We often see tired three year olds in school uniforms going home the same time as their overworked parents. What exactly is going on here? When is fast education ‘too fast’? Sabrina, a member of the Edumark team shares her opinion here.
When I was younger, I loved the story of the tortoise and the hare; it taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of understanding your strengths and weaknesses and using this understanding to your advantage. This theme of “slow and steady” is one which I will be discussing with regards to a child’s education and how that affects their development.
In Nigeria, we place a lot of emphasis on ‘getting there first’ and ‘finishing first’. Few people are really bothered about the process that leads to, and sustains this journey. We are so concerned with being the first and we sometimes forget that the last person in the race is able to learn from the mistakes of the people ahead.
As a child I was never allowed to skip a grade, I was one of those children that went all the way through primary 6. I remember the day my teacher came to our house to inform my mother that I had passed the exam that would let me skip grade 5. My mother shook her head and said, “She is academically developed but is not fully formed emotionally; I will not rush my child into secondary school”. I think I cried for over 2 hours because I was going to be left behind and everyone would think that it was because I was not smart enough; but my mother paid no mind to that. Today, I thank God she acted the way she did. I ended up getting into secondary school and asking myself why I was in a rush to get there. It was a whole new world to me: the catty girls, puberty, wanting to wear a bra and just dealing with growing up in general. At that point I still was not fully thankful to my mother until I started talking to kids that were going to be 13 years old at the time of graduation. Some were quite mature because they had to be, but I always got the sense that they were missing out on their childhood. These kids were rushed into an environment that they were not emotionally prepared for and forced to deal with issues that some adults cannot even handle. People say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but it really depends on the kind of strength you are searching for as an individual.
When I entered the university, I began to really understand how this never ending rush to be ‘first in’ was affecting these students. This occurred when I began to see students that couldn’t connect with their peers, because they had never learnt to ‘play’. Now these kids were not in any way intellectually challenged, but I could tell that they found it hard to navigate the university playground, because they had never really learnt how to connect with people as children. Most were probably rushed through Nursery, Primary and Secondary school just so their parents could say to their friends “my child is obviously a genius; he is in the university at the age of 14.” In doing this, they underestimated the power of play, by not really understanding how much it would benefit their child.
What a lot of people do not understand is letting children play and just be kids, serves them a lot of good. On the playground, kids learn a lot of things, they learn how to interact with other kids, what is socially acceptable, how to present themselves as individuals and essentially their individual core traits. Time on the playground helps them develop their identity, a trait that is necessary to survive in our present confused society.
What I am trying to say with this somewhat elaborate preamble is that it is not always in the best interest of your child to send them to school too early. Kids need the time to develop, to grow, and to just be kids. As my mother says “life is a marathon, not a 100km race.” We need to let children grow at their own pace, not the pace society or the parent demands.
You may ask, so what is the right age to send my child to school, my answer to that is, “forget about what your friends and society think is the right age for your child, and really pay attention to your child’s growth and development”, then that question would cease to be a problem.