Education policy : Why kindergarten children need assessments

Kharghar was already starting to be a location with a large middle class population when we moved here. And I was shocked to see so many middle class families where children had such poor education.
This post is about :

    • The factors that made me think this way.
    • Why language comprehension at age 0 to 5 is crucial.
    • The need for assessments at Kindergarten level.
    • A book review : ‘Mom Dad U R Wonderful’ by Dr Salma Prabhu, a wonderful handbook for parents, as well as for parents to be.


Lets talk about children age 8 to 14

My experiences with piano teaching here in Kharghar, as well as interaction with children within the locality were a rude awakening. It is my feeling, and I think that of many other teachers here, that the percentage of students that the points below apply to here in Navi Mumbai, are unusually high in comparison to other localities in Mumbai.

  • Many children of this age have difficulty thinking and reasoning. They can only answer questions that are in a specific format which is familiar to them.
  • The idea of looking at something, observing it carefully, and then copying it confuses many children. It sometimes takes me 3 lessons to get new students of this age group to copy me clapping 4 times!
  • Almost all students of this age can’t understand when they read something new, as they don’t know how to read using punctuation to make sense of words.
  • Many can’t construct simple sentences in correct grammar.
  • Many students here are poor readers, and have difficulty following a line of text or music with their eyes.

Many of these students have no real learning difficulties, yet learn like children who have. And it often takes about two year of remedial music teaching to get them learning like they should be.

I think that talking to teachers, and counsellors who do remedial teaching here will provide enough evidence to suggest that both the education level of children, and the quality of teaching in each school needs to be assessed.

English at Kindergarten

Age 0 to 5 are the most important years in a child’s development. Here’s a quote from an article at Huffingtonpost.in, by ‘Safari Kid’, the International Pre-School chain,

“A child’s brain is more receptive to learning during the first five years of his life than at any other point in time. What’s most relevant here is that the brain is most plastic or flexible in the first five years of life. The more you exercise different areas of the brain in the early years of development, the more lasting an impact it will have on their learning ability.”

English literacy at this age is very important for every child who learns in an English medium school.

  • Children who have average or high language comprehension learn to think, and ask questions when they are curious, or don’t understand something.
  • And those with poor language comprehension learn to learn by rote. Just memorising and repeating, or copying something because they can see it is required of them at school. They learn NOT to think, but go by what everyone else is doing and do the same. Later on, at age 8 onwards, simple instructions that need some level of independent thinking or processing, will confuse these kids.

Learning styles developed at kindergarten often stay with children for life, unless there’s some intervention or remedial activities / teaching.

When English is not spoken at home

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A parent who is not comfortable with spoken English, might not have the confidence or the knowledge to correctly assess the quality of a child’s early school education, in the absence of school assessments.

While many families do find ways to provide English language exposure at home, there are enough families that rely completely on schools, not realising language comprehension needs support at home.
It’s important to realise that school is the place where students learn to think. And that teachers, teaching a large class of 35 to 50 students often have to adjust their teaching methods to cater to kids who don’t understand English. And this often means that the overall quality of education imparted to other children suffers.

Factors that affect education

  • We have lost our ‘village’ the traditional systems where children routinely had access to story telling, speech games, play with other kids, and neighbours who looked after children and played with them when mothers were busy, have broken down. And lack of interaction which provides play and speech (whether in English or any other language) mean that this aspect of child development can get neglected.
  • TV and cellphones : Many families today put their toddlers in front of the television, or give them cellphones to play with when mothers are busy, instead of teaching them to play with toys on their own. Some, even think that this will make their kids smart. Later, these kids are likely to have a problem with television and cellphone addiction.
  • Busy lifestyles and day care when there’s no family member at home during the early years, often leave kids with no parent interaction. More children have anxiety and loneliness than ever before, and this too, can shut down their thinking processes and result in behavioural issues.
  • There are cultural issues at play too. Ideas of love can revolve so much around food that stay-at-home mothers are constantly cooking fresh food and catering to individual preferences at every meal. And priorities in these families might not extent to a parent talking, playing and spending time with reading and story telling during a child’s early years.

The failure of the ‘No Fail’ Policy

The ‘No Fail’ policy in primary education (link below, to current changes in this policy) means that parents who don’t understand the value of spoken language development and fluency in reading, often develop a false sense of confidence that everything is ok.

Often they can see the lack clearly, but don’t think it’s important.
And there sadly, is a section of parents who only pay attention to education when school exams start in class VIII, and their child does badly or starts to get very stressed.

I think the No Fail Policy from class 0 to VII has failed many of our children. The whole purpose of education is to teach children, and assessments can be used to make sure that both schools and parents fulfil their role as educators.

Yet, the ‘No Fail’ policy hasn’t failed children from the top level of schools. Because these schools have methods that educate, assess, and provide remedial teaching when needed. And make student families realise the importance of supporting education at home before things progress too far. I’ve taught children age 4 &1/2 to 6 like this in Navi Mumbai, as well as Mumbai. And I know that it’s both the school and the parents that are jointly responsible for the success.

