Schooling ’em young


Picture this.

Set-up: Chance meeting with another mommy friend, one evening

Starring: Me & a squirming 11 month toddler in his pram; another mommy & her squealing toddler in pram; couple of extras in background who cross the scene giving quizzical looks to the mommies who seem to be comparing mental notes as against taking the squirming toddlers in their arms

Scene: 

Me (M): Hello…. (turning to other toddler) hello princess.
OtherMommy (OM): Hi… (turning to my toddler) hi bunny boy.
Me: Where you off to with such a big baby bag?
OM: XXX Learning program at XX.
M: Oh, how old is your girl? And when did you start these classes?
OM: When she was 9-months old, I took her to first of these learning programs and she loved it. As she grew, I extended these classes to include more learning activities.
M: Uhmm, my boy is 11-month and I haven’t yet started any activity program for him. Is that bad?
OM: Really. (wide eyed) You should. Everyone does it nowadays with kids. Research says that this way kids get a head start in school.

And the conversation went on to become where I should go, what type of classes I should look for and how should I interview the teachers about the class size and activities undertaken. Heavy stuff. All this for 11-12 month olds! I am now scared to even look up the internet as to what I should be doing when my child approaches school age.  

Longer stays at home with a single caregiver are argued to be more intellectually stimulating, claims one research. My spouse also agreed. 

But another friend in Singapore dismissed the above and claimed, “If you don’t get into a good pre-nursery or kindergarten, it’s really difficult to get into a good primary school, that’s why you already have to have a plan when you are pregnant.” Gulp. After attending numerous information sessions and preschool open days, this ‘smart’ friend applied at a local playgroup when she was eight months pregnant because the waiting list was already around a year.
I have to admit that every time I meet one of these ‘smart’ mummies, I practically wet my pants because I think my thoughts on raising a child sound archaic.  
But after a lot of reading, perhaps a child who has attended preschool or other early education programs may get a head start, but I can also heartily argue that he or she doesn’t always cross the finish line first. 

That said, I am definitely going to take my toddler to a few learning activity classes (the trial classes where I don’t have to pay anything) to see if he really likes it better than banging doors and exploring kitchen cupboards at home. But this is purely to see his social behavior and not with the intention to accelerate the learning curve for alphabets and numbers.

My answer to this movement toward academic training of the young is that it’s not about education. It is about parents anxious to give their children an edge in what they regard as an increasingly competitive and global economy.
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