This piece was published in the NT Sun on July 17 2018
SUNS 26 2018 245
THREE IS TOO YOUNG FOR PRESCHOOL
The policy of three-year-old children attending preschool full time should fill people with concern. The notion is one of which children of very tender years, having only “just“ arrived in the world, being rushed into formal education. Colin Wicking’s cartoon (Northern Territory News 24/6/18) encapsulates the situation. Two toddlers are heading off to preschool and one says to the other “it only seems like yesterday that I was a fetus“!
If that’s the way preschool education is going, we have a grossly misaligned education system.
Educational justification for early entry into preschool is to get children academically ready for literacy and numeracy competence at increasingly younger ages. This is totally at odds with common sense. Young children need the nurture, empathy and love of parents in developing life skills. Their initial listening and speaking abilities along with the love of life should grow from family interactions.
The modern tendency of children at younger and younger ages spending more time in ‘formal’ preschool education is beyond comprehension.
In 2009 the Melbourne Declaration agreed by all education ministers stated that social, emotional and moral/spiritual development of children are essential. In years since, the need for rounded development has been largely disregarded. The focus seems to be academic competency alone. New policy suggests the sooner this education begins after birth, the better.
Parents wanting their 3-year-olds permanently in preschool is based on misplaced logic. However, costs associated with childcare are continuing to escalate and helps explain why they are plumping for the preschool option. A recent survey of parents (Our kids pushed to school too early, Sunday Territorian 24/6/18) confirms their motivation. “Aussie kids are being pushed into school early because their parents are desperate to escape the rising costs of childcare. … More than 65 per cent of parents are paying between $200 and $799 out of pocket (after government rebate) on childcare each week. … This compares to 44 per cent who pay between $1 and $199 once their child is in preschool.”
Whether children are socially, emotionally and sufficiently mature for entry into preschool, appears to be unimportant. “More than 52 per cent of parents ranked (their children) being toilet trained and feeding themselves as their lowest considerations when deciding when to send their kids to preschool.” (Op cit) While a barrage of educational reasons might be given, the primary reason is one of financial consideration.
It seems the new and innovative three year olds at preschool. is more about cheap childcare than education.