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What are the main goals of primary education? Does the system (US, UK, Australian) matter?

(14 Posts)
Lorien Tue 22-Feb-05 13:48:42

I am a British mum, married to a British husband and living in Malaysia. We have spent most of our adult lives living in China and Malaysia and we are trying to work out where to send our kids to school. (Eldest will be five in November)

There is quite a big choice of systems (local, US, UK, Australian, French) and so I thought I would go and have a look at a few. Now I am utterly confused.

Does an air-conditioned basketball court matter? (NO, only joking, I worked out that was a bit of a red herring) But seriously, what are the things that count at primary school? Is creative thinking key? Or socialising? Or academic standards? Or discipline? Or other parents?

When I was small I just went to the primary school around the corner from my house in London. I don't think there was even an option. But now all these choices and academic systems present themselves for my kids, I am in dire need of some good advice -- WHAT MATTERS AT PRIMARY SCHOOL? All opinions gratefully received.

WideWebWitch Tue 22-Feb-05 13:54:24

Fun imo and getting used to the whole being at school thing.

LIZS Tue 22-Feb-05 14:09:28

Are you likely to stay indefinitely or would you perhaps move on , requiring them to reintegrate into a different system ? We're likely to be moving our ds (nerly 7) from an International school to UK private school this summer and the differences in curricula and standards are marked.

Ameriscot2005 Tue 22-Feb-05 14:16:40

I'd choose the system that matches up closest to where the child will go for secondary, all other things being equal.

Having had children in both American and British primary schools, my vote goes to the British system. I like the way that British primary education uses topics to pull everything together and bring relevence to what they are learning. In the American system (in my experience, anyway), the subjects are very separate.

I also find the British system to be a bit more sociable - different age groups mix through assemblies, house system, etc. There was no mixing at all in my kids' American schools - even playtimes (recess) were kept separate.

roisin Tue 22-Feb-05 14:17:56

To me critical and creative thinking is key: Teaching and encouraging children to reason for themselves, debate logically, and think philosophically.

Some systems are very anti this sort of thing and actively discourage it.

Incidentally it is only recently that I have come to this point of view. My dss are 5 and 7, and if you'd asked me 3 yrs ago I would have given a completely different answer focused around socialising, discipline, and basic academic skills.

Ameriscot2005 Tue 22-Feb-05 14:20:12

As to purpose - the purpose of all stages of education is to acquire knowledge, skills and attitude.

A lot of people think that secondary education is to prepare you for university, which prepares you for work. A primary education prepares you for secondary; a nursery school prepares you for primary etc. A child can spend over 15 years of its life preparing for something else. Surely those education years are part of real life too - so fun, socialising etc is just as important as academic stuff.

Lorien Wed 23-Feb-05 06:35:36

Thanks for the input -- especially on issues like playtime and socialising with other groups. I hadn't even thought to ask about that.
Now, if you don't mind me asking another question, what about other parents? Are many of your friends the parents of fellow pupils? How important are like-minded parents in your daily/weekly lives? I mean, if I send my kids to the local school, where most people have never been overseas and will be unlikely to have similar interests to me, will that be a great strain? Many thanks for your thoughts, Lorien

Ameriscot2005 Wed 23-Feb-05 07:11:19

When I was in the US, I found it much easier to be friends with expats (from any country) or Americans that used to be expats.

My neighbours were very nice, friendly and welcoming, but it was hard to get beyond small-talk, or to make culturally-acceptable conversations.

It's also hard to break into existing friendship groups, whereas expat groups are used to people coming and going.

It's hard to make friends with local people if you only have one thing in common with them (eg children's schools) - it's easier if you are in other groups with them, eg church, gym, mother & toddler.

LIZS Wed 23-Feb-05 07:24:21

My friends are pretty much exclusively expat but they do not necessarily have children at school with ds, as I met them through different outlets - neighbours, internet groups, playgroup etc. It does help us to have other parents in similar circumstances to ourselves though but there does seem to be a particular expat lifecycle, during which time many will move on and that will have an impact upon your kids and yourself if you are the ones always left behind.

If you have lived in that same culture for some time anyway then having likeminded parents could be less important to you as you may well have an already established circle of friends and local knowledge, but you may well also want to consider how you and they may feel if in a local system they are perceived as the odd ones out. Would you have enough confidence to tackle or accept any issues which may arise during your children's academic career, possibly caused by differences in curricula or standards to what you grew up with, or would you feel more comfortable with fellow parents as a sounding board and the potentially more familiar social side which may follow on.

expatkat Wed 23-Feb-05 07:56:23

As for US vs. UK (and I'm afraid this is all anecdotal/opinion). . . One of my American friends did primary in the UK and and then completed his education in the US, when his parents moved back there. (He's 28 now.) He claims he didn't have to do a lick of schoolwork for 3 whole years after moving to the US. That's how easy the US system was compared to the UK system.

I've noticed, too, that everything seems to be done a year earlier over here. If your child is at a reasonably academic school, state or private, the intensity of the education seems greater than in the US. I spoke to an English mum a few years ago who, weirdly, was planning to seek out an American education for her child in London because she, herself, found the British education system grueling and traumatizing. For my ds, who is unathletic and unsociable, a little odd but scarily interested in learning & probably reasonably clever (I think), I think the British system might suit him, because I suspect he'll be academic. And I know that sport is important over here, but it is UNBELIEVABLY important int he US, and that just won't work for my ds. If he were a different kind of a child I might steer him towards an American education. But I also might not--I'm not sure. At the moment I'm pro-British, but I'll be better educated myself on the whole issue after ds starts proper school (year 1) in September.

Ameriscot2005 Wed 23-Feb-05 08:30:39

My kids didn't do sport in their US elementary schools. They had a PE lesson once a week, but it would be things like throwing a ball around in a circle, or playing "ladders".

Here, they do Games every day for an hour, as well as their 3 PE lessons a week, where they will learn a variety of sports techniques. They play matches against other schools, and have interhouse matches.

I think the difference in the US is that primary school kids will do sport out of school, hence the term "soccer mom". In the school district we were in, it wasn't until 7th grade that they actually did organised sport in school (then it was basically volleyball and basketball).

expatkat Wed 23-Feb-05 09:36:15

Ameriscott, interesting. . .you're probably right about that. There was a shocking article in the NY Times yesterday about the epidemic of sports injuries in US children because these kids are being pushed and trained way, way too hard in one sport, because their parents are hoping their kids will make it to the professional level, or at least get good enough to become nationally competitive. They hire coaches, drill their kids again and again with the same mvts, and the kids get these wear-and-tear injuries that usually aren't seen except in Olympic athletes or older adults. But you're right. . .that's all extracurricular stuff.

But later (middle school and high school) athletics start to get really important in school.

expatkat Wed 23-Feb-05 09:36:56

Sorry, Ameriscot, I always seem to type your name with two t's at the end. It's a mental block.

Ameriscot2005 Wed 23-Feb-05 11:43:17

I think sports scholarships for college might be part of the thinking behind the parental pressure to get involved in lots of extra-curricular sports.

I know that in my son's soccer team, the coach said that all the boys in the team were on track for scholarships - most of them in the 5 - 10% fee remission zone, I imagine.

In our school district, a huge number of graduating seniors had sports scholarships, even though it was a small district in the B division for football, etc.

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