not enough to change a thing. It will not happen overnight just because such a decision was made,» Lamstere says.

She continues: «This is why I often see the tension that arises for teachers from the chaotic approach chosen for the reform’s introduction process and declaration of a new way of thinking. This only serves to any positive values we have now. School is where old and new values can meet through cooperation of teachers from different generations in providing children with a great deal of knowledge, competences and life experiences.»

The specialist also adds that the reform does not mention what children need. «I am getting the impression that the reform is being realized in a rushed manner, which does not include meeting any criteria. We have to think about what our children need and rely more on teachers’ professionalism, as well as perform serious research about the load children are subjected to in school, and based on that we should evaluate the real resources that have been providing our children with valuable information and teaching experience until now. I think a school’s main function is providing children with high-quality knowledge,» says the specialist.

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