We Must Give Our Children the Opportunity to Learn; OPINION: Early Years Education Policy Key Now to Our Nation's Future

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 19, 2002 | Go to article overview

We Must Give Our Children the Opportunity to Learn; OPINION: Early Years Education Policy Key Now to Our Nation's Future


Byline: BRANWEN LLEWELYN JONES

THERE is emerging, as a result of the initiatives of the National Assembly for Wales, an increasing difference for the better between the attitude in Wales and that in England. This difference is clearly reflected in policy.

Jane Davidson gets to the heart of the matter when she states in her foreword to The Learning Country that "we are at a turning point in education and lifelong learning in Wales."

That lifelong learning is grounded in the early years, and it is the quality and nature of education and care at this stage which will determine not only our children's, but our nation's future.

In the present context of rapid social change, the pattern of childhood is now being transformed within a generation. For too many children it is changing within the time span of their own childhoods.

Our children deserve the focused intelligence of educational researchers funded by the Assembly in order to support the new vision from theory which will influence policy and enhance practice in all settings.

International comparisons indicate that high standards in the three Rs are achieved in countries whose curricula are not restricted to the basics, but are far broader and more balanced. It is erroneous and damaging to our children to subscribe to the belief, characterised by English policies, that focusing on literacy and numeracy and marginalising other areas guarantees high standards.

We should look long and hard at what we are doing to our youngest children. They have become exposed to formal teaching ever earlier in what has become frequently referred to as a "hurried curriculum."

Commonly used terms in education literature, such as "hothousing children, " "jump-starting toddlers" and the "hurried-child" have alerted us to the pressure placed on teachers to prepare children for early formal learning in order to ensure early "success" such as that which is still to be measured in England by SATs.

It is probably fair to say that in the majority of schools, much that goes on in the first four years has, because of government pressure, become geared to producing government defined measurable success at the end of year two.

Such academic success is costly to achieve because it is attained at the expense of diverse abilities and qualities in children. Until these are valued, vast reserves of human potential are discarded and the label of failure sticks undeservedly to far too many young people whose lives will be largely influenced by the experiences they have in school. …

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