Should 6-year-olds go to school?

Recently, one of the most important topics in our country has become the beginning of the education of the youngest in view of the rejection last Friday by the Parliament of the referendum on this issue. And what does science say about it? Should 6-year-olds be sent to school or should we give them another year of fun?

Should 6-year-olds go to school?

Recently in our country one of the most important topics has become the beginning of the education of the youngest in view of the rejection last Friday by the Parliament of the referendum proposal on this issue. And what does science say about this topic? Should 6-year-olds be sent to school or should we give them one more year of fun? Which will be better for the children themselves and all of us? Fortunately, we do not have to wander in the dark here and we can draw on the experience of other countries.

This topic is not only present in Poland, but recently it has also hit the headlines in the UK. A group of 130 early childhood education experts – mostly academics – have sent an open letter to the media stressing the importance of learning through play and citing what they believe is the most accurate age to begin a proper education – age 7.

They cite a number of scientific studies from a wide variety of fields. For example, anthropological studies of primitive hunter-gatherer cultures, as well as the behavior of other primates, have shown that play is a very important factor that we have evolved over thousands of years. It allows young people to learn better and solve problems better in the future.

Research in neuroscience has shown that by the age of about 4-6, play improves the development of synapses in children’s brains – particularly in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for higher thought functions such as predicting the consequences of one’s actions, distinguishing right from wrong, and suppressing antisocial behavior.

Other studies have shown that through play, children can better learn to deal with emotional problems, a finding supported by evidence from the latter half of the 20th century that children sent to school earlier are more likely to suffer from stress and mental health problems.

What about the pros of sending children to school earlier? This is where the problem arises, as it is currently difficult to find evidence of any. Many long-term studies clearly show that children in play-based preschool programmes do better later in life – both academically and in terms of social standing.

Experiments conducted in New Zealand (comparing children who start proper literacy instruction at age 5 and 7) have shown that an earlier start does not improve literacy skills but may actually impair them. At age 11, there were no differences between the children in the two groups, but those who started formal education earlier were much less literate and had poorer reading comprehension.

In contrast, a larger study of 15-year-olds in 55 countries shows absolutely no relationship between the age of entry into formal education and reading ability.

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