Is early schooling a factor in preventing difficulties?

Par Fauve Sodade, psychologue scolaire

With the orientation law of July 1989, schooling at the age of 2 has greatly developed in France, due in particular to the insufficient number of places available in crèches and other places of reception intended for young people. children.

School at 2 years old, are they ready?

Few child psychiatrists defend early schooling. From their point of view, it neglects the psycho-affective development of children, who need, up to 3 years, an environment adapted to their needs, in small groups and not in a class group of about twenty students. , with, in the best of cases, assistance in the person of a specialized territorial agent.

Thus, Bernard Golse, head of the child psychiatry department of the Necker hospital in Paris, pleads in this sense: “Development at that age is not played out in terms of learning. Most children need something other than school, which does not leave them time to organize the basics of their inner security and puts them at risk of inhibition and passivation. »

The studies of the Ministry of National Education also attest that putting your child in school from the age of 2 years brings a slight advantage from the point of view of school achievements except for foreign children or children from immigration. But there again, from the point of view of language, toddlers would have nothing to gain by attending school very early.

“The acquisition of language depends on the benevolent and demanding mediation from which the child will benefit… At this age, he needs an almost individual relationship with the adult and, from this point of view, the school does not offer not an honorable solution”, explains Alain Bentolila, professor of linguistics. Added to this is the fact that school premises are described as not very suitable for toddlers, that the sleep-wake rhythms are not necessarily respected there, that the training of teachers hardly takes into account the very specific needs of this age group, which reinforces the controversy.

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Between 10 and 20% of 2-year-olds would be welcomed into nursery school

This early schooling developed from the 1960s when more and more mothers were working. In the absence of other forms of childcare, they have found a mode of reception with the school, which is also free.

Agnès Florin, professor of psychology and specialist in the schooling of children from 2 to 3 years old, believes that child psychiatrists are quick to attribute to early schooling alone disorders that relate to other variables and notes that “all studies available show an advantage of schooling before at least 3 years of age in language development. But these studies focus above all on comparing children’s activities and acquisitions rather than the impact on their psycho-emotional development. Only a study on the quality of attachment conducted with 173 children (Agnès Florin and Solène Macé) shows that toddlers feel as secure by adults, whether they are in nursery or nursery school.

Some teachers who welcome toddlers from modest backgrounds and of foreign origin into their class consider it essential to help them enter the culture of the school, which is often very far from their own, at an early age. In their class, comforters, pacifiers, nappies are welcome. Mothers can stay for a few hours if they wish, or even leave with their child if that is too difficult, the aim being to establish a kind of bridge between school and family.

Rethinking the reception of very young people to make it a truly beneficial experience

Some studies do not make it possible to establish the validity of pre-schooling but warn of the need to think about the reception conditions for toddlers so that the school experience is beneficial to them. This schooling requires taking into account the specific needs of children under 3, welcoming them with their parents, arranging space and time to facilitate their attempts at communication by helping them to build the language skills essential to a harmonious development.

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Joint training courses, bringing together school teachers, specialized territorial agents of nursery schools (ATSEM) and sometimes educators of young children, are therefore organized in order to enable staff to master the knowledge, skills and professional gestures specific to reception and schooling of very young children. Real bridges to school, these classes allow children to be welcomed in a preschool structure adapted to their needs, ensuring that they respect their rhythm, without cognitive over-stimulation, within adapted premises.

The proportion of pre-school students under 3 only increased by one point between 2012 and 2016, rising from 11% to 12%, with strong disparities between territories. Far from reaching the levels of the late 1990s, when more than one child in three was in school before the age of 3, this increase mainly concerned children from disadvantaged areas (with a rate of 21% in 2016). France is, along with French-speaking Belgium, the only OECD country to send children to school so early.

As we can see, welcoming children aged two to three is not easy. It involves in-depth reflection and requires the development of a particular pedagogical and educational project.

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