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Its not all child’s play in kindergarten… April 3, 2006

Posted by scan man in Life in India, Misc.

Sunday was a big day. My daughter got admitted into a new school. Thank goodness.

It was the culmination of an exhausting process: searching for the right school…arguments & decisions…checking out the facilities available in schools that we thought were suitable…arguments & decisions (2)…inquiring about admission procedures, applying to the 'right' schools, waiting…arguing (2 1/2)…attending interviews*…waiting…arguments and decisions (3)… & finally…. acceptance.

A big source of worry for me and my wife has, hopefully, been laid to rest. I say hopefully because we don't dare to be complacent about this till our daughter starts starts school in June and settles in. We don't know if there are any more 'arguments and decisions' in store.

Our daughter has been pretty cool throughout. In fact, she has remained blissfully ignorant of all of the above. The only input from her was to ask if she will have nice teachers and friends in the new school. She seems excited about the prospect of going to a new school.

Readers who know me may well wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, she's only six and going into first standard. Hah. If only they knew…

That is not the entire story behind this post. I read this post in Dr. Charles' blog about two weeks ago. The comments on excessive homework for kids struck a chord. That is also a part of the story.

Most of the stress began after we started comparing schools. We realized that there is a glaring disparity in the standard of education among kindergartens.kindergarten

My daughter has been to playschool and kindergarten (KG) – three years – in the same place. At the end of her second year in KG, she knows the alphabets in three languages – English (the medium of education), Tamil and Hindi. She also knows a lot of three-letter words in English. All her written work in English is in cursive script. She can count to one hundred and can write the words for the numbers from one to twenty. She knows a good number of nursery rhymes. Her school – which I believed was one of the best in town – has a lot of extracurricular activities: elementary gardening – they water plants that they had planted at the beginning of the year; dance; painting; cookery class – they are just introduced to the mysteries of the kitchen. They have various games and sports – including an introduction to gymnastics. It is mandatory for all children to participate in the School's Annual Day Show. Her schools motto is 'I see, I do, I learn'.

I believed it was a good school. Though I have no recollection of my own KG days, I don't think I knew so much when I was 5 years old.

It was only when I started comparing schools did I get an inkling that her education may have been inadequate (?). I found that there are schools which have taught four and five-letter words at KG level. There were kids in the second year of KG who could count up to one thousand and write the words for the numbers up to five hundred.

Both the schools which called us for an intreview seemed to have achieved a better standard of education than my daughter's current school. It was disheartening. The interviewer at one school – a first standard teacher – could barely contain her disdain when she learnt that both the parents were doctors! It seems doctors are not good parents!! They don't spend enough time with their children. They don't put in the effort that non-doctor parents put in to get their children up to speed in kindergarten. I wanted to scream at her.

My parents put me in KG when I was 2 1/2 years old. I completed high school at 17. I was a qualified doctor by 24 (really). I am now forced to question their judgement 😦

Are we pushing our kids too hard…

Aren't childhood and school supposed to be enjoyed…


1. Moof - April 4, 2006

What a post! I don't know where to begin!

First of all, Dr. Scan Man … the kindergarten your little daughter went to sounds exceptional. I don't think that it was a low quality school at all, from what you've said.

You know, learning should be fun for the children. They should be able to look forward to going to school … especially as very small children. If they have to deal with the stress of overachievement at the age of 5, how on earth are they going to feel about school at 25?

Some of those schools you mentioned certainly sound like they put far more emphases on achievement than they should. Children are natural sponges, and learn everything they see in spite of what we sometimes try to teach them! They don't need information crammed into their little brains until their poor little heads explode!

And then, the very thought that doctors wouldn't be good parents – by definition – is offensive and insulting. Anyone who shows that kind of attitude is giving embarrassing evidence of their amazingly narrow mind.

Hang in there, Dr. Cat Scan Man … and be at peace. You're doing the right thing for your precious daughter, and that's what matters. Remember, she will learn wherever she goes … because she's a bright young lady. Where she ends up is not nearly as important as her own desire to expand herself … and the parents she has, I'm certain that will do just fine.

Childhood is the only chance a child will ever have to be a child! It can not be recovered at a later time. We need to allow our children to be children … with gentle guidance, learning often takes care of itself.

2. scan man - April 4, 2006

Moof: Thanks.

Childhood is the only chance a child will ever have to be a child! It can not be recovered at a later time. We need to allow our children to be children … with gentle guidance, learning often takes care of itself. 

I'm seriously thinking of donating Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' to some of these schools.

Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

3. It's me, T.J. - April 4, 2006

I never went to kindergarten.

When I started first grade I didn’t know my alphabet, couldn’t count to 100, and I couldn’t write.

I have only known one language and by chance have learned some Spanish, but at a very, very simplistic level.

Are we pushing our kids too hard…

That’s a tough question…

Something only the parent would be able to answer…

Aren’t childhood and school supposed to be enjoyed…

Childhood only lasts for a very short time of our lives…

The remaining balance of our lives is spent being adults, and carrying the burdens that come with the responsibility of adulthood.

Our fondest memories usually turn to childhood times.

They don’t put in the effort that non-doctor parents put in to get their children up to speed in kindergarten.

Sounds to me like they enjoy putting feathers in their caps.


4. Moof - April 4, 2006

A note on your comment, Dr. Scan Man … I love Pink Floyd … and especially like “The Wall!”

About the school situation … I don’t know what things are like in Tamil Nadu, but here in the US, teachers often seem to spend more time indoctrinating kids into being politically correct, or trying to psychoanalyze them, than they do teaching them the basics. We have children graduating from high school who can’t spell, and can barely read.

More and more families are home schooling their children because of this. I homeschooled my own for 8 years, and would have homeschooled all of them for the entire 12 years each if I’d known then what I know now.

My best wishes to you and your sweet little daughter as she begins school. Remember … you and your wife will always be her primary teachers.

5. Suresh - April 7, 2006

Two of Mark Twain's quotes come to my mind:

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned

and my favourite,

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

6. Izabela - May 16, 2006

The push for the little people to achieve! In Australia, they go to school at 5. They are supposed to know their letters and numbers and to read a little.
And, being a neuropsychologist who works, among others, with learning difficulties, I see a lot of children with language problems and inability to focus on verbal information. Which impacts incredibly on their functioning in the classroom. From my point of view, the time in pre-school learning would be much better spent reading the kids stories and teaching them how to focus on an activity – any activity.
I am from Poland. We went to school at 7 and were expected not to know anything beforehand because ‘the child will be bored’. We had 3-4 hours of instruction (albeit intense) per day in the first few years. And yet, there is no question that we ended up with much more comprehensive education by the end of high school than the Australians of today. The pressure was applied at the secondary school level, rather than eased, and the early years of taking it easy didn’t seem to matter.
I remember a very nice, rather boring childhood that suited me perfectly. I spent my days lolling about and reading books. Early childhood is a time to explore, not to achieve.

7. scan man’s notes » Justice - May 16, 2006

[…] For those of you who don't get the reference, check this earlier post of mine. […]

8. Lakshmi - December 12, 2006

Vijay, thanks for this link. I know what you went through, although we have barely started with our three-year old. Both A and I are worried if we would put her in a school that would shove too much into her brain, with no time to develop into an individual. We hate schools that give a lot of home work, and tests and exams, but looks like we do not have too much of choice at the moment.
Little V on the other hand, told us in all her innocence a couple of days back that she “does not want to go to the playschool she goes to now because they do not give her any home work”. This, we think, came out of her seeing all our neighbours rushing home sharp at 5 to do their homework.

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