By Dr Melodie de Jager.
The strangest thing is that if a child has crossed the first hurdle at the age of 5-7 with flying colours, chances are great that he or she will cross the second hurdle with flying colours too. BUT if a child had difficulty crossing the first hurdle at the age of 5-7, chances are that he or she may not get to the second hurdle with ease and confidence…
It is 12 years later, surely a child can change? According to Eric Jensen ‘humans are biologically designed to survive, and their single competitive advantage is their ability to learn’. Why then, if humans and children are designed to learn, do so many learners struggle to learn, to progress at school and get to Grade 12 with their self-esteem still intact?
If a child was not ready to sit still and concentrate, or/and a child was not ready and proficient to learn in the language of instruction in grade 1, or/and if a child was not ready to learn to write and to read, – the child was not school ready. Entering grade 1 with the hope that ‘un-readiness’ will go away, is like sitting in your car ready to drive, but failing to start the engine.
School readiness is not just a concept – it is the ability to acquire a toolbox filled with skills before entering grade 1. Failure to fill a child’s toolbox with the minimum skills means failure to launch.
Toolbox thieves are very often the preschool teachers (under pressure from parents) who teach children to read and write in preschool, instead of ensuring that the less spectacular but basic pre-writing skills and pre-reading skills are in place, before the learners need to apply these skills.
Basic skills are skills such as the ability to sit still and concentrate for at least 11 minutes, while doing a task a child does not necessarily like; build a 36 piece puzzle in 6 minutes; stand on one leg with the eyes closed for 10 seconds; tie a shoe lace; thread a shape evenly; play lotto or dominoes with friends, wait your turn, etc.
Teaching reading and writing in preschool, instead of preparing children to understand and speak the language they need to write and read in grade 1, is robbing many children from developing the skills necessary to experience academic success on their way to Grade 12. Nelson Mandela said: “education is the way out of poverty”. Education is also a way out of abuse, violence and unemployment.
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