The Ghana education act of 1961 established the policy of free and compulsory basic education for all Ghanaian children of school going age but what exactly is the school going age?
There are several controversies surrounding the right time to send the child to school. Ghana currently pegs the school going age at age 4 where the child is expected to start at pre-school which is usually made up of 2 years of kindergarten, 6 years of primary school and another 3 years at the Junior high school.
While there are evidence suggesting that even 4 years is too early for formal literacy exercise for the child there is no strict rule or control from the central government of Ghana hence it allows for each school to set their age range for admission. While some schools don’t accept children below age 3 others take them as soon as they turn one. This issue is as a result of pressure from parents because most parents have the perception that the earlier the better but there is no evidence to back that notion. Other parents just don’t have the time for their children hence early school provides a relief.
In the developed countries the age range is often fixed so that no child below a certain age group is allowed into any school –private or public. International comparison and psychological studies have shown that it is better to delay child from instructional based education.
Comparing children who began formal literacy instruction at age five or age seven, Studies in New Zealand have shown that by the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups. But the children who started at five developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later.
Children are usually not mentally ready for instructional academic work until age 5 and even then the academic work need special structuring that would not put much demand on the child.
Evidence shows increase in stress and mental health problems among children in countries where early childhood education is being increasingly formalised. This may have long term consequences on students as their play time is often restricted by the formal system.
Instead of the regular school children could attend pre-school that are play based. This provides the children with the opportunity to develop all the faculties required for academic work without the unnecessary early childhood stress.
Kathy Sylva and colleagues in 2004 study demonstrated that that longer period of high-quality, play-based pre-school education resulted in a significant difference to academic learning and well being through the primary school years.
Also in 2002 a study in the US showed that children whose preschool was based on instructional learning model had scored significantly lower marks compared with the children who had attended child-initiated, play-based pre-school by the end of their sixth year in school.
This mass of evidence suggests that parents must take a close look at the age to send their children to a regular school. It is often said that the earlier the better but that evidently does not apply to education of the child. The government could be called upon to set the minimum school going age at 6 years or higher and to implement policies to ensure that this is respected but would you rather wait? or you will take initiative to either send the child to the preschool with play-based programs until age 5 to 7 or delay the child at home?