As a parent and educator cum parent coach, I have faced this problem from both ends. The best way to analyse the situation is to look at it closely and objectively from both ends of the spectrum.
Parent’s Perspective : My child is being asked to repeat a year at this early stage. Repeating a class equates to failing. My child can’t be a failure. This means my child will lose out on one entire year of their life. I know my child is smart enough. They know their letters and numbers. They know the alphabet as well. When I ask them at home they answer everything correctly. Maybe they are just not answering in school and so they think he/she doesn’t know it. If this feedback is given to me earlier or even now I am willing to work with my child to catch up on the syllabus or whatever my child is lacking because as a parent also I will feel like I have failed if I allow my child to repeat a class. My child already knows all this and will get bored so I will be wasting one year’s fees and then my child will feel bad as all their friends have got promoted and they are the ones repeating. Maybe I will consider another school then.
While the logic and rationale behind these statements can be understood as this is how society has conditioned us to see things. We believe these to be true and may not be very open to another perspective because we are focussed on the glass being half empty in this case.
Educator’s Perspective : A child asked to repeat a class is only because they need more time to build a strong foundation. In the early years every few months count and there are huge developmental differences between a 2.5 year old and a 3 year old, for example: physically (motor skills), emotionally (independence) and cognitively (language & logical reasoning). If we rush a child to save that one year we might lose out on the next 20 years of the child’s educational journey. How you wonder? A child who might be pushed to catch up academically or cognitively will not be able to catch up physically and emotionally because we can’t rush nature. Due to this my child will feel insecure, lower self esteem as they compare themselves to others and maybe even incompetent, for honestly, no fault of theirs. These feelings that they are not able to express, can result in a loss of love for learning and eventually they will not try hard enough because they believe their efforts are in vain. Recognising alphabets and numbers by just knowing the patterns is one thing but having phonetic awareness, sound symbol association, number sense and logical reasonning are a whole different vertical requiring deep conceptual understanding. My child will only benefit from having more time and repeating these missed concepts. For children adapting to new friends is easy at this stage, they don’t feel like failures or repeaters unless adults make them feel like that. If my child is a few months older to the children in their class, they will be more secure, confident and independent. They will have an advantage at sports and other extra curricular activities throughout their life. This feedback and suggestion can only be given at the appropriate time – after careful observation of the child throughout the year. If your child has been showing consistent progress, is happy going to school, the staff is well trained, experienced and genuinely cares about the child, you must trust the institute for their knowledge and guidance regarding the child.
I would also like to share a few case studies that will help you understand this holistically. Please note, while these are absolutely true stories, the names of the children have been changed to protect their identity.
Case Study 1 – Suraj completed his playgroup at 2.5 years and his parents wanted him to move to Nursery. We tried to explain how repeating playgroup would be beneficial but somehow the parents were not convinced. After completing nursery we tried explaining again but the parents insisted on moving Suraj to Jr. KG. Suraj was being asked to repeat not because he was failing, as per the academic assessment he was passing with close to average marks but Suraj had the potential to excel and become an exceptional student. However, he needed more time to develop his motor skills and emotional independence too. We tried explaining that as per govt. guidelines also my child should be 6 years plus for grade one in any case he will be fine. Suraj would not have even felt like a failure or a repeat student rather he would have had an opportunity to thrive. We put our foot down as this was in the best interest of Suraj and that resulted in Suraj being shifted to another school where they were more than happy to take him to Jr. KG. Suraj did alright, the boy who was brilliant landed up being an average student. Fast forward to four years later, and the parents admitted their younger son to Toddlers Nursery because somethings only time teaches us.
Case Study 2 – Naman was an intelligent boy. He was doing so well in school and particularly at his languge skills that he participated in an inter school elocution competition. Naman’s parents met other students his age who were one class ahead and Naman being a tall child appeared much older than his classmates (he was by only a few months). His parents visited other schools and asked us to make him skip a class or they would shift him to another school. We knew skipping a class would not be appropriate for Naman and he would really suffer in the long run. The parent was extremely happy with us, she gave us a lovely parting gift and we parted ways on a good note. 3 months later, they came back as Naman had started bed wetting due to the onset of nightmares because of the new school and stress of the advanced class. The parent apologised and requested us to make arrangements to take hime back in the age appropriate class. We did not have place but it broke our heart to see Naman like that and we accomodated him. He did very well and we are sure he is continuing to excel.
Case Study 3 – Arpita was a very tiny girl and we took her in Nursery at 2.5 because the parents insisted. At 3.5 we suggested to repeat Nursery, the mother was convinced but the father’s perspective was just as mentioned earlier in the blog. He was an involved dad who spent a lot of time with his daughter and it showed. Arpita, even though she was the youngest in the class, had exceptional GK skills, had a very high IQ and could beat students 1 or 2 years older to her in GK quiz. However, she needed assistance and personal attention with everything. She refused to participate in the Annual Day in front of an audience and was extremely scared of bright colours, balloons, clowns and make up. Her emotional quitient (EQ) was lower than her peers inspite of her IQ being so high. We explained this to the father, asked him to observe her in class if he liked. Arpita’s father realised our intentions were in the best interest of his daughter, thanked us and consented to her repeating Jr. Kg as this was the best decision for her at that time. She did not feel like a failure, she met her friends from her previous class at school in the recess time and nobody felt like anyone was a lesser soul because the concept of repetition is not equated to failing for these tiny toddlers.
Conclusion – I would like to confess, as a parent I regret my son being the youngest in his class, and not being able to catch up with his writing work till date. He also feels insecure about being one of the shortest boys in his class and is always on his toes to look taller around his friends. I really do wish I could have made him repeat a year in preschool, but at that time, he was doing okay and there was no reason to repeat him as none of his teachers suggested it. I wish I would have thought about it some more back then. It’s too late now because he now understands the concept of repeating and as per his academic assessment he is doing so well that no school will agree for him to repeat at this stage.
So next time an educator suggests that a child should be in an age appropriate class or repeat a class please don’t equate it to failing. My humble request is to see the glass half full, consider it as an opportunity to reap the benefits of a strong foundation vs. repeating and wasting or lagging behind by one year. Even if you insist on not repeating atleast do not consider changing the school and do have a dialogue with the educators before taking a step that might not be in the best interest of your child. We have also learnt from our mistakes, we leave the decision upto the parent and we only suggest and do not insist on repeating a class because some parents just need more time to see our perspective. Our intention is always only to provide the best learning experience to every child without judging children or their families.