Monday 19 October 2009

News Article: Call for lessons to begin at six

First, let's read a news article:

Quoting the entire article from BBC News 16th Oct 09

Call for lessons to begin at six

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Nurseries provide a basic foundation for learning

Children should not start formal learning until they are six, a review of primary education in England says.

Instead they should continue the kind of play-based learning that features in nursery schools and reception classes, the Cambridge Primary Review says.

There is no evidence that an early introduction to formal learning has any benefit, the review says, but there are suggestions it can do some harm.

Ministers say a starting age of six would be completely counter-productive.

Most children start primary school in England aged four, and a large proportion are taking advantage of free, part-time pre-school places in local schools and privately-run nurseries from the age of three.

The kind of learning that goes on there follows the government's "Early Years Foundation Stage", which currently runs to the age of five and is a play-based curriculum which includes some early literacy and numeracy goals.

This is not a wishy-washy - just let them get on with it thing. It's a balance between children-initiated and adult-initiated learning
Dame Gillian Pugh

Continuing this informal but structured learning for a year or so would bring children in England in line with many European countries, where school starts at six or even seven, and standards are often higher.

A similar step has already been taken in Wales where a play-based curriculum has been extended to the end of Key Stage 1, when children are aged seven. A similar system is also being introduced in Northern Ireland.

"This would give sufficient time for children to establish positive attitudes to learning and begin to develop the language and study skills which are essential to their later progress," says the review, which is based on six years of academic work.

It stops short of calling for the age of compulsory schooling to be put back to age six, but does call for an open debate on the subject.

However, it adds, that the issue is less about where children learn than what they learn.

Dame Gillian Pugh, who co-authored the review, said play-based learning was not a "wishy-washy, 'just let them get on with it' thing".

"It's a balance between children-initiated and adult-initiated learning," she said.

'Social disadvantage'

She said four and five-year-olds tended to be at a stage where they were just "tuning in" to learning and that they could be "turned off" if they were made to follow too formal a curriculum, too early on.

Sometimes I think people are more interested in the childminding aspects of primary schools and nurseries than whether or not they are having any actual benefit
Lee Brown, Thornhill

This would be of particular benefit to children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with speech and language delays, she added.

But she argued it would not hold back brighter children who were ready to begin basic numeracy and literacy in reception classes.

The review also notes that there are downward pressures to get children in reception year ready for the early years of school and the tests that follow.

It also calls for free part-time nursery provision to be offered to two-year-olds in areas of social disadvantage and for children with particular needs.

'Pillars of stability'

This would help them get the most out of school and hopefully close the achievement gap, it says.

The authors also call for national assessment tests, known as Sats, to be abandoned, saying their high-stakes nature, being linked to league tables, encourages a too-narrow focus on literacy and numeracy.

Instead, children should be assessed on the broad range of subjects throughout primary school and at its end, but these assessments should be used to monitor children's progress rather than hold teachers accountable.

Welsh schoolchildren no longer sit SATS at 7, 11 and 14, nor are school league tables used there any more.

The review team also called for a major review of the way schools are staffed, arguing that there is a case for using more specialist teachers alongside the traditional class teacher.

But they also said primary schools were "pillars of stability" that were highly valued by parents and pivotal to communities.


England's schools minister Vernon Coaker said the government was already reforming primary education to make the curriculum less prescriptive and free it up for teachers.

He added: "A school starting age of six would be completely counter-productive - we want to make sure children are playing and learning from an early age and to give parents the choice for their child to start in the September following their fourth birthday.

"Our expert group on assessment said it would be a backward step to scrap English and maths tests at 11 and we are piloting a School Report Card, which will give parents a far broader picture of how schools are doing."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: "All the evidence shows that proper, in-depth early years education provided by qualified teachers gives the best possible start to children's schooling."

Wishy-washy : no focus
Pillar of sth: a very important part of sth
pivotal: central and important
counter-: (prefix) oppose to
scrap : to get rid of

This article is longer but it is rather easy to read.

How many of the parents are actually making their kids learn formally before the age of 6? It is sometimes tempting to see other people's kids reciting Chinese poems, speaking good English with difficult vocabulary, or calculating maths with their imaginary abacus in their heads while flicking their fingers unceasingly. Frankly speaking, if I were a father, I would also want my kid to be really smart and be good in everything. But because you want them to learn better, you should also give them chances to develop their brain before they absorb the information.

Children are children because their brain is not as developed as an adult, so they need to discover, learn through trial and error and mimicking. Parents should guide but not force, be patient and give lots of encouragement.

I cannot say how all children feel, but if you ask any adults, their best memories are the ones they feel happiest and saddest. If you don't want the learning part to be part of their saddest memories, then you need to make it the happiest ones.

After reading the article, I suppose you understand that for young children, they should play more, so it is advisable you let them try more and allow them to expose to more, both active (such as sports) and patience-required (such as music and chess). Allow them time and guide them as they discover their own interests, and then develop their interests from there.

As for me, I think the most useful skill that I have acquired is imagination, and I attained that from painting pictures since 2 years old.

If you really want them to learn certain things, then the only way is for you to show the child what you want them to learn more often. But whether they will learn from you eventually, remember it is their choice.

HW: If you do not know the words in bold, check dictionary and then write a sentence each. Post them here.