Of Education and Age

Written by Akeem Alao

In my own days, admission into any level of education was strictly based on the age of the learner. There was a tradition very prominent in those days that any child unable to touch their ear by crossing their hand over their head would eligibility. To begin primary education, at least, the child had to attain age 7 or more than that. Prior that age, the child would be registered at a pre-school where they would receive foundation knowledge that equipped them with the knowledge needed for the primary education. Even admission to the pre-school programme used to be guided by some age requirements. What used to be the pre-school system in those is now replaced by the present-day Crèche, Kindergarten and the Nursery. What a good innovation! Depending on the school system, the nomenclatures depicting these stages vary from school to school. Terms such as Foundation 1 and Foundation 2 are employed, especially where Montessori system is run.
Irrespective of the class population, the teachers of those days faced little of no difficulty in controlling the learners because the learners were mature enough for the class. There was usually little or no difficulty with lesson delivery. The learners possessed both the mental and intellectual abilities to decipher the teachers’ explanations. Primary school Learners acted independently. They performed a good number of activities without the teachers’ supervision. With little guidance, they could execute any tasks presented before them. They needed no teachers’ assistance to sharpen pencils, rule lines and even their assignments were done without parental assistance. In education, age plays a vital and significant role in authentic learning that is mostly received by mature learners. There is a symbiotic relationship between age and learning ability. While the mature ones learn better and faster in class, most activities in the classroom seem to be an abracadabra to the underage learners. The reason is that the curriculum as well as the textbooks is age specific. When age is compromised in learning, the efforts of the school may eternally remain fruitless. With over a decade in this profession, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that age has positive impacts on the learning ability of a child.
Age and Education outside Nigeria
It is not uncommon among us Nigerians to reference schools abroad to support our claim that those schools are far better than ours. Mostly in our references, we mention facilities available in those schools as the brain behind their quality education. What is rarely mentioned is the age requirements for admission into those schools. Besides, we fail to acknowledge the fact that quality education is not solely determined by the facilities in the schools. The qualities of the teachers and the age of learners turn those facilities to good account. In a situation where the learning activities are too weighty for a learner’s mental capacity, those facilities will be useless.
In the United Kingdom, a child does not begin primary education until age 5 or 6 http://www.theeducationwebsite.co.uk/index.php?page=primary. And such a child leaves primary school at age 10 or 11. Unlike the ritual practice of most Nigerian parents, there is no Common Entrance Examination before the terminal class. In the United States of America, the age requirement for admission into the primary school system is completely in alignment with that of the United Kingdom https://www.justlanded.com/english/United-States/USA-Guide/Education/The-American-school-system. Also, in Philippines, a country whose education system was rated among the world’s best, Primary school education begins at age 6 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_Philippines.
The Problem of Age in the Present Nigerian Education System
Today, the major challenge we face as teachers is proliferation of underage learners. Teachers’ effort are neither complemented nor rewarded because it is difficulty for the underage learners to decipher their teachers’ explanation. I never cease to wonder where these learners are rushing to.
Considering the age of some learners wrongly placed in their current classes, the teacher is compelled to unethically adjust the contents of the curriculum in order to accommodate them. It beggars pedagogic ethics, no matter the level of precociousness, when a child is already rounding off their primary school education between age 7 and 8. Such a child, by the unscrupulous programming of the parents, is expected to end secondary school education at age 14.
Parents should always consider the injurious implications of this unguarded decision in the academic performance and moral exhibitions of their children. It takes nothing but maturity for a child to function excellently at all levels of education. The age of a learner prepares their brain to understand whatever they are taught in the class.

About the author

Akeem Alao

Akeem Alao trained as a language teacher. He graduated from Adeniran Ogunsanya college of Education where he studied English/Yoruba Languages and Ekiti State University where he obtained a degree in English Education.

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