Sending kids to kindergarten later, a double-edged sword

Posted By: Staff

With the increase in urbanization, working mothers find it difficult to manage a child and a career, often leading to the neglect to the former. Kindergarten happens to be a relief in such cases.

While the trend of holding kids out of kindergarten until they're older is growing, a new research shows that older kindergärtner fare better academically largely because they learn more before starting school, not because age improves aptitude.

Darren Lubotsky, a University of Illinois economics professor who co-author, also said that academic advantages are short lived and come at the expense of delaying entry into the workforce and other costs.
According to the study, older students post higher test scores than younger peers during the first few months of kindergarten, but their edge soon fades and nearly vanishes by eighth grade. "If it were true that older kids are able to learn at a faster rate, then the differences in test scores should get bigger as kids progress and the material gets more difficult. But we really see the opposite," Lubotsky said.

The new study is a challenge to decades of research linking age to academic achievement that has led states to push back kindergarten entrance age deadlines and convinced more parents to start children later than the once-traditional age of 5.

Though older students have an early edge based on an extra year of skill development, the study maintains that older and younger students learn at the same pace once they enter school, based on a review of federal education data. "Kids learn at lot before kindergarten, especially if they're in preschool. One way to think about it is that the oldest kid in kindergarten has about 20 percent more life experience. But once they start, they basically learn at the same rate," Lubotsky said
Based on the findings, Lubotsky said that parents and lawmakers need to weigh costs and benefits as they consider when to start kids in kindergarten."Older kids may do better at first, but there's a tradeoff. They're also a year in school behind other kids their own age. At the end of the line, somehow that year will catch up to them. They start work a year later, and parents have an extra year of child-care costs if they delay entry. So it's not free," he said.

The study also showed that wide age gaps caused by holding kids back from kindergarten have both positive and negative effects on younger students.

Children and child psychology are delicate topics to deal with. Research in the subject continue to reveal various stunning facts.

Story first published: Thursday, September 25, 2008, 14:59 [IST]
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