The transition to ‘big school’ is seen as one of the most important and influential events in a child’s life. It can be an exciting time, but if your child is not yet ready for formal learning, they may experience a variety of challenges, which could have far reaching influences on their holistic development. So then, what is school readiness? Well, being ‘school ready’ involves more than one readiness (de Jager, 2014). It involves being both ready to learn and being ready for the formal school environment.
Ready to Learn
All children, at all ages, are ‘ready to learn’. Learning readiness is a continuous event that begins at birth and continues across our lifetime (de Witt, 2009). For example, a baby is ready to learn to suck; a toddler is ready to learn in a group; and an 18-year-old is ready to learn for their driver’s license (de Jager, 2014). So, the focus is not whether your child is ready to learn, but rather what they are ready to learn. This is influenced by their maturation, as well as their interactions with others and the world around them – this is why early childhood experiences are so important.
School readiness refers to the child’s total readiness to benefit from formal education in a group context (de Witt, 2009). It includes all aspects of a child’s development: namely social, emotional, cognitive, and physical readiness. This may look like being able to concentrate on a task for approximately 10 minutes; complete patterns; fluently communicate in the language of teaching and learning; follow instructions; take turns and share with others; and handling frustration – to name a few.
School readiness can be described as a goal (de Jager, 2014), and can therefore be worked toward and accelerated – highlighting the role of the child’s environment in school readiness (de Witt, 2009). School readiness is influenced by the child’s family, community, and school. When looking at school readiness from this viewpoint, we consider the context in which the child was raised, and their future learning environment.
We support more contemporary understandings of school readiness, which views school readiness from an interactionist or bi-directional perspective (Amod, & Heafield, 2013). From this perspective, a child’s school readiness is influenced by maturation, as well as their social and cultural context. School readiness does not exist solely inside of the child, nor is it completely influenced by outside factors, but rather a combination. Amod and Heafield (2013, p. 80), aptly describe school readiness as, “an intricate tapestry of the child’s own genetic make-up, skills and abilities, interwoven with the experiences and teachings received from surrounding social and cultural groups”.
In our next article, we will look at who is responsible for a child’s school readiness.