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pre-school provision in different countries - am quite astonished at what I hear about Germany...

(28 Posts)
emkana Thu 12-May-05 09:13:37

... there children go to "Kindergarten" from the age of three to the age of 6. The quality of the Kindergarten can vary greatly - some offer a very good educational experience, but others don't do anything with the children other than letting them do "free play." All day, every day. There are often groups of children of 25, with only two adults there. And something I really find shocking: In some places they let the children do unsupervised play outside in a garden or yard which is not locked and can be accessed from the outside. In a discussion forum where this was discussed there were many mothers who thought this was a great idea to promote independence.

I wish there was a middle way between what I hear about Germany and what I find here. I think people in England can get a bit obsessed by starting reading early, I feel a bit more time for the children to just play would help their imagination and social skills. I also would prefer the school starting age to be five, not four. But I think in Germany it's a bit the other extreme!

Can anybody tell me about other countries? And what do people think about the different approaches? I find it really fascinating to compare - I hope not everybody else here thinks it's boring .

roisin Thu 12-May-05 09:16:44

Germany has also not done so well in "education" surveys in recent years.

A friend of mine was completely gobsmacked on moving to Germany when the kindergarten asked her why she didn't get her ds (6) to pick up her dd (4) on his way home from school to save her the walk!!!

emkana Thu 12-May-05 09:18:22

I know, that's another thing. Children in primary school are very often expected to walk home alone. Playing outside unsupervised is also far more common, even for quite small children.

moondog Thu 12-May-05 09:29:27

In Turkey,kids go to kindergarten until 7 when 'real' school starts. They are driven home in crazily driven buses all bouncing around freely in the back and dropped off vaguely outside their apartment blocks.

However the kindergarten i am considering for dd (4) isd lovely,clean,organised,and well run. What I do like is the little plastic slippers you slip over your shoes to go in-so clean.
I hate shoes inside. Used to really freak about all the parents stomping into the nursery with filthy shoes where dd went in the UK,especially the baby room where they are all on the floor.

flashingnose Thu 12-May-05 09:31:30

Right, I'm moving to Germany or Turkey...

emkana Thu 12-May-05 09:32:21

Why, flashingnose? Because of the later start? Would you be happy with just free play in Kindergarten?

expatinscotland Thu 12-May-05 09:34:23

I would, emkana.

Some kids, like my DD, are very late bloomers. I think there's too much pressure on young children these days to be 'advanced'. It's silly, IMO.

Back in my parents' day, 'real' school didn't start till you were 6 or 7 (depending on the month of their birth). There was just 'play' and then 'school'. And yet many still came out to be intelligent, competent adults.

Why the rush? I'm just now figuring out 'what I want to be' and I'm 34.

flashingnose Thu 12-May-05 09:36:27

Because of the FREEDOM

frogs Thu 12-May-05 09:37:02

The thing about varibility of provision in German Kindergarten is entirely true -- the basis of it is free play. In some Kindergartens they do gently guide the children, but in others they are left to their own devices. Having said that, 'all day' in German kindergartens is generally mornings only. The Germans have a big thing about "letting children be children", and they interpret this to mean that attempts to actually teach them anything are potentiallly damaging. My German relatives are horrified by the idea of my children having started 'school' at 3.5 -- but when I explained to them that the activities centred around counting, sorting, filling and emtpying, learning to listen and take turns etc etc, they all thought it sounded wonderful.

When they do start school at 6+ it is much more full-on and a bit of a shock to their little systems. I think the English system where the classroom becomes a little more formal each year is much better. There is a great deal of soul-searching going on in the German press wrt educational matters atm -- the Germans achieved pretty poorly in some big international study of school standards.

The bit about kids walking home alone is true too, though it does vary according to location.

gggglimpopo Thu 12-May-05 10:24:45

In France they start "maternelle", nursery school at 2.5. The days are very structured - with an hour and a half siesta after lunch and lots of games and activities. My ds is in the final year of maternelle. He is coming up to 6. He can write his name, count, recognise letters and numbers but he has not started reading yet. His school days are increasingly structured around learning rather than playing but the learning is still on an informal level. Next year he will start mainstream school (same school, different building) and will learn to read and have separate lessons for maths, french, reading etc.

I remember once going to collect ds from his class as he had a dental appointment. After years of UK playgroup and nursery with the others, I was stunned to find the class in near silence, with little groups of two and three two year olds quietly doing cutting and sticking at separate tables. No running around, no noise. Smiling, calm kids. Obviously regimented but seemingly very happily so. They were 2.5 at this point.....

The playground is fenced and gated and there is no question of him walking home alone.

LIZS Thu 12-May-05 10:49:43

Swiss Kindergarten is very similar - 2 years of free play, often unsupervised, with groups aged from 4yrs 4 months to almost 7 in the same group. Because dd is an August birthday and the cut off it end of April she wouldn't be eligible to start until she was turning 5 or progress into the first year of school until almost 7, which in her case would be incredibly frustrating all round. There is a move to introduce a more educational structure to these two years but it is some way off being the norm.

Kids here also walk to/from school unsupervised, having had a visit from a policeman, and are issued with fluorescent bibs. It is usually 5 mornings plus an afternoon or two later on, when they separate the two year groups. It is also not that unusual to hold your child back a year so the age range of a group can be wider. When they do start formal school it is very disciplined and they are expected to learn quickly and be very organised but even then the hours are haphazard.

btw I know a German expat who is trying to avoid a posting back home partly because she doesn't rate the education system and has put her children in International School to develop their English rather than the local Swiss German one.

