The response parents showed when the Department of Education announced the age requirement for Grade 1 students and kindergarten shows how Filipino parents continue to see education as their legacy. But a child's readiness for preschool isn't soley dependent on his age. By the time he enters preschool, a teacher will assess how much your child knows about letters, numbers, and colors, and even his social skills.
Some are thinking shouldn't a preschool do that? Yes, but as Therese Pelias, a professor at the Department of Child Development and Education at the College of Education in Miriam College, notes in an article for SmartParenting.com.ph, "Schools assess your kid to see his needs and if the school is actually a right fit for him. Educators know how vital early childhood experiences are, and they want to make sure that their school’s environment is the best for your child’s development. It’s about evaluating if your child will thrive in the school’s culture and teaching program."
In fact, a recent study highlighted how advantageous it is for kids to enter preschool with language skills. The study is the first to evaluate children's skill set for kindergarten readiness, and see which ones make a significant impact on the child's success later in life.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 1,200 children in the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. They used several measures of academic and social skills on children upon their entry to kindergarten and in grades 1, 3 and 5.
The study's findings reveal that among the skills and milestones the researchers looked at — social/emotional, attention, health, reading, math — only language skills made an impact when it came to a child's performance in math, reading and social skills from first through fifth grade.
Dr. Amy Pace, an assistant professor in the University of Washington Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences and a co-author of the study, explained in a statement that language skills provide the foundation for social skills — the child could communicate clearly with his teachers and his peers.
Language skills also relate to executive functioning, which is "the ability to understand and follow through on the four-step directions from the teacher," Dr. Pace added. "Why do kids succeed in math, for example? Part of it could be having a strong math vocabulary," she said.
Reading skills or literary skills is different with language skills, Dr. Pace clarifies. Reading skills is the ability to decode letter and sound combinations to pronounce words and understand what they mean. Language skills, on the other hand, is the ability to use those words to communicate, explained study co-author Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University.
"A lot of other research focuses on math, science, and literacy, and they don’t even consider that language could be playing a role,” said Dr. Pace. "But really, it emerges as a strong predictor across subject areas," she added.
So how can you help your preschooler develop his language skills? It's quite simple: Talk to your child. Read to him often. Ask questions and help him compose his thoughts into words and sentences. These priceless, quality interactions will no doubt hone his language skills to the fullest.