Starting in September, nearly 600 schools in districts across Ontario will offer full day kindergarten for 4-and 5-year-olds. Alberta will offer it in 18 Calgary Board of Education schools and 22 Calgary Catholic School District schools. And in British Columbia, full day kindergarten begins for approximately 50 per cent of 5-year-olds.

On August 31st, BC's Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said via teleconference that conversations are ongoing with the Ministry of Children and Family Development about kindergarten for 3-and 4-year-olds.

When did education become a race? According to world-renowned family therapist and parenting author Steve Biddulph, full day kindergarten for 5-year-olds is too long, and any younger is a big mistake developmentally. In support of Biddulph's claim, a major review of British primary schools by Cambridge University included a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research, which stated the practice of allowing children to start school at age four was found to be stressful. [Editor's note: The report states that, "...an early introduction to a formal curriculum may increase anxiety..."]
 
Yet authors Anna Riggall and Caroline Sharp found that in some countries where students start school up to two years later, many outperform their English peers. The authors conclude: “While the value of high-quality pre-school education is beyond dispute, the assumption that an early primary school starting age is beneficial for children’s later attainment is not well supported by the research evidence.”
 
Biddulph says the calendar is a poor guide for when a child should start school. Decades of research has shown that most boys (and some girls) are slower to develop fine-motor and language skills. Many of these children would benefit from an additional year in kindergarten: full day senior kindergarten. They could begin Grade 1 at age seven, when their fine-motor skills are ready for pencil-and-paper work.

 

Over the past few years I've asked a number of kindergarten teachers: "When reviewing your class in June, are there any children you feel are not developmentally ready for Grade 1?" Responses from teachers typically range from zero to four children, depending on the class. But in the current educational climate, it's extremely rare for a child in Canada or the U.S. to repeat kindergarten.

In his web article, We Can Do Better By Boys, Biddulph writes: "In English-speaking countries, boys make up more than 80% of all remedial classes. In Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and many other countries where school [Grade 1] does not begin until age seven, this gender gap in literacy does not exist...hence the idea of boys delaying starting school till they are at least six. It can mean a choice between your son being one of the youngest in his class, feeling inadequate, being the least able, or being one of the most co-ordinated and confident by waiting and starting the following year - and having this remain so all the way through school. Professor Kathy Sylva at Oxford University recently reported findings that starting school too soon creates a failure mentality, while kindergarten - which used to be a year of play, activity, and social learning - has succumbed more and more to pressure for skills learning. This compounds the problem."