In the United Kingdom, we suffer from a very serious condition which is bringing our children to their knees. That condition is called ‘burn out’. It is caused by the systematic and often pointless insistence by the Government, the schools inspectorate and so on to test and re-test children. Now this has begun to affect those children who were free from such pressures – the very young.
Childhood is supposed to be the one time in life when there are no worries or anxieties other than “Who will be my friend?” or “What shall I play today?” Now, it appears to be quite acceptable to force children to take a test to identify what they don’t know or don’t understand. How are the results of these tests used? I have no idea. What I know is that very few, if any, children are offered realistic support and encouragement to improve.
Research informs us that there are at least twice as many attempted and successful suicides amongst young people aged between 15 and 19 since 2000. My suggestions would be that we are seriously guilty of pushing children towards a burn-out of mammoth proportions.
Childhood is reflecting adult life at its worst. In this country, there are more people who work without effective lunch breaks; who regularly work over their allotted hours and who feel that to not do so is a demonstration of failure. We see more teachers, doctors, consultants and others feeling the strain of working long hours and having less time at home with their families. Children now follow this relentless pattern of after-school events. Pre-school children should not be part of this hamster-wheel lifestyle.
Too many reading drills, flash cards, and math worksheets in pre-school may cause burnout a few years later, cautions Pat Clark, a Ball State University early childhood professor. Pre-school instructors can introduce and reinforce academic concepts to children through play without the harsh reality of the academic world, she maintains.
Clark partially attributes the recent push of academics into the pre-school curriculum to parents and educators who are concerned that kids will not be ready for increasingly academic kindergartens. “Most parents want their children to succeed. So, many are looking to enroll their children into academically oriented preschool programs. They feel their children will then be ready for kindergarten.”
Even in America, parents are faced with the same concerns and anxieties. The difference is that their education system is not set up for failure; rather, it is success which is celebrated and noted.
Our children battle against increasing pressure to perform even better and with more enthusiasm whilst having their results used as weapons to crush their confidence even more.
Inappropriate teaching methods
A national trend toward pushing young children to achieve academically has led to the introduction of inappropriate teaching methods and expectations
for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten children, with the result that such youngsters face possible stress and educational burnout in elementary school. With increasing numbers of young children being exposed to these inappropriate teaching methods, there is a real danger that large numbers of young children will experience learning problems at an age when in the past most children were not even in school.
Young children learn differently from older children, even those just a year or two older. This fact is often missed by parents whose own education started at a later age and who associate education with desks and chairs, pencils, workbooks, and teacher–directed lessons. Young children, however, learn best through active manipulation and exploration of materials with opportunities to initiate their own learning projects.
Learning rules, such as “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking” is a mode of learning appropriate to 6 or 7–year–olds, not to pre-school children. Young children not only learn differently from older children, they also demonstrate this learning differently, in their speech and their actions rather than by their responses to tests. Many school systems are using standardised group tests to determine whether children should enter kindergarten or be retained for another year.
Let children be children.
I find it ludicrous that, in an era where there are so many strategies and there is so much legislation concerned with the care and education of children and emphasising the uniqueness of each child, we still insist that they all learn to read in a particular way, they all are tested in the same way, and they all fail to a greater or lesser degree in the same way.
Please will someone with clout, take their courage in both hands and say “Enough!” We want our children to be just that, not mini-scholars or statisticians. Let them play for the fun of it; let them switch off because they need to. DO NOT test and re-test them, just in case the first results were anomalous.
I want my grandchild to enjoy her freedom until she is seven. What are the chances?