# Is Lowering School Starting Age To 3 A Good Idea

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Mentor

## Main Question or Discussion Point

Over in Scotland you can start prep school at 3 (even younger at some private schools). There is a bit of discussion out here in Aus, due to profiteering in day care centers and the belief it lays a better foundation, that the government lowers school starting age, like Scotland, to 3.
https://www.kidspot.com.au/parenting/real-life/in-the-news/controversial-government-plan-to-dramatically-lower-school-starting-age/news-story/99c4ac89821a2e2690cc344ac46aa256
Of course the day care centers are against it because it stops their game which goes like this. Parents need to work so put their kids in day care. But after the costs of that they do not have much money left over from their job. They then put pressure on government to subsidize it, which they do. But then the schools simply put up their fees, claiming they are now requiring their staff to be better trained, so the out of pocket expenses are still the same.

Does anyone have experience with students taught from such an early age. It is claimed to provide a better foundation for later learning. Personally I think it varies with the child, but there is the practical side that many families these days have both parents working.

Thanks
Bill

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## Answers and Replies

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Choppy
Science Advisor
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My understanding is that delaying school entry conveys an advantage. Therefore it would seem to follow that starting early could have some problems. That said, I think a lot depends on the particular child, and what exactly starting earlier would mean. If you basically have kids moving into a more formalized day care system, that would be different than expecting them to start an actual academic program.

This was my first Google hit:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885200619300110
From the introduction:
Research studies which control for selection effects consistently find that in the first few years of school older children do have better academic and socio-behavioural outcomes compared to their younger peers (Crawford, Dearden, & Meghir, 2010; Datar, 2006; Datar & Gottfried, 2015; Dee & Sievertsen, 2015; Dhuey & Lipscomb, 2010; Lubotsky & Kaestner, 2016). It is less clear, however, whether these initial age-related differences have any long-term impact. Some studies have found that younger children quickly catch up with their older peers (Buddelmeyer and Le, 2011, Datar and Gottfried, 2015, Lincove and Painter, 2006, Lubotsky and Kaestner, 2016, Martin, 2009), while other studies have found that, although initial gaps narrow over time, they can persist throughout schooling and even into early adulthood (Bedard & Dhuey, 2006; Black, Devereux, & Salvanes, 2011; Clarke, Crawford, Steele, & Vignoles, 2015; Fredriksson & Öckert, 2006; Kawaguchi, 2011).

jim mcnamara
Mentor
Back about 30 years ago, two US states had a requirement for boys to start first grade one year older than girls, but I think parent could opt to have boys go to kindergarten for two years. I do not know the outcomes but the concept was supposedly based on fine motor skill levels and social skill levels - boys were behind at the age of 5.

I cannot find an article, so it may be a completely defunct concept.

Mentor
One thing I have to mention that supports starting early is here in Queensland we used to start prep at 4 and finish grade 12 at 17. Its recently been changed to 4.5 to bring it more inline with other states. One reason was supposedly better university performance - but so far that hasn't eventuated - still early times though. It was also noted university graduates from Queensland and states that started later were not any better or worse on average. Indeed it was one reason parents went to private schools - they would grade skip at the drop of a hat and tons of private school students graduated at 16 with no issues at university. Just as an aside public schools while they could do it never actually did. But they had a famous case where they refused it for a very gifted student and the parent had to go to a private school. They sued the government over that and won. Now public schools will occasionally do it, but still not as often as private schools do.

Thanks
Bill

WWGD
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One thing to consider, imo, is that the whole present school setup: classes, grading, etc. is likely on its way out or will at least be turned on its head , as this setup is very poorly - adapted to the needs of the modern world. Employers mostly do not trust schools to produce work- ready students. It will change, but I have no idea what tye new system will be like. Edit: As Toffler envisioned, the world changes faster than our institutions can handle .

Dr Transport
Science Advisor
Gold Member
No, I was 4 almost 5 when I started school. I was emotionally not ready, physically nearly the smallest in the class, usually the smallest boy. I was not able to do many of the things my classmates were able to do like drive etc until well after them. To give you an example, I was 17 when I started university, legally I wasn't licensed to drive after dark until almost the end of my first semester.

My mom said she should have held me back a year, would have been easier on me and the rest of my family.

