Recently, my social media news feed was flooded with stories about some students who had enrolled in a prestigious university by the age of 14 and 15. The posts were shared and liked by hundreds of people. A local newspaper in my province also ran a headline story of a 19-year old boy who became the youngest graduate of a prestigious university.
All the news reports suggested the same thing: the younger you graduate from school, the more successful you’ll become.
Our society is fixated with the correlation of age and success. Data from the Ministry of Education and Culture shows that in recent years the percentage of children under seven years old who enrolled in the elementary school has been on a constant increase.
The basic hypothesis is that graduating from school young means your cognitive skill is beyond average. After all, you are proven to be capable of attending classes, passing examinations, and carrying out all the required tasks designed for people above your age. When it comes to overcoming academic obstacles, your resilience and intelligence are unquestionable.
This year, however, the government is encouraging parents to wait until their children turn seven before enrolling them in elementary school and there is a good reason for that. Besides cognitive aspect, there are physical, psychological, and emotional aspects to be considered when children attend school. Psychologists believe that only at seven years old a child is ready to receive academic lessons in a formal class. It is at this age that children are physically ready to sit still and concentrate, as their motoric and cognitive aspects have been developed enough to control their behaviors. They are also emotionally more stable and independent compared to the younger children.
I personally believe that physical, psychological, and especially emotional aspects of the students should be a consideration in each educational stage. Age development is one of the concerns when it comes to emotional maturity, and it is crucial to students’ mental health condition. Although external environment plays a part in developing children’s maturity, we can’t deny that the biological aspect of age also influences the way they think, interact, and cope with the circumstances they confront on daily basis.
Instead of obsessing about being young and successful, let’s start putting our attention on the student’s mental health and their wellbeing. Our formal education curriculums are packed and heavy with long duration of study hours and high standards to meet to graduate, often putting stressful burdens on the students, stifling their sense of creativity, or pressuring them to resort to cheating.
It’s time we also put aside the success standard and focus on developing student’s emotional intelligence and talents. Parents need to remember that in the working world, people who are five years older or younger could be placed in the same positions anyway. So instead of asking our children to graduate as fast as they possibly can, we need to nurture their soft skills and talents.
Parents and teachers can help their children explore their real passions and develop their potential through daily discussions. They can also encourage the children to join extracurricular activities or become active in organizations. Encourage them to be a project officer or coordinator of youth or community organizations. Let them explore as many new things as possible and then discuss what things they loved the most in order to find their suitable career paths.
At the end of the day, what really matters is the contributions our students give to society. Yes, it is awesome if they graduate at a young age, but only because this means they have more time than their peers to contribute and bring positive impacts to their communities.