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Educators say behavioural benefits of kindergarten outweigh its educational aspects

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Jul 16,2019 - Last updated at Jul 16,2019

AMMAN — In light of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz' announcement on Sunday to make preschool education obligatory in September 2020, educators and experts in the field voiced their support for the decision, which they believe will be beneficial to children. 

Ashraf Nairoukh, managing director at eLearment, a company specialised in turning public school subject material into interactive e-learning material, said that the behavioural benefit of the decision is more important than the educational benefit. 

He explained that it is vital for five-year-olds to be prepared to interact with others in the classroom and learn what it means to be students, which makes them better receptors of information when they enter the first grade.

Therefore, 80 per cent of the curricula in preschool is focused on teaching students how to act, talk and do things, as well as learn morals and good behaviour, Nairoukh said.

There is a considerable difference between students who start the first grade right away and are shy and still fresh to the experience compared with those who have been to kindergarten and are mentally prepared and ready to start learning, Nairoukh said. 

"I personally believe personalities become moulded and stable by the third grade, which means it is better and more important for kids to start early," he added.

Eiz Qarqash, an English teacher at Wadi Seer Elementary School, said that in the past parents had more time to spend with their children and had the chance to teach them basic knowledge like the alphabet, the numbers and basic math at home before sending them off to the first grade. 

However, Qarqash said that now many mothers and fathers have jobs and are busier at their work and unable to prepare their children like before, which means the decision is beneficial as children will have a sure way of learning the things that will help them perform better in the first grade and onwards. 

He added that reading and writing skills require a lot of time and it is better to start as early as possible rather than wait untill the first grade. 

Qarqash said that since it will be obligatory, it has to be free for all, because most kindergartens are private and can be very expensive compared with the average salaries in the Kingdom. 

Shahbaa Al Zu'bi, an Arabic and English languages teacher, said that kindergarten not only teaches basic knowledge, but it also teaches children how to communicate with each other, how to behave and how to do everyday activities on their own. 

This especially applies to children who have no siblings, and will now get to interact with other children and learn new things, Alzoubi noted. 

"They are like dough at the age from kindergarten to around grade five, and it is easier to shape their personalities and teach them how to behave morally and nicely at an early age, which makes the decision better for children who can spend their time learning things that benefit them instead of spending that year on technology and in solitude," she added.

Chairing a meeting at the Education Ministry, Razzaz on Sunday said that making education mandatory at the age of five would contribute to increasing students’ chances of being successful. 

The premier added that the government is aware that implementing mandatory preschool education would not see an enrolment rate of 100 per cent right away, but that it would contribute to reaching that rate, which is a National Strategy for Human Resources Development goal.

He said that opening kindergartens in hundreds of schools will also provide job opportunities for women and at the same time secure preschool spots for children of women who want to find employment.

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