Mentor
To give you an example, I was 17 when I started university, legally I wasn't licensed to drive after dark until almost the end of my first semester.
Good point. Out here in Australia good students can easily get into university early by dong a few university subjects at the university of open learning, or grade skipping (other, what I would call 'sneaky' ways exist as well). The big issue is university is not really geared for students not yet legally adults. One university here in Aus (undoubtedly not the only one that resolves it this way) has vetted families that students stay with until they are legal age. I personally believe students should never be held back - if they are ready for university then they should go. But there are issues like the above that need sorting out.

Personally I was ready at 15-16 and had to endure the school system that bored the hell out of me and I ended up actually failing grade 12. It made a big dint in my self esteem, I waited until I was 21 until I went, and was stuck in a rather boring and I thought meaningless job. I did learn a couple of very important life lessons though. There is no bad job, only people doing bad jobs. When I finally went I worked my butt off, did very well and was full of myself. That one went when I actually started working after graduating uni - there are many people smarter than me - they simply did not work their butt off like I did.

Thanks
Bill

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My wife is a Montessori teacher for 3,4,5 year olds. 3 is not too young for this kind of environment and philosophy. For many traditional environments I'd think maybe too young.

My wife is a Montessori teacher for 3,4,5 year olds. 3 is not too young for this kind of environment and philosophy. For many traditional environments I'd think maybe too young.
Right? You can "school" at any age, with age appropriate curriculum. My daughter is in preschool (two half-days each week) and isn't quite 3 years yet.

I began at 4 in a semi rigorous church school (1956) and the curriculum was geared to the appropriate age. The group of 17 all went to the same public school until 9 when a new school was built, splitting us up.
Up until the third grade we were fairly average, no actual failures but that may have been due to sample size.
By high school graduation there had been two premature (suicide) deaths, above average but this was a minority group that still has the highest suicide rate in our nation. Plus that small sample size, 1200 students of which only 17 had been the the early schooling.

Anecdote: My oldest boy began at 4, my youngest daughter began at 5.5. Neck and neck until high school. He quit, she went on to a bachelors in Geological Engineering.

The things I spent several weeks learning at start of high school pales in comparison to what I went through in one or two lectures at university. How much will they have gained by the end of high school by starting a year earlier? I'd be surprised if it was anything significant.

Here in Norway we went from school start at 7 years down to 6 years some 20 years ago, it hasn't improved our global standing in international comparisons[1].

[1]: https://www.barnehage.no/artikler/seksarsreformen-20-ar-etter-gi-seksaringene-forskolen-tilbake/427214

Mentor
My wife is a Montessori teacher for 3,4,5 year olds. 3 is not too young for this kind of environment and philosophy. For many traditional environments I'd think maybe too young.
Agree entirely. Out here in Australia we have some 'child care' centers that are really Montessori schools. Some even recommend starting at age 2.5 and will accept even 16 months if the school thinks the child is able to handle it. While most Montessori schools here in Aus only do up to primary or middle school some go up to grade 12 usually with the IB program in 11 and 12. While I am a big fan of the IB program personally I think going to university after grade 10 is best - I believe good students can handle it

Thanks
Bill

Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Gold Member
It depends on the child and the educational environment. My wife started home schooling our two sons in K at age 4. They learned to read very quickly and progressed quickly after that. By the time they graduated high school at age 17, they had earned 30+ college credit hours and earned full tuition scholarships to a good state school. They are both majoring in Physics and doing well.

But as a matter of public policy in government schools, it's foolish to herd large numbers of students by _age_ rather than academic ability. At some grade, honest schools simply need to FAIL students who are not reading yet. One of the worst lessons those 3-5 year olds are learning is that they are going to pass even if they play all the time and never actually learn the things they are supposed to learn. Many students never unlearn that lesson.

But teaching a child to read is a tricky business. My mom taught us to read, and my wife taught all our children to read. It's not hard with lots of individualized attention, but the teacher student ratios in most K and pre-K institutional schools don't allow that much individualized attention. It would seem wiser to me to spend the money to improve the teacher-student rations in K to be able to teach every K student to read, and NEVER send a student to 1st grade who can't honestly read yet.

