This paper examines the effects of preschool on the development of children's learning skills, moral behavior, and social competence. It is based on the research on the impact of care centers on kids. The articles considered in the paper analyze three aspects of preschool education: behavioral, social, and cognitive. Although the articles present different perspectives on the issue, the results of the studies may be attributed to the position either for or against children's attending kindergarten. Dewar (2015), Loeb (2007) and Barnett (2008) point on detrimental effects of preschool on kids' communication skills and behavior. Jalongo (2005) emphasizes the practical benefits of kindergarten and Quinn (2003) states the positive influence of preschool on children's attainment rates. As preschool is found to have possible positive influence in only one scale out of three, its impact on children is considered mostly negative. The conclusion can be drawn that attending kindergarten is not an indispensable condition of kids' development. The suggestion is made that preschool system requires innovative highly qualified and affordable programs that would use an individual approach to children. An alternative solution implies sending children to kindergarten for no longer than three hours a day followed by enhanced parents' care.
Keywords:kindergarten, behavioral problems, cognitive development, social competence
Kindergarten – Good or Bad Idea?
A controversial question parents face when their children enter the age of three to five is whether to send them to kindergarten or not. The effects of preschool on children is a debated issue. While some parents consider kindergarten as an essential childhood experience for their kids, others chose to avoid it. It is hard to deny that kindergarten has a significant influence on children's development. If it hadn't, parents wouldn't send their children to various care centers, nurseries, and kindergartens. Enrolling kids in a preschool program, parents expect to receive qualified help in children's upbringing. Besides basic everyday care, parents commonly demand the development of kids' social competence, the establishment of the model of moral behavior and sufficient preparation for school. It is still an open question, though, whether kindergarten provides children with such care that develops them socially, morally and cognitively. Contemporary scientists do not present a unified view on the overall impact of kindergarten but evaluate different aspects of preschool education. Based on the studies, parents may make their own conclusions and a thoughtful choice whether to send kids to kindergarten. After analyzing children's rates of behavioral problems, social competence, and attainment progress at preschool, the conclusion can be made that the effect of kindergarten on children's development is mostly negative.
The reasons for parents to send their children to care centers nowadays differ from those which initiated the establishment of first kindergartens in the nineteenth century. Today, sending children to kindergarten, parents demonstrate their willingness to bring up kids in a way that would make them intelligent, out-going, and successful in the future. In kindergarten, caretakers are expected to identify and meet children's individual needs. While contemporary parents often value the opportunity to enroll children in a prestigious preschool program, in the nineteenth century to send children to kindergarten was a compelled choice. The process of urbanization and social tendencies connected with it invoked the emergence of the first kindergartens in response to the needs of working parents (Bowen, 2015). Nowadays, parents send children to nurseries even when they can bring up kids on their own. The demands of parents have changed – they do not need caretakers simply to keep an eye on children, they expect them to educate their kids. Proponents of alternative homeschooling, however, wonder how they may entrust their children to strangers. Relying on the competence of preschool caretakers more than on themselves may be interpreted as parents' attempt to escape responsibility for their children's upbringing. Taking into consideration the drawbacks of kindergarten, it seems reasonable to hold the perspective against sending kids to care centers. Nevertheless, the number of children enrolled in preschool programs is significant. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, by 2005, more than one hundred thirty-two million kids were enrolled in preschool programs worldwide (2007). In countries like Hungary, Sudan, India and the Philippines, sending kids to nurseries is not only popular but compulsory. The large scale prevalence of centralized care systems causes concern as attending kindergarten has underestimated adverse consequences for children.
First, attending preschool is found to have a negative influence on children's behavior (Dewar, 2013). The concern of parents who observe their children's “increased rudeness, defiance, or aggression” after visiting nursery is not baseless (Dewar, 2013). According to USA National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, kids who attend preschools face more behavioral problems than those who do not (NICHHD, 2003). A science writer and anthropologist Gwen Dewar explains why spending time in preschool groups results in kids' increased nervousness and why parents who sent their children to kindergarten report about behavioral problems that have not arisen before (2013). According to Dewar, in care centers, children get an increased amount of stress (2013). Spending hours in nursery results in children's exposure to stress-related problems that directly influence their behavior (Dewar, 2013). Parents should be aware of possible adverse consequences of their children staying in the stressful environment of kindergarten. Choosing the means of ceasing kids' behavioral problems, it is necessary for parents to understand that these problems may be caused by the lack of protection and personal attention (Dewar, 2013). Parents make a mistake when they perceive kids’ nervousness as their whims and punish them or insist on their visiting kindergarten hoping that children will get used to it (Dewar, 2013). As the root of the problem is found to be in the increased amount of stress kids receive in kindergarten, the belief that preschool improves children's behavior should be rejected.
The opposing view is held by an American writer and experienced teacher Mary Renck Jalongo. She criticizes overcautious parents for their attempts to shield their children from difficulties of adapting to the preschool environment (Jalongo, 2005). The author associates excessive care with gratifying and indulging parenting (2005). Jalongo claims that attending kindergarten tempers children and keeping kids from preschool is irrational and harmful “echo from the past” (2005). From this perspective, the reason for parents to enroll their kids in a preschool program is that specialists would take care of their children professionally and meet all kids' needs. Jalongo also mentions the importance of on-time lunches and health-checks – the service that from her point of view may be not received from parents due to the lack of competence and time spent with children (2005).