Assessment of Kindergarten kids can be a tool

I think that an assessment of children at nursery and kindergarten, conducted in a way that is positive and proactive can be a wonderful teaching tool :

  • An indicator to parents, that their child is in a competent school.
  • A way for teachers to convince parents that their children need language exposure and support for education at home.
  • A help to day care centres that offer optional fun educational activities, as well as a way of bringing the idea that these are worth investing in, to parents.

Assessment need not be an exam that passes and fails. Rather, it should be a call to action so that all students get the support they need – in school and at home. A signal that remedial teaching is needed, so children reach the year end well equipped to absorb what is taught in the following year.

This post reflects my personal opinion only. I write about it because I think it is a topic that more people need to start discussing. I write about English language comprehension because English medium schools are the most in demand, even with families who don’t speak English. But the same applies equally to other mediums of education.


Book Review : ‘Mom Dad U R Wonderful’ by Dr Salma Prabhu

Dr Salma Prabhu is the founder of ACE at Vashi. She is a well known clinical psychologist and has a lot of experience in personal counselling, as well as the identification and treatment of learning difficulties.

Her book is a wonderful guide to parents, as well as parents-to-be. It’s a ‘Parenting Handbook’ that will help parents realise the value of spending time with their children.

Many children today get lost in the ‘busy’ of their parents daily lifestyle and this book brings out the need for family planning, in a totally different way. Family planning, that goes back to ideas of planning to spend time with children.

Loneliness and isolation is starting to be a part of childhood, and teachers often find themselves talking to parents – to slow down the pace and make time for their children.

This book guides parents, with practical ways and activities, that help parents create a loving home environment that will help their child grow. It’s a book that I’ve been waiting for.


Related links :

    1. Parliament Thursday approved a bill to amend a law to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ till Class VIII by enabling state governments to allow schools to fail students.
    2. The First 5 Years Of Your Child’s Life Can Shape Their Destiny.

    3. Remedial teaching in piano class

Anita E Kohli is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.in.


7 comments

  1. Growing up, I rarely had a test early on. Throughout grammar school, we had the occasional quiz then tests and the end of most chapters. Don’t think I did well most of the time. In middle school, I did quite well, then fell back in high school, one year deciding to see how good of grades I could get without ever cracking a book. But throughout my life, I read comics, back of cereal boxes, magazines, books when I was interested, and used a dictionary if I really wanted to know a meaning. Yet, somehow, without all the testing kids get today, I learned. It didn’t show up on the report cards, but I learned. In the 5th grade, and beyond, I always tested several grades higher in reading. Yet, I never did well in reading. But when I put my mind to something, I would do well. And that’s how it is for many.
    While I think verbal quizzing, quizzes, and tests can and should be utilized to see where the students are, classwork and projects can also be utilized. Grades put the responsibility, or should, on the students’ shoulders to perform. And it is a kind of life skill. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. And good, quality teachers know their students. I’ve known some kids to be smart though they always did poorly on tests. But their talks, verbal answers, and some classwork told me otherwise.
    There will never be a testing methodology that tells everything. You also cannot motivate many students through testing. I know, as a kid or teen, I would have rebelled. Interesting lessons? Alright. Challenges? Alright. Creativity? Yes, you got my attention. Tests every week? I would have studied less.
    With the younger students, the day to day activities, the learning, the play, the creative review of subjects, and all this helps a lot. It’s the doing over and over, but in different forms, some fun, some direct, and the support from families on the import of listening that ultimately develops over time. And with me, nothing could have predicted what I was listening to. I suppose, what caught my attention stayed with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for writing in. I am talking about exactly what you mentioned. Assessments, not necessarily in a test format – all good schools do them. At kindergarten, there’s a lot of scope for play or game based activities that can be used to assess. Yes each child will excel at some things and go slower with others. Kids have lost their village, and even family time with parents

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  2. There’s been a change in parenting too, and teachers see parents who think that it’s OK to not have time with kids, more frequently. It’s a crisis in parenting too, which is lead by today’s lifestyles.

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  3. In kindergarten, I learned colors, shapes, numbers, coloring, and more. As I went to 1rst, 2nd, and so forth, I learned more. The United States of America was #1 in the world during my grade school, and though I can see areas to improve, I had a decent education, one that I could improve upon with my own efforts, and this I did. Of course, not everyone would, but as I could read well, write decently, and math skills were proficient, I could determine my own future. Yes, even then, education could have been better, but we knew, as students, we were responsible for our own grades, or we would be held back. These aspects caused many students to try harder, for if one were held back one year, one would work harder to prevent that from happening again. It’s a matter of returning, in some aspects, to what worked decades ago. Certainly, with new information, computers and such need to be added, and good teachers will know how to incorporate. Regarding parents, schools need a set of standards that parents must abide by: 1) Follow the parental guidebooks rules, and those rules need to encourage responsibility, 2) Listen to the teacher. Respect the teacher, 3) Students must do their work, at least to passing, or they will be held back, and the onus of responsibility needs to be on the students’ shoulders. If they fail two years in a row, they’re held back two years in a row. Otherwise, the difficulty for teachers prevents raising the bar. 4) If we follow what worked decades ago, we would quickly see a change in classroom and school dynamics.

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