WWGD
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Edit: I would say in retrospect, whether putting children in school or not, I would find a way of encouraging them to tweak and experiment with things around them. I think the modern trend towards safety consciousness and formality discourages creativity and interest in learning. A tricky combination of guiding them and letting them find their way.

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fluidistic
Gold Member
My son turned 3 years old in August, and started elementary school in September. He's obliged, this is required by the law in France. His knowledge and relation to other kids "exploded" despite that he had some experience at kindergarten before. So, he's learning a lot and plays a lot. Also, he eats there, and they have a very vast menu. So far they haven't eaten twice the same thing, there's a vegetarian day and a day with fish, I guess the menu is done by a nutritionist (it's the city itself that dictates the menu, not the school). All of this is public and free of charge (except food, which is about 4 euros per day).
Due to terrorist attacks and things like that, he is obliged to enter school at a very strict time, and missing a day is something you should plan like a week beforehand, I've heard. It is too strict. He still uses diapers, and they wouldn't have accepted him due to this fact if the new law to start school at 3 years old wouldn't have been enforced. So we are constantly being told to force him to stop using diapers, as if it was easy.
It is too strict. I like the idea to start school at 3 years of age, but I wish it wasn't that scrict. I wish we could send him there 2 or 3 days per week instead of 4. He constantly tells us he doesn't like school. That's a bit heartbreaking. I didn't like school either, so I understand him.
It's still too early for me to say whether it's a good thing overall, maybe it is.

Here in India the average age for Nursery(Elementary) School is 3. Well then again India is crazy level competetive. like to get into university , kids in fifth grade join coaching institutes...to prepare for an exam they wont anwer in anpther 7 years or so...yea

But getting back on topic...the whole starting school at 3 thing worked for me atleast. We started from rock bottom basics, by another year or so i was able to read simple english and blah blah , and by the time i was 6 i was able to do simple calculation...nothing high, just the simple stuff. I never felt too preasurised(i think i was too young to even know what it meant to be preasurised), i made freinds(who i surprising am still in contact with today !!!) And overall had a beautiful childhood.

WWGD
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It may be a good idea to observe different behaviors and reactions from children and , if necessary, create different tracks.Or at least inform, suggest parents on how to further help the children.

Mentor
He still uses diapers, and they wouldn't have accepted him due to this fact if the new law to start school at 3 years old wouldn't have been enforced. So we are constantly being told to force him to stop using diapers, as if it was easy.
That IMHO is the WRONG way to design an educational system. Here in Queensland Australia it's 4.5 but some, usually private schools, particularly those doing Montessori, can start earlier - as I said one had someone at 16 months, but is at the principles discretion who is supposed to ensure the child is ready and the parents understand the implications. State schools can as well but they tend to be very cautious about it - its why some parents go to private schools as they tend to be much more flexible. I would suggest to any reasonable person still using diapers would rule them out of early admission - but one never knows - maybe they have facilities to handle it. However under no circumstances should you force children into school that are not ready. The law is very specific in Queensland on the issue - normal school starting age is 4.5, but you can delay it until 6.5 if you think your child is not ready - and many do. We used to start at 4 but to bring it more in line with other states it was raised a bit - but even then you could delay it until 6.

Thanks
Bill

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boneh3ad
Science Advisor
Gold Member
I think whether this is appropriate or not depends entirely on how we are defining "school" here. A three-year old certainly should not be in the sort of class typically associated with elementary school. However, a school-like environment structured around facilitating the developmental milestones of young children (structured and unstructured play, social interaction with peers, etc.) can be very beneficial.

It is, of course, beneficial for young children to have lots of time with their parents, but it is also very healthy to have some time to interact with groups of peers instead (plus it gives the parents a much-needed break). I've noticed my daughter's social skills developed much more rapidly after starting in a "daycare" that is structured similar to this. In the US, this would often be called preschool or pre-K. Of course, that is an $N=1$ anecdote with no control, but many studies have shown the benefits of a properly-structured early-childhood educational program for kids.

So, in short, I think as long as the school is structured appropriately and has manageable costs (even better, free* if it is part of a public education system), it would be nothing but positive.

WWGD
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I think the ideal is to offer firm guidance on basics as well as in guidance for the child to tinker and explore, feed his curiosity so it doesn't die out. Too little guidance creates confusion and distress, too much kills creativity and curiosity. A dynamic balance to adjust on a periodic basis.