Social and emotional competency is crucial when determining school readiness.
As a parent, education of our children is always on our minds – even when travelling. I am currently making a trip back to visit my family and friends in Malaysia, while taking a side trip to visit Guilin in China. And education and children are valued everywhere – but differently?
On our second day in Kuala Lumpur, I spent a whole productive day with a few relatives discussing and listening to their ideas regarding education for preschoolers in Malaysia. It is common knowledge that education is very important in Asian countries; it is viewed as a way of bettering ourselves and getting out of poverty (for many families in the rural areas). People aim to attain a more comfortable lifestyle in the future through education and a well-paid job.
Whatever the reasons may be, parents believe that by starting to educate preschoolers, it will enable them to gain an advantage in terms of technical knowledge when they start school. Parents in Malaysia are willing to go to great lengths to ensure their children get the best "education" they can.
During the conversation, I learned that some preschoolers are sent for special coaching or attend special classes to enhance their "technical" knowledge, and that really saddens me. Sure we send older kids for additional coaching if they need to, but for preschoolers?
I understand where that mentality and values for this approach come from as I was brought up within that culture. I even sent my children to kindergarten much earlier than they needed to, but I eventually had to pull my son back one year from high school as I actually mistook natural giftedness as school readiness. Now I realised what I had missed. His social and emotional skills were not yet developed at that time, and he was really struggling with the more structured environment and dealing with his peers.
It was a very heart breaking experience watching one’s child struggle and trying to fit in with peers. I would not wish it on anyone else. That's why I am very passionate about sharing my experiences with parents about using everyday experiences to not only educate and guide their children to learn, but to really empower them with emotional and social competencies before sending them off to school with joy and confidence.
With 20 odd years of opportunities to observe and to share my children's experiences and journeys, I can comfortably say that your child's social and emotional competency when starting school is crucial for them to be enjoying and thriving at school.
If your child is not equipped with proper social skills or competence in controlling their emotions, it will be challenging when they have to get along with their peers at school and handle a more structured environment in the formal schooling environment.
Though it may not seem a lot of difference in primary schools’ settings, it will make a huge impact on your children's lives when they are in high school. High school is where major growth happens, where peer groups are formed and when teenagers are in the process of establishing their independence. This is when the foundation of who they are is in a way cemented, and their confidence and self-esteem at this time are very important.
In the next blog, I will share with you some easy steps on how to help your children gain emotional and social competency through everyday interactions and experiences. We can achieve a lot as parents.