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Published on Feb 11, 2008
In the USA and UK, almost all parents buy into the idea that infants should learn to read & write as soon as possible. Indeed, many parents measure the intelligence & potential of their children by their ability to read and write at an early age. Some even try to give their babies a head start by showing them "Baby Einstein" dvds against all the advice of pediatricians and education experts.
The newspapers advise parents to check out the school league tables and do everything they can to get their children into "good schools". What is a good school? A school that's good at getting children to pass SATs. Nothing else is of interest.
The end result?
1) Good teachers (and the vast majority are good) are increasingly demoralized. They either leave the system or just resign themselves to jumping through the latest administrative hoops. Their knowledge, expertise, creativity and unique skills are sacrificed in favour of "targets", "assessment" and "conforming" to goverment frameworks.
2) Children suffer. They are increasingly stressed out by school. Their intellectual curiosity is stifled. More and more leave school unable to read or write. As children get older, they are less able to meet the more rigorous intellectual challenges of higher education - their minds are less flexible, having been constrained too early. Ask any university lecturer.
Despite the popularity of "Baby Einstein" dvds, "Literacy hours" and National curriculum assessments for children as young as seven, it's clear that early years education in the UK and USA is in crisis.
As a parent or a teacher, maybe you're thinking, "There must be a better way".