Is preprimary education really required? Should I push my bundle of joy into this education system, at an early age, as early as two and half years? Is my child really gaining something during Play Group, Nursery, lower Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten levels of education? What will happen if we do not take child through all these classes, and directly get admission to first standard, with some basic study at home or even without any study? So many such questions kept disturbing me, when my kid was in school few years back. I and my wife kept on worrying until he reaches back home from the school. Today I am writing my thoughts on this topic. These are purely my personal opinions, and are also result of my research, and observation of children going to preprimary school in rural and urban part of India.
What is Preprimary Education?
There can be many definitions of pre-primary education to cover different types of educations provided through school, summer camps and many other training programs focused on specific skills. Simple definition of this education can be, any formal education, at premises other than home, before 1st standard/grade. Anything and everything before this can be covered under this pre-primary umbrella.
What are Objectives of Preprimary Education?
Before I jump into the list of objectives. I want to make it clear, that these objectives are most probable objectives to gain something fruitful for a child through such a rigorous exercise (Yes! I would call 3-4 hours of education, a rigorous education at 3 to 5 years age).
- Socialization: Child will get an opportunity to socialize with other children of same age while playing and learning
- Learn New Skills: If school gets into formal education, then child will definitely learn new skills e.g. fine motor skills, recognizing alphabets and numbers, recognizing objects from pictures, storytelling, singing, dancing, and drawing and so on.
- Habits and Discipline: Schools do put effort in cultivating self-help habits, and discipline along with it
- Away from Home: Children do learn to stay away from home and parents, and be independent for some time
- Games/Sports: Children take part in different games/sports along with other children at very young age. This sport seed is also planted at such young age in children.
What are Secondary Drivers of Preprimary Education?
These are not the direct objectives, but can be called as situation borne objectives arising mostly. Circumstances force parents and families to opt for pre-primary education as a solution to these problems than the core benefits stated above. One would say, don’t force a child into schooling if the primary motive is not above objectives. But sometimes reality is this, though it is bitter.
Forced Education System
In India, we as a parent are victim of this education system which is many times forced on us. Yes! I mean it, because in many urban schools, I have seen schools denying admission at later grades, because child hasn’t taken preprimary education at all or from a reputed school. Is there any law to stop this? I don’t know. Sometimes these are hidden or spoken rules, which are never accepted on paper.
Another common scenario of urban and many rural families, which constitute husband, wife and one or maximum two children. If husband and wife both are working, then these schools are good place for children to spend few hours. After school, day care or some other arrangement at home or outside is preferred for child care.
Also, nuclear family means limited socialization. In apartment system, or similar stay arrangements, there is hardly any room for children to get socialized with other children. I can put it other way round, working parents may not have time when children can socialize with each other. Hence schools can be a place where children will at least get to meet more children of same age, play, have fun and enjoy.
Many times, grandparents are not staying with these families, this also forces parents to hand over children’s education responsibility to an outsider. Many grandparents have patience and skills to teach children effectively.
Limited or No Time with Parents
If both the parents are working parents, then the biggest challenge they face is having time for children to play and teach them. Mostly parents return home late in the night, when children are already done for the day, and ready to sleep. Parents are also fully exhausted with daily work rush. Hence they feel that their child is missing something important in life. Each of us as a parent wants to give best to our child. Hence the only option left is to outsource this teaching activity to someone else as early as possible. There is only one simple solution, which is preprimary schooling.
Unwanted Outcomes of Pre-Primary Education
In practical world, there is hardly a situation where we have only positive outcome of a thing. There are going to be negative aspects also. Here the negative aspects are related to kids, hence are of serious concern. One must look at these aspects while going for this early education years, otherwise the thought process is incomplete.
Let me first make it clear that there can be difference of opinion with this point, but I am writing what I have observed. Feel free to write your opinion about this. My observation is – children frequently fall to contagious diseases when they come in contact with other ill children in schools. It is definitely driven by immunity level of a child, but in schools children come in contact with children who are either in early or end stages of infection. During favorable weather conditions like rainy season, or during season changes, children keep on going through cycles of cough and cold, fever etc. and keep hampering one’s health. This frequent illness will definitely create long term effect on child’s health. If a child is falling sick frequently, it is good to explore origin in school as well.
Stereotype Training of Mind
What I mean by stereotype is limiting thought dimensions. When a child plays or learns on own in a free environment, with numerous playing options available around or self-created playing options, the brain will develop in unlimited dimensions. Everything is govern by child herself. But when a child is developed using a controlled environment, such as playgroup, or schooling for 2-3 years after playgroup, a constraint is put on child’s brain development by limiting the dimensions or trying to train child with limited options. I agree, there will be schools which will try to cover maximum aspects of brain development, but it will vary from school to school. Also it will definitely depend on how receptive the child is to the education. If child is not open to accept things taught, then there will be very less benefit of entire effort.
Unwanted Pressure of Separation
Many times pre-primary education starts very early, even before 3 years age. How many children are ready to stay away from family for almost 4 to 5 hours with unknown people and in an unknown environment? Many children are forced into this education hoping they will accept in few days. But do we go back and check if children are really gelled into the school environment? If the answer is “No” then what is impact? Child will pull oneself into a shell and stay lonely. Again all these will lead to serious impact on personality when child grows.
Health Impact Due to not Eating
At least one eating time falls during school hours of child. It is expected that the child eats fine during these eating hours. Mostly children require some support to eat food, even if it is their favorite food always (though it is not the case always). If child remains hungry or half stomach for many days, again it is going to impact growth of child. Child is going to remain hungry for 6-7 hours between two feedings at home. This is not an acceptable situation for a child at such an early age. It will impact growth of child considerably over longer period of time.
What is Take Away?
Still I would recommend to ask this question, is pre-primary education really necessary and beneficial? Each parent should get answer keeping own child and school in mind. There are pros and cons, but importance of those varies on case to case basis. Cons can have slow and long term impact on child. Which will be visible when child grows into a personality revealing adult. But necessary steps should be taken at very young age by taking a deep dive into this preprimary education world. Let us not get blindly trapped into costly early schooling, and force our child through hardships which benefit little. Instead an intelligent, research based decision can help to find golden mean of this entire education process. Even teaching child at home is also ok, instead of sending her through unwanted trouble each day.