[Cross-posted] I came across an article from the BBC website (through Emu’s blog) where an American expert says that kids are reading too early.
This comes in the wake of UK government proposals that kids should be taught to read earlier.
Dr Lilian Katz says kids could be put off learning, and education too early harms boys more than girls. She also points out that in Scandinavia formal education begins at six or seven.
This is at odds with my experience.
As I had to sit an examination to start kindergarten at age two, I had to begin studying for them at age one. I would say that before two I knew the alphabet and had numerical skills, being able to count to 99 very easily. I had to—the join-the-dots puzzles beckoned.
My examination for kindergarten, which I had to do solo with only the examiner in the room (no, it was not easy, and I was terriﬁed) consisted of putting shapes in holes. Which, incidentally, I had not studied for.
When I think back, I must have bluffed it, because I remember crying through most of it.
(Chatting to Dad tonight, he says this could have been a prep exam at another institution. Now that he mentions it, I have a vague recollection that I aced the actual one at kindy. Or at least it was less traumatic. I had assumed until today it was the kindergarten exam. Hey, 1975 was a busy year.)
I had homework nightly from age 2½ at kindergarten, of handwriting. Pretty standard, really, to anyone who has ever lived in Hong Kong.
As I was Dux at my primary school in New Zealand and Proxime Accessit (salutatorian to our American friends) at high school, I don’t think the early start put me off learning.
And today I still consider myself very much a student, still learning.
The only difference I had with most kids is I took the ages of four to ﬁve off because of emigrating (spending a year watching Play School, The Brothers, Days of Our Lives, Des Britten and Sesame Street is not a bad thing), and because my parents did not know there was such a thing as pre-school in New Zealand. Instead, I geared up learning a few key English phrases (‘Please may I go to the toilet?’) to start the primers.
The thought of not having a formal education till ﬁve, six or seven sounds ridiculous to me and I imagine would be crazy to most people from my culture.
I am sure Dr Katz has observed that by and large, oriental children can do rather well at school, even if I am furthering a stereotype here. But I did indeed observe this myself through my primary school career.
A late start sounds like total and utter bollocks to me, though unlike the professor I don’t have a big sample to work from.
But I wonder if she has made any examinations of the east Asian experience.
While I believe I did start too young in having homework or sitting an entrance exam, there surely is a happy medium between what is normal in east Asia and what is normal in the occident. Kids are aching to learn—and want to—as they absorb the world around them. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:35
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