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Too much kindergarten not fun for all

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Development may be stunted by full days, study suggests
Press, Jordan & Abma, Derek
Publication Date: 
3 Jun 2011



Full-day kindergarten may be hurting the learning and personal development of some children, according to new research.

Early results from a pilot study focusing on two classrooms in southwestern Ontario showed that teachers in a regular school setting were often caught in the tension that exists between meeting curriculum expectations and teaching to student interests.

The researchers argue that academic goals, focused on results and preparation for standardized tests in later years, are taking away from play-based learning that builds upon what the child already knows.

The findings from researchers at the University of Western Ontario were presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences being held in Fredericton this week.

"There is an emphasis on standardization like never before ... that is being pushed down on young children," said lead researcher Rachel Heydon. "This is something that is being created that doesn't exist elsewhere."

Heydon said the findings can't be generalized to every full-day kindergarten classroom, but the results do raise questions about whether the practice will help children in the long term.

She said that standardized tests in Grade 3 created a "wash-back effect" that pushed aside student interests and development in favour of academic goals.

"Within the school system, teachers had very limited room to respond to children's interest and knowledge," Heydon said. "In the other setting ... they were very much able to respond to the children."

Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island have, in recent years, been moving toward full-day kindergarten programs.

In Ontario, junior kindergarten for four-year-olds and senior kindergarten for five-year-olds is scheduled to be universal by the 2014-15 school year. In B.C., the one level of kindergarten for five-year-olds is to be fully phased in to full days by the start of the next school year. P.E.I.'s full-day kindergarten was in place at the beginning of the current school year.

In Ontario, a combination of teachers and early-childhood educators -the latter typically employed at daycare centres -are teaming up to implement the full-day kindergarten program.

B.C.'s Ministry of Education website says: "Full-day learning is associated with improved literacy and numeracy, smoother transitions to Grade 1 and increased post-secondary graduation rates."

Heydon said that research into testing of young children has shown the opposite, with students of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds more severely affected.

"There's a culture of fear that can develop around that," Heydon said. "There are other places in the world where this is not happening and they're held up as models."


-reprinted from the Vancouver Sun

Entered Date: 
8 Jun 2011
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