Pros and Cons of Schooling at Five
The Government is making plans to lower the formal schooling age. Here, experts and parents share their views.
THE proposed move to lower the formal schooling age for children is a dynamic step as it will indirectly make pre-school education compulsory.
Pre-school is part of early child care and education and neuroscience research has shown the importance of early experiences.
Early Childhood Care and Education Council president Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng said some might have got the wrong impression of what it means to lower the schooling age.
“It is not so much about placing younger pupils in school, but rather a move to ensure that children at that age are able to receive adequate educational exposure.
“Numerous neuroscientific research and sociological studies have proved that pre-school education is important, so it is good for us to move in this direction,” she explained.
There is, she added, a growing movement to improve pre-school education and access.
“Since we are looking into revamping the education system in general, many ideas have been brought up and early childhood education is an important area that we are looking into.
Dr Chiam, who is also Malaysia’s Representative (Children) to the Asean Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, said one of the guidelines proposed in the recent National Key Result Areas (NKRA) education lab was that new primary schools be built with an annexe for pre-school classes.
This, she added, would improve access to early childhood education.
“At the end of the day, the best interests of the children should be the priority when we make any changes to the system,” she said.
If things go according to plan, five-year-old children could start their formal schooling in three years’ time.
Currently children are six years plus when they enter Year One in primary school.
This proposal to lower the formal schooling age from six years plus to five years plus is included in the Education Ministry’s Interim Strategic Plan 2011-2020. Its suggested implementation is 2015.
The plan states that children aged five plus are prepared to start schooling, with a long-term aim of producing quality human capital.
Concurring with Dr Chiam, former education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said children are able to grasp concepts from as young as three years of age.
He added: “I don’t think it will be a problem for a five-year old to start formal schooling as many children attend pre-school and nursery from a young age.
“Once the facilities are in place and the teachers have been trained, the ministry will be able to cater for all children, be they be in urban or rural areas.”
The Government should ensure that children in rural areas have the same pre-school opportunities as their urban counterparts, said former education director-general Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad.
“It is a good idea to start earlier as children are more exposed to television and mature earlier than previously,” he added.
However, the move to lower the school age would include amending the Education Act 1996, as Section 29 states that children aged six must attend primary school.
by Karen Chapman.