LIZS Thu 12-May-05 10:56:08

oops, perhaps I should say this is a generalisation about the German speaking area of Switzerland - it could well vary from Canton to Canton, much else does !

roisin Thu 12-May-05 10:57:29

Frogs - you couldn't do a link to some "soul searching in the German press" could you? (I can read German btw). I'm fascinated.

Chandra Thu 12-May-05 11:08:47

I think that every country is used to their own arrangements, I'm sure many scandinavians would find education starting so early in England (at 5) a terrible idea. As much as people in the UK would be shocked to learn they start primary at 8 (so I been told).
Anyways, I think that it's great children (and their mothers) could feel safe walking home on their own. I have a school almost in front of my house and find it depressive to see all that mothers that live a few yards from the school waiting at the doors for their 8 yrs old to come out. I know I will be waiting for DS at the door as well, but it's terrible that we consider that the 40 metres between the school door and our own are far too dangerous for a child to walk on his own, even when we live in a very nice area.

crunchie Thu 12-May-05 11:40:24

One thing that interests me, is how long do people in this country continue to walk their kids to school? What age are your kids allowed to walk to school on their own, provided it is walkable ??

crunchie Thu 12-May-05 11:48:04

Chandra - why is it dangerous?? Is it perception or a busy road?

Chandra Thu 12-May-05 11:51:25

Purely a perception! isn't it ridiculous?

roisin Thu 12-May-05 12:58:04

Crunchie - at our school they are allowed to walk on their own in the juniors (i.e. age 7) but not in the infants. DS2 is only 6, so it's a year off for us yet. We have a long walk to school, and there are some tricky roads to cross. I've told ds1 (nearly 8) that he can walk on his own when he's ready, but he doesn't want to. (None of his friends live near us, and he would rather walk with us and chat than walk alone.)

kama Thu 12-May-05 13:25:46

Message withdrawn

swedishmum Thu 12-May-05 14:14:51

The school close to us in central Stockholm uses the small park at lunchtime. There are adults unobtrusively around but the children have a lot more freedom than in UK - and I never see any rubbish or bad behaviour there. One day we went sledging to a local park thinking it would be quiet during the school day - lots of children there with what I assume were lunchtime supervisors bombing down the hill on dustbin bags! At home we are too far from school to walk (same for shops, friends etc) so they will miss the freedom of living in a big city. Ds has just come in from park - he's 8 and would not be allowed out alone on his bike at home because of the dangerous country road.

Ameriscot2005 Thu 12-May-05 14:59:21

In the US, they start Kindergarten (similar to Reception but more play and less teaching) as a rising 6. Summer born boys are often held back till they are rising 7. KG is usually half-day only but in some places, you can pay extra for full day.

Prior to KG, it's Pre-school, and this can vary enormously. At one end of the scale, children are in Daycare from 8am - 6pm, and will go to a pre-school room within the facility for part of the time. At the other end, parents will opt to keep their children at home until they go to KG, partly because of the fees for preschool but mostly because they want to be extra nurturing to their preschoolers.

Most pre-school programs will be in the region of 3 half-days per week with super long holidays. Most pre-schools start after the child's 3rd birthday, but some places will offer one or two sessions to 2.5 year olds or newly 3s that missed the cut-off.

My own DD started preschool the September after her third birthday the previous February. She went 3 half-days the first year and added a "full" day (10-2pm ) the final year (this class was a mix of the morning and afternoon children).

She then went on to full day KG (which cost us $2000 in extra fees), complete with school bus to and from home. She didn't learn much in this year, but coped well when she started in a British Y2 the following year (was reading and in the top group by October half-term).

Ameriscot2005 Thu 12-May-05 15:01:07

We found that in the US, the schools and preschools were very safety and security concious - similar to the UK - with locked gates at playtime, high adult:child ratio, badges for visitors etc.

Ameriscot2005 Thu 12-May-05 15:06:14

As for getting to school,

In the US, my KG (5 year old) went to school on a yellow bus. DS2 cycled or walked to school when he was 8 - with a group of other kids from our street. DS1 (10 at the time) was at school 2 miles from our house and I usually picked him up on the way back from pre-school pick-up, but every so often he had to walk home by himself (and then look after the kids that had been deposited by school bus or who cycled home).

albert Mon 16-May-05 10:42:35

Sorry to join the thread late but I only just found it. DS went to 'vuggestue' in Copenhagen, Denmark from aged 1 year 10 months. It was free, exceptionally clean, good lunch provided, nappies provided, slippers worn inside at all times by all people (or little plastic bags when I went to pick him up), big outside play area, visits to the park/shops/circus (yes, really) and the best part 4 teachers for every 10 kids!!! We went on the bike every day - very Danish!
At aged 3.5 years he started 'asilo' in Venice, Italy. We opted for a private one which costs about £80 a month. This includes all books, sports equipment, acting props, 3 course lunch every day with mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, cakes on the childs birthday, visits to the farm, fire station, boat workshop, theatrical workshop and similar places. It is truely fantastic value, brilliantly clean and an absolute winner for everyone. There is a structure programme of learning in a fun way every day, including physical education, religious education and art work. We walk there, as do all the other Mums. In Italy the children can start 'big school' in the September in which they are 5 although most prefer to wait until they are 6 - the choice is up to the parents. I have to say in both instances we have been so so lucky - which is why I am now very worried about the thought that we might be returning to England later this year (after 15 years abroad)

gggglimpopo Mon 16-May-05 11:11:28

Albert - wow!

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