Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Eternal Dilemma of SOME Parents

When parents choose not to be concerned with the academic standards of their preschoolers, it would seem reasonable to expect them to be the least affected when their kids are streamed into mixed or low abilities classes in Primary schools.

However, this is often NOT the case. Read here for details.

If a parent decides, for whatever reasons, that it is perfectly OKAY for his child not to learn much in his preschool years, then he should be prepared that his child will meet kids in primary school who are more advanced academically. 

Is it unfair to differentiate a fast learner from a slower peer at this age? 

In today's education system and the world our kids live in, it isn't. It is the smart thing to do. In fact, I think it should be something that ALL primary schools do. Perhaps the differentiation should begin even earlier as explained by this expert.

If a school can differentiate the fast learners (let's say those who have a good foundation in their Maths and English) right at the beginning, from those who are still grappling with their alphabet, reading and counting, then the teachers can be more effective in delivering lessons to both groups. 

So whenever I hear or read (from blogs of) people's negative comments on parents who are too anxious over their preschoolers' education, I just smile at their obvious ignorance. 

Perhaps these parents aren't aware of the reality: what's expected of our 7-year-old newbies when they enter Primary schools. Perhaps they know, but are in denial!

Whatever the reasons, their kids are the ones who will pay the price later if they can't catch up with their peers - either by being burdened with tuition classes on top of their already crazy workload and/or have their self-esteem and confidence take a serious beating. 

The ironic thing is this very same camp who feels so strongly about NOT pushing their kids academically at an early age (or 'hothousing' or whatever terms they use), may most likely be upset with the schools' effort to group slower learners together and view such moves as demoralizing and detrimental to the child's growth.

Whether they approve or not, kids will end up being grouped one way or another by abilities. Even if we pick a Primary school that does not stream at lower Primary levels, kids will still be streamed later. The Primary 6 PSLE is a national streaming exercise, with consequences that may affect a child's life for years.


joyce said...

i just accidently browsed thru ur blog n would like to express my thinking as a parent. I don’t encourage parents to push hard their kids (esp in preschool ) academically. Fast learner at such age, might still be a fast learner I primary/sec school but somehow it doesn’t mean that he/she can fast learn in high school/university. And vice versa ..for slow learner , they might show a little slow in catching up skills initially..but this doesn’t mean they can be a smart/ fast leaner in future. We should teach/ guide our children according to their std but not forcing them to conform to our std.

I myself belonged to first top 3 in class since primary 2 until JC. But I just an average student when in U and graduated with hon degree in Elctronics/Electrical eng wf 2nd upper class. While for my HB he just “so so” on his academic performance when he was a little boy but he graduated in mechanical with 1st class degree + master deg in IT. To us, we believe kids can learn while playing especially during the early 6 yrs. My 3 yo boy can do calculation + and – for numeric 0-20, he is able to complete any type of jigsaw puzzle up to 200-300 pcs, can built any kind of “things” using lego block but he is not interested in “drawing” n “music”..we just follow his std, his interest…never force him .. Let them enjoy the process of learning …let them be a cheerful one..

Domesticgoddess said...

First thing first - a fast learner at preschool or even primary level doesn't guarantee impressive academic results in later years, and some 'late bloomers' do eventually catch up. That's reality. I thought by now, most adults understand that? :>

Next, the terms 'pushy parents' or 'pushing kids academically' have negative connotations to begin with and many, if not most, will conclude that it must be the most extreme and hence it gotta be bad. Everyone's tolerance and definition of what pushiness is varies greatly.

As long as a parent is showing active interest in a child's learning journey, providing ample opportunities to stretch their potential, then by MY definition that is a GOOD pushy parent. And by stretching their potential, it means: those who want to learn more SHOULD be allowed and encouraged to satisfy their curiosity, and those who are not interested/have difficulties, SHOULD be guided accordingly and not forced to learn more.

More here -

I think there is a minimum standard of academic learning that a child should meet by the time she is to enter P1 and most kindergartens will tell parents what that standard is. If a child is a very late bloomer and by age 6+ is still struggling with her foundation, some pushing (read: helping and guiding) by her parents should be encouraged. That is again, to me, a GOOD pushy parent. Would it be better to push now and prepare her or wait till she gets to P1 and let her struggle with her basic then? It's really the parents' choice!

After the foundation is learnt, should a 6 y.o. learn his timetables and division or algebra, or master his periodic tables and write his thesis before he enters P1? It depends on the child's interest and abilities. If they are lacking and a parent insists on him learning, then that is pushing TOO hard.

As for the aesthetic education, I thought most parents would agree that it is really the 'extras'. So yes, if a parent is forcing a child who shows NO interest or aptitude to learn, then that is the undesirable pushing too.

Kids do learn plenty through play, hence playtime should be a crucial part of daily living. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But hey, all play and no work makes Jack a duller boy! In the long run.

QQ said...

Some parents think that preschool education is not that important so it is alright that the kids doesn't learn much. But the pressure is there when their kids get to Primary level as there are tests/exams and grading and differentiation. Then the parents panic big time and kids suffer more in the end.

I know so many parents who would say they don't push their kids in studies or that grades are not the most important thing, but do you mean that? It is just plain hypocrisy in most cases.

I agree with domesticgoddess that it is better to be pushy parent (with her definition of course) at the right time than not at all.

Melanie said...

An interesting exchange here.

As a Primary school teacher, I have seen many cases of kids entering P1 who struggle with their foundation and get totally stressed out later.

It is often manageable in the first half of Primary One as it is more revision of their Kindergarten 2 work. But once they get piled with the 'real' workload of Primary school in the second half of the P1 year, most kids really fall behind.

It doesn't help if a child is not very motivated or have attention span issues and if he is in a competitive primary school, the stress is compounded.

Many schools will insist on remedial lessons and parents ended up sending these kids to tuition classes for subjects that they are weak at, so they don't end up failing the subjects.

All these extra workload on the child, on top of an already very hectic schedule, could possibly be avoided if the child had a stronger foundation before he entered Primary school.

The problem I think, lies in the fact, that many parents underestimate the high standards require of our young kids these days.

Domesticgoddess said...

QQ, I agree with you on that.

To most parents, the stakes are much higher in Primary school, so those who are initially very relaxed may succumb to pressure and pile the child with more tuition classes.

This is one thing that I hope we can avoid in future when my first born goes to Primary school. Hopefully he has a good foundation now and will be self-motivated and disciplined enough later, so we can avoid sending him to any other academic-related classes (unless he begs us to!).

Domesticgoddess said...

Melanie, thank you for sharing your views as an educator.

Frankly, I think unless parents are part of the teaching community or have kids already in the primary schools, it is hard for one to appreciate the high standards expected of our 6 and 7 year old nowadays.

I won't be surprised if many parents are still holding on to the view that Primary school education is as easy as it was two decades ago (when these parents were kids). The wake-up call will come later.


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