By Ritesh Rawal
It is said that well-begun is half the job done. But have we ever wondered how we define a good start? Today, we are going to talk about little birds who will fly to star in the sky of accomplishments – our children, our future. The moot point today: how early should a child start schooling?
Previously, the perception was that a five to six-year-old was good to go to school. This line of thinking was based on the fact that as a child’s brain developed, they were ‘groomable’ at home, building primary capabilities such as language, social interaction, caring, nurturing, moral values and so on. It was thought that by the time a child turns six, they are ready to interact on their own with the external world and begin school.
However, this paradigm has undergone a sea change in the last decade or two. This is, in large measure, due to studies on mental development, neural growth and cognitive function in toddlers. It has been found that 95 per cent of the human brain develops in ages 0-5 years. Also, all the three parameters mentioned previously reach a peak phase by the time the child is three. Add three more years to the mix and a child’s brain is almost adult-like.
As far as language goes, if parents take initiative to interact with their child beyond baby talk, then even as an infant, the child begins picking up words and vocabulary sufficient to convey a message coherently.
Also, a child’s brain develops faster when subjected to a nurturing environment rich with experiences, with fellow children, with props, with numbers, with sports equipment, with exercising, with movements.
In such an ambience, they develop physically, emotionally and socially. This eventually lays the foundation for more complex linguistic and cognitive capacities. This simply means that the basis for a sound education, work and life is laid by the age of six. And so, keeping children without schooling till six in a similar home environment may not be as good an idea.
Besides these core factors, what has influenced and justified the shift from late schooling earlier to a quicker move (and now even pre-schooling) are social and cultural changes in society.
The near-extinction of a joint family structure with no ‘homeschooling’ of the olden times, double earning homes, pushing the child’s learning to earlier and earlier phases is a reality today. No wonder preschooling centres have boomed over the last 20 years.
Economists and industry trackers have also influenced the shift to early education. They believe a kickstart early in education leads to richer rewards for national growth. Also, the mushrooming of technology in every quarter of life, the flourishing of a dynamic job market, the urgency to have children make an early start has gained currency like never before.
Today, even if we were to mull a return to the old days when five to six years was the preferred age to start classroom learning, parents simply wouldn’t have the infrastructure, time, equipment or the techniques to impart the requisite skills to their young ones.
The cut-throat competition and demands of the job scene today call for differentiation and upskilling. And the diversity of job fields, economic growth, the evolution of tech all now demand education be fast-tracked.
It is vital that every young achiever inhabits a safe and nourishing environment. Early years are, after all, most crucial and demand a conducive atmosphere, rich in language and art, and with the opportunity for play and engagement.
If the same cannot be ensured at home in the current social arrangement, it is befitting that children join the learning process ‘asap’ and are offered a world-class and equitable system of early educational development.
(The writer is Founder, Adhyay School and Ritesh Rawal Foundation)
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