Getting Them Early
Pakistani Twitter is a hotbed of contentious discussion mired by unfortunate invective. But despite this unwelcoming description, it’s an extraordinarily useful place in the most meaningful, but unexpected of ways. I had always used the word factoid incorrectly, assuming meant a tidbit of information – until someone called me out on it. Factoid actually means unreliable information that has been repeated so often that it is assumed to be true. A factoid I have often used without much thought to its accuracy is that Finnish students start school at seven years of age. Which is true, but its misleading. This fact suggests that allowing children time to be children, unburdened by school will still allow them to become the engines of a world beating education system that regularly outdoes many countries bigger, richer and more developed than they are.
But, 97% of Finnish children receive some form of pre-school or daycare between the ages of 3-6. There is a stronger consensus in the past few decades that, despite debates about the merit of burdening children with schoolwork in later years, getting to children earlier through some form of schooling is enormously beneficial to children as they get older and more advanced into the education system. Peter Savelyev, a Vander built professor, conducted a study into the The High Scope Perry Preschool Project which tracked the outcomes from a randomized trial of African American children who went to preschool and those that didn’t. The results were remarkable, and had a significant effect on some of the debilitating disadvantages poverty can have on a child growing up. While IQ enhancement was not significant, two socializing factors were significant enough to carry forward into adulthood. The first that the pupils became more academic oriented, and second that they were less likely to turn to crime.
Other studies have shown that educational attainment in middle school, higher attendance and getting qualifications and degrees post high-school all improved in those who attended pre-school compared to those that didn’t. These are very significant results. Pre-school is often derided for being nothing more than institutionalized and supervised child’s play. What is stark about many of these results is that they are strongest for the children from the most disadvantaged of backgrounds. Running pre-school under the same ethos as regular school runs counter to its purpose. Children are taught to be socialized and learn crucial interpersonal skills that not all families and settings can deliver. Play is central to this process because it teaches cooperation, and perhaps more critically, that learning and school is a place where they can have fun. With structured interventions of learning – the preparation for the future is significant.
“Other studies have shown that educational attainment in middle school, higher attendance and getting qualifications and degrees post high- school all improved in those who attended pre-school compared to those that didn’t”
all our children how will we manage making pre-school a possibility. It a valid exercise in cynicism. The truth though, is that we do have money to spend. Its less than we would like, but just look at this statistic, in 2016 Balochistan was spending 20% of its budget on education. It’s a similar case around the country. Pakistan is committing enormous spends to education (conventional wisdom says we aren’t) – but we are just receiving poor results for our money.
The challenge is not just to fund education more, but also to ensure what we already spend yields children who have learned at school, not just attended it. Most of the studies on early childhood education look at centers where there is a high level of professional competence, having early childhood education delivered by the state will do no nothing unless it is of a high quality (indeed, if the atmosphere is not child friendly it Of course, one can be skeptical applying this in the case of Pakistan – surely, since we cant even educate adds to their stress, impacting development).
The good news is that both Punjab and KP have, in the previous term of government, already begun with creating early childhood centers. How good they are is still open to question because they are few and new. In a piece by Baela Raza Jamil which analyzed some of the existing early childhood education centers in the Punjab, she and her team found significant variations in the ages of children within a session – children so young have significant differences in cognitive ability within just one-year age variances. Multi age teaching doesn’t work well at this level. But the demand for state led education provision needs to now include not just education for all – but the provision of early childhood education for young children to address inequality, one of the primary political drivers of the resurgence of interest in education. The future will come from letting children play, in preschool.
Fasi Zaka is a Pakistani columnist, political commentator, television anchor and radio talk show host. He is popular amidst the masses for his satirical views and light- hearted columns and shows on pertinent political and national matters of interest. He currently hosts a radio show for FM 91.