In Nigeria, the norm is for parents to enroll their kids into school at an early age. Early age being before they even start growing teeth and are aware of their environment. My first daughter started school at 2 while my second who is just one hasn’t even gotten a look in.
But as expected my wife and I have started discussing which school we will enroll her in, sighting the obvious need to start her early considering she hasn’t started talking unlike the second who started (well, mumbling words) before she was even one. But then I thought why do I have to start her that early? How does it influence her destiny? Will it help her talk quicker? By starting her early will it make her Nigeria’s first astronaut? Too many questions unanswered.
I had to come up with a decision and reason for it fast, lest I face the wrath of my wife. So to do that I have to rely on facts and practicality rather than theory, myth and norms. In the world the country with the best education is Finland. Finland? Yes Finland!! Strangely I sought to find out how and why? What clearly stood out was this “Children in Finland only start school at age seven”. I’m like why should my child start school at 7?
Finland believes children learn best when they’re playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning. So why then do we start our children in school this early? The answer is in make believe rather than fact. Nigerians have been made to believe that starting kids early help the children do better as they climb the ladder of education. A direct opposite of the Finish model. Where has this led us to as a country? Has the system worked? From available facts it obviously hasn’t. Kindergarten and pre-schools started as far back as 20 years ago in Nigeria, replacing Nursery as the first port of call for a toddler. Twenty years down the line what are the results? 21.5% of those who sat for the exams had a credit and above pass in Mathematics with 24% for English respectively. In summary 60% of pupils who sat for the examinations in 2010 failed it. The trend has actually worsened over the years. So what then happened to the kids who started kindergarten at well …..say 1? Did they gain anything from it? Maybe yes, but was it worth the while definitely no.
The beauty of the Finnish education system is such that they do all the things we don’t do. For example, kids spent less time in school whilst ours spend average 6 hours in school and an extra 2hours in lessons. Education is free and compulsory for all(or more like no tuition fee for full time students), ours is not free and not compulsory. In Finland, Private schools are very few and even when available, they are free and receive grants from the Government. In Nigeria Private schools abound and charge disparate fees. Pupils who struggle with studies are given extra teachers but remain in the same class room with others in Finland. Well in Nigeria, you are stigmatized and the parents take the child out of the school putting the blame on the teacher rather than on the child who probably is a slow starter. The primary and secondary school is combined, thus a child who starts school at 7 will be in school for 9 years and don’t have to change schools during the period. In Nigeria you spend year 0 to 1 in Creche, 1 to 3 in kG , 3 to 6 in Nursery , 6 to 12 in primary and now 12 to 17 in secondary school ( it used to be divided into junior and Senior up until last year). In Nigeria, the child would have gone through those years changing schools, seen numerous teachers and engaged hundreds of fellow classmates along the line. In Finland, basically, the teachers know their pupils inside out and throughout their formative lives.
So back to my problem, how do I convince my wife especially when the neighbors have already enrolled their 1 year old in a nearby high flying KG even though the child probably can’t say a word beyond “Dada” and /or “Mama”? Will my adopting the Finnish style be misconstrued as using my child as a guinea pig? Your guess is as good as mine.