An anxious mother whose toddler son is attending nursery school in his first year (K1) expressed her concerns to me over the ban on writing in kindergartens, according to the new curriculum guide by the Education Bureau.
Hong Kong parents should understand the rationale behind the policy and why it is bad for three-year-olds to practise writing.
Here’s the discussion between the mother and me.
Mother: According to the EDB’s announcement in February, the new Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide states that all early childhood education institutions should not force nursery level (K1) children to practise writing. Meanwhile, lower level (K2) and upper level (K3) pupils should not learn vocabulary and calculation through rewriting exercises, and students are not recommended to be evaluated by their written examinations.
Chiu Sir, if that’s the case, what’s the point of sending my son to kindergarten, where apparently he is not learning at all? I am worried that he will not even be capable of writing simple characters when he goes to primary school.
Chiu: Well, the guideline does not prevent all kindergarten pupils from learning writing throughout their pre-school education. The EDB has only planned to ban writing at the nursery level (K1, or three-year-olds), meaning toddlers aged four or above, or K2 and K3, are going to learn and practise writing.
Mother: Alright, that’s a relief. But why can’t the K1 pupils start writing? What is the significance of postponing it for a year?
Chiu: Following the developmental stages, three-year-old toddlers have yet to be fully equipped with their fine motor skills — the coordination of small muscles. In other words, it is undesirable to make them write as their hands and fingers are not ready.
Mother: Oh, really? But I often see children at the age of one or two could grasp their own spoons well at the dinning table. Aren’t their motor skills good enough?
Chiu: Right. Do you notice that they are holding their spoons with their fists? If so, they are using their gross motor skills, or coordination and movement of large muscles — the arms, in this case, as they hit the table with spoons in their fists. Generally speaking, two or three-year-olds would not be able to use chopsticks either as it requires small-muscle coordination.
Mother: Then how old should the children be before they can use their small muscles well?
Chiu: By the age of four, they could naturally write well as their fine motor skills are more ready. Three-year-olds could only scribble.
Mother: I do notice that some K1 children seem to write very neatly.
Chiu: That’s because the parents grasp their children’s hand when writing.
Mother: Oh, I see. I finally understand this policy. I hope more parents could understand the child developmental stages and would not force their children to do something beyond their abilities.
Chiu: I agree.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 23
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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