This week we looked at the Education System in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, which has been long praised and admired. Before joining this course, I had never really considered the starting age of school in this country, as it is the norm that I have grown up with. However, upon looking at research and other systems across the world, I am questioning exactly why our children start school at 5, sometimes even 4.
Why do our children start on or around their 5th birthday? What are the issues surrounding children starting school before 6? Are there drawbacks to starting formal education so late?
Below is a clip from 2013 discussing whether children, as in Scandinavian countries, should start school age 7:
The clip raises some interesting arguments, pointing out the importance of play in the early years. While children are highly intelligent (as one woman points out), it is good for them to learn through play, developing skills that they will need for further education – and life in general – such as communication and cooperation with others. This informal learning means children will be motivated to learn – a type of motivation that does not come from being told to sit down and complete a worksheet. Fun and exploration are crucial at this age, and denying children this right is, potentially, killing their desire for learning and school in general.
Why do you think Swedish children are attaining higher literacy skills?
The above video raises two possible conclusions about why Scandinavian children perform so well: their later starting age; or the higher qualified teachers.
In these such countries, it is necessary for teachers of any level to have a masters degree. However, I do not believe that you need a masters degree to be a successful teacher. I believe that teaching is a natural talent which can be developed and polished through a degree, but is ultimately an intrinsic skill.
I believe that Scandinavia’s success is more likely to be because of their later starting age. Children have longer to develop social and personal skills through play at an early age, meaning that they are ready to start school and concentrate more on their learning.
Assessment – do we over assess our children?
I believe that they way teachers must assess children is totally against the type of culture we are trying to promote in schools. I understand that is useful to keep written assessment pieces, especially in upper years of primary, however, children at such a young age cannot be assessed as often this way. Teacher observation and actually communicating with the children is a much better way of gauging where the children are at in terms of their academic development.