Ban pre-admission interview of children
IT DOES NOTHING EXCEPT HARMING A CHILD'S COGNITIVE, EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL, AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT, SUGGESTS ZEESHAN PANDITH
“Stop teaching my child nonsense!” Three months after enrolling her child in a preschool, a parent decides to take matters into her own hands. She goes to the principal’s office and asserts her view of what preschool education should be. She tells the principal, “Your preschool is worthless. You’re not teaching him anything. Art, calisthenics, practical life exercises---these are all useless. These are not what I paid for. Until now, my child can’t even write letter A. He doesn’t answer whenever I ask him questions. What will he do in the interview?”
This is what a profound concept and rich philosophical and pedagogical field that is “early childhood education” in the Valley has been reduced to: the pre-admission interview.
What is a pre-admission interview?
It is an instrument with which primary schools or high schools select new entries to their nursery, kindergarten, and early primary classes. It is quite a misnomer as the so-called interviews are structured much like formal oral and written examinations designed for much older students. Therefore, pre-admission ‘interviews’ should be stripped-off of their sugar coating and be known for what they truly are: early childhood examinations.
Every year in the Valley, three-year old children are subjected to such examinations. The usual contents of the examinations include answering questions about one’s own name, age, parentage, address, name of prime minister, chief minister, name of country, state, city, identification and writing of shapes, colors, uppercase and lowercase alphabets in English (other schools include an Urdu test), numerals 1-100, saying names of/identifying different objects such as fruits, vegetables, animals, flowers, insects, puzzles, modes of transportation, etc. spelling words such as apple, cat, ball, dog, fish, etc. , completing some puzzles, sing at least twenty rhymes. To sum, these examinations require children to exhibit rote ‘knowledge’ on a particular date set by the school.
Never mind the fact that the primary schools conducting these examinations are the very institutions which are responsible for introducing the three-year old interviewees to the kind of formal learning/schooling required to gain such knowledge after their enrolment in a primary school. Never mind the fact that most children are naturally moody and may choose not to respond to ‘strangers’ or that they may be uncomfortable toward that particular setting, or that they may be tired after long hours of waiting in line, and hence choose not to answer although they actually have in their minds the rehearsed answers to those interview questions. Never mind the fact that these interviewees are, after all, very young three-year old “children”.
Making a child ‘appear’ in a pre-admission examination is not a matter of subjecting the child to undue pressure for just one day. A child goes through several months of play-bereft, rigorous, and pressure-ridden interview preparation which starts with the parents enrolling the child in a preschool that assures parents of preparing their child to successfully complete the pre-admission examinations. In addition to enrolling their toddler to a preschool, many parents hire a private tutor to ensure that all the child’s energy is spent preparing for the examination, especially in the comfort of their own homes. While some parents eagerly pay a fee to preschools or special centers that are making an easy business out of parents’ desperation and conduct “paid mock interviews”, other parents have a do-it-yourself spirit and repeatedly subject their child to interview simulations—in front of guests, friends, and relatives—anytime, anywhere.
Some parents expect that just after three to six months of attending preschool, their child should be “ready” for the pre-admission interviews/examinations—especially the written tests. The fact is that most preschool children are not ready for formal writing lessons. Preschools are supposed to help children develop their pre-writing skills and fine motor muscles by giving them age-appropriate play materials that are designed to help children practice eye-hand coordination, left-to-right movement, and a host of other skills that are prerequisites to learning how to write in a proper manner and pace. So, forcing a child to learn to write at this age is much like depriving a three-month old infant of his first food, which is mother’s milk, and instantly expect him to be able to chew solid food. In other words, formal writing lessons are not just “difficult” for children. Rather, these are developmentally inappropriate. Some progressive preschools have tried their best to share such information with parents as the harmful effects of forcing children into rigorous writing lessons and other rote-based methods include such things as development of poor or awkward writing grip and negative attitudes towards writing and the very idea of studying or schooling. The worst effect on children is poor self-esteem as these young and tender souls experience more ‘failures’ than ‘successes’ in developmentally inappropriate activities. However, parents are so consumed by their anxiety over these early childhood examinations that they turn deaf and blind to the real developmental needs of their child. They prefer their child to be pressured through demanding preparation and loads of homework rather than be left behind in the mad race for the big schools.
As if it there wasn’t enough stress on the child, many parents make their three-year old fully aware of the “consequences” of failing the interviews. They tell their child that she or he must answer all the questions or else he will fail the interviews and will not be able to go to any of their desired big schools.
Judging a preschool’s achievement by the number of students who ‘passed’ the pre-admission examinations may be plain ignorance. But judging a child’s achievement in his or her early years based on his ‘failure’ or ‘success’ in an unscientific, rote-learning oriented, non-transparent pre-admission examination is atrocious!
In its position paper on early childhood education, the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) states that, “No quantitative assessment or use of standardized test is recommended. In fact, it is prohibited. Children should not be tested or subjected to oral interviews in order to pass or move to higher settings of learning in the early years”. It further states that the interview process has “harmful effects on children”.
There’s a ban on the use of polythene because it is harmful to the environment. There’s a ban on cigarette smoking in public because it harms not only the smoker but the people around him. There are certain ingredients that are banned in food processing because they are harmful to health. Finally, people are starting to care about public health and environment. How about caring for our children?
I strongly believe that the government should ban pre-admission examinations as well as preschool practices directly related to such examinations because these are harming our children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and psychological development.
(Zeeshan Pandith is a Social Activist. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 7 Jun 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 7 Jun 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 8 Jun 2011 00:00:00 IST
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