Yesterday as I read through The Times at work I came across the following headline on page 11: “Prepare children for jobs, minister urges nurseries.” After rubbing my eyes to check that I hadn’t mis-read the headline I read on: “Formal structured education needs to start at the age of three if Britain is to keep pace with top-performing Asian countries, according to Elizabeth Truss, the Children’s Minsiter.”
To paraphrase John McEnroe ‘you cannot be serious’. Why do we insist on turning education in to some sort of production line for the world of work. I always thought, perhaps wrongly, that yes education was about preparing children for their life ahead (including work) but also about creating well rounded people who can make a positive contribution to society and the communities where they live. We shouldn’t be force-feeding children a diet of education that has a negative impact upon their health and general well-being and quality of life.
At 3-years old children basically want to do one thing: play. They’re still finding their way in the world. Yes early years education is important but it needs to be fun and help to nourish kids personal development. To try and introduce, however carefully, the need to equip them with skills from the beginning of their lives is just bonkers.
For me its much better to install a sense of curosity about the world around them and encourage them to spend as much time in the great outdoors rather than being stuck in the great indoors. We shouldn’t be force-feeding children some sort of formal learning at such a young and tender age – especially if it involves staring at screens for hours on end.
At my son’s nursery – he is three-years old – they have forest schools and take them on walks to a local green space. The thought that he is being instructured in some sort of formal way feels me with a sense of dread.
Our early years are so important to our development – the ability to talk, communicate and read. But we need to keep it simple and focus on the wonder of play, fuelling their imagination and a sense of wonder about the natural world around them. Kids grow up fast enough as it is and we shouldn’t allow our education system to accelerate that process and a detrimental way.