Letters To The Editor

| March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

Madam,

I refer to your well-presented article in Independent Education, ‘Should children learn to read and write before five years of age? (Vol. 14, no. 4, Summer 2011).

It is a great pity that pre-school learners are being introduced to formal learning programmes, instead of learning through play, as is their right.

I observed young children in my family in pre-school classes in the UK, Sweden and Romania (where they attended an American international school), and far prefer the Swedish model, which does not start structured learning and a formal curriculum before the age of seven years. The children are completely relaxed and at ease in their dagas (pre-schools), which even has a five-year age range within each class.

Exploration, discovery, investigation, unlimited gross and fine motor activities, language enrichment, perceptual and creative experiences, rhythm, music and movement, enjoyment of books and stories, and imaginative play opportunities, all contribute together towards balanced, integrated whole-child development. That is the way young children learn best, with plenty of scope for self-chosen activities.  By these means, they naturally master all the elements of learning that they will need later on: attention, concentration, task commitment, motivation, perseverance, memory development, understanding, reasoning and confidence, and so on.

In Knysna, we are piloting a literacy programme called SOUNS at 25 township and rural pre-schools under the auspices of the Knysna Education Trust. The programme equipment consists of lower-case alphabet letters made of a resilient non-toxic nylon compound. The SOUNS Literacy Programme complies with developmentally-appropriate principles of learning for children aged one to six years.

The programme was started two years ago with sponsored sets for each pre-school. The results so far, in communities where literacy and reading are largely underdeveloped, are excellent, and many children have now entered Grade 1 with good letter-sound knowledge. Their scholastic progress is being monitored.

A further grant for this programme has enabled the Knysna Education Trust to put a SOUNS set into every class in its affiliated pre-schools, so every teacher can use her own equipment whenever it is convenient, instead of sharing one set with the whole pre-school. A SOUNS demonstration room, designed for best practice, has been set up in Knysna for training purposes.

Further sets are being used very effectively in township and rural primary schools, and some learner support teachers are also using SOUNS letters with older children, with promising results. This literacy programme, brought to South Africa by Rotary International, is flourishing in Knysna and is complies perfectly with pre-school teaching methods.

Sincerely,
Lesley Satchel, SOUNS Coordinator, Knysna Education Trust

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Category: Autumn 2012

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