September 18 2013
Vicki E. Alger
Government preschool boosters, including President Obama and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, should take note of what’s happening in England right now—especially in light of federal efforts to impose testing for kindergarteners.
In a letter to London’s Daily Telegraph, more than 100 experts—including England’s former Children’s Commissioner, along with scholars from the London School of Economics and Cambridge University—say children do better if they wait to “enter school at six or seven.” The signatories add:
The role of play is being down-valued in England's nurseries. …Indeed current policy suggestions would mean that the tests and targets which dominate primary education will soon be foisted upon 4 year olds.
Research does not support an early start to testing and quasi-formal teaching, but provides considerable evidence to challenge it. …Instead of pursuing an enlightened approach informed by global best practice, successive Ministers have prescribed an ever-earlier start to formal learning. This can only cause profound damage to the self-image and learning dispositions of a generation of children.
The signatories are part of the just-launched Too Much, Too Soon Campaign. They would like to see preschool decisions removed from government. Hear, hear for that.
However, preschool decisions—as with all education decisions affecting minor children—are best left to parents. TMTS advocates want those decisions turned over to various education-related professionals.
Still, it’s worth noting that there’s a growing backlash against sending toddlers to school so young. Keep that in mind next time you hear politicians here at home crowing about funding preschool to grow the economy (implying that if you don't send your kids off to preschool you're hurting the country).
The reality is that there are serious educational and emotional factors for parents to consider when it comes to early education and what's best for their children. As for the economy, it’s worth asking how government preschool’s supposed to fuel future economic growth when its effects fade out before children outgrow their sippy cups.