LETTER: Don’t start kids in school too early

Follow the Finnish educational example for better overall results

Editor:

In a July interview, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said: “I think our government just has a completely different and fresh attitude towards public education. John Horgan made it clear his priority as premier is to make sustained investments in the school system, because it pays enormous social and economic dividends.”

If our new government really wants to move to the forefront of public education in Canada, it needs to look to Finland, where all children have access to free, full day daycare (up to age 5). Full day kindergarten begins at age 6, and Grade 1 begins at age 7.

According to world-renowned family therapist and parenting author Steve Biddulph, full day kindergarten for 5-year-olds is too long, and any younger is a big mistake developmentally. Decades of research has shown that most boys (and some girls) are slower to develop fine-motor and language skills.

I’ve asked a number of kindergarten teachers: “When reviewing your class in June, are there any children you feel are not developmentally ready for Grade 1?” Responses from teachers typically range from zero to four children, depending on the class. But in the current educational climate it’s extremely rare for a child in Canada or the U.S. to repeat kindergarten.

In his web article, We Can Do Better By Boys, Biddulph writes: “In English-speaking countries, boys make up more than 80 per cent of all remedial classes. In Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and many other countries where school [Grade 1] does not begin until age seven, this gender gap in literacy does not exist… Professor Kathy Sylva at Oxford University recently reported findings that starting school too soon creates a failure mentality, while kindergarten — which used to be a year of play, activity, and social learning — has succumbed more and more to pressure for skills learning. This compounds the problem.”

Why is Finland’s school system the envy of the western world? Finland has consistently been among the highest scorers worldwide in the international assessment for student performance.

Carl Honoré writes in “Under Pressure: Putting the Child Back in Childhood” (2009): “Their [Finnish children] early childhood is spent at home or in nursery programs where play is king. When they finally do reach school, they enjoy short days, long vacations and plenty of music, art and sports. Apart from final exams at the end of high school, Finnish kids face no standardized tests. Teachers use quizzes, and individual schools use tests to track their pupils’ progress, but the idea of cramming for SATs is as alien to Finland as a heat wave in winter. This presents a delicious irony: the nation that puts the least stress on competition and testing, that shows the least appetite for cram schools and private tutoring, routinely tops the world in PISA’s [Programme for International Student Assessment] competitive exams.”

I believe if we adopted the Finland model in B.C. — enrolling kids in kindergarten at age 6 — by the time they enter Grade 7 or 8, at least 70 per cent of learning assistance time (and money) in an elementary school could be eliminated simply because most children wouldn’t require any. Most of the learning assistance teachers, who spend their day working with individual students and small groups, could transition back into the classroom and assigned an entire class of students.

In Michael Moore’s 2015 travelogue-style documentary, “Where to Invade Next?”, he observes: “Finland’s students have the shortest school days and the shortest school years in the entire western world. They do better by going to school less.”

If a Canada-wide survey was done of parents who “red-shirted” their own kids — waited to enrol them in kindergarten at age 6 — I’m certain the vast majority would say it was one of the best decisions they ever made as parents.

David Buckna, Kelowna

Just Posted

Suspicious blaze guts car in Langley City

RCMP are investigating and looking for a suspect vehicle.

WIN: Milner actor taps into inner jokester for Langley Players comedy

The curtain goes up on The Foreigners next Thursday at the Langley Playhouse.

Centenarian and then some: Dorscie Paterson set to turn 105

Longtime Langley resident continues to advocate passionately for hospice care in community

Former Blaze standout joins L.A. Dodgers organization

UFV Cascades baseball coach Wes Darvill is back in affiliated baseball

ON GARDENING IN LANGLEY: Ice storm caused damage to many trees

Advance columnist Pam Erikson suggestions tips for minimize winter damage and prepping for spring.

B.C. cougar kitten rescued after mother struck by vehicle

Conservation Officers find home for young kitten found dehydrated and frostbitten near Williams Lake

No crackdown, just education as BC Ferries’ enacts smoking ban

Fines and extra patrols not happening at this time as ban begins Monday

Police to provide update on unsolved 13-year-old B.C. girl’s murder

IHIT say no one has been arrested or charged in connection with Marrisa Shen’s death

Rural B.C. students score visit with Canadiens netminder Carey Price

Two students from the Caiboo Chilcotin can hardly wait to meet hometown hero Carey Price in Montreal.

VIDEO: Elk parade on Vancouver Island is awesome sight

They’re out in force for a morning stroll. Check out some of Youbou’s famous elk.

North Delta’s Colton Hasebe named BC Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 2018 Champion Child

Colton takes the reins from 2107 Champion Child and Tsawwassen resident Taylin McGill

LIVE: B.C. announces anti-racism funding

Ravi Kahlon said money will go to B.C. Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH) program

Animal protection group urges B.C. vet association to ban cat declawing

Nova Scotia was the first Canadian province to ban declawing

Most Read