Play out for recess but also when teachers use

Play in education

 

Through education,
children have the opportunity to grow and achieve. In this there are many kinds
of activities included. In America, children in public education are given a certain
amount of time to play which we know as recess. In American schools, children
generally have a day that consists of three hours of working, half an hour for
lunch, and half an hour of play this is followed generally by another four
hours of work. Play in many cultures can be a very influential activity. It is
an activity that can stimulate and encourage active learning for children
during and after their school day. Play time is crucial to the day of most
elementary aged children. Although this is very common in the American culture,
how is education run in other cultures? Some cultures eliminate major play time
while others value it and include play time multiple times a day. It is also
very common to incorporate play into regular educational activities, such as
learning songs or dances to help remember things. While some cultures highly
encourage their children to engage in physical play, others prefer to keep it
minimal. Play is not only considered as children going out for recess but also
when teachers use hands on activities to better help students understand lesson
plans. This is a very productive technique used in secondary schools. When play
is allowed in education it gives children a sense of freedom. Freedom to use
their creativity and imagination which then in turn enables them to learn more.
Another reason play can hold a very important role in schools is when there is
a language barrier. Play can help not only students, but teachers as well to
help each other learn and teach core subjects. On the other hand, there are
countries and/or cultures that believe the best way for children to learn and
better succeed is by strictly focusing on curriculums and using minimal time
and methods of play during and sometimes even after school hours.

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One psychologist, David
Whitebread, said “Play is often perceived as immature behavior that doesn’t
achieve anything, but it is essential to their development. They need to learn
to persevere, to control attention, to control emotions. Kids learn these
things through playing.”(Kohn, 2015). Cultures and countries that reinforce
play in education for their children are giving their children this opportunity
to grow and find themselves. Not giving children the appropriate amount of play
and incorporation of play steals their opportunity to explore. This is a major
disadvantage, revoking play time in education is in early education such a
pre-kindergarten hurts the children in the future. When formalized structure in
learning is brought on at such an early age children do not naturally develop
the things that are taught to them compared to if they were to learn these
things through play. Their brains are not set to know how to write and read. It
does not come natural like walking and eating does. Finland is an example of
enforcing play in education. With fifteen minute outdoor free-play sessions every
hour of their five-hour school day, “Finland’s school system has sat at the top
of Europe’s rankings for the past sixteen years.” (Butler, 2016). The reason
for Finland’s success in education for over a decade is because “free schools,
academies and grammars do not exist”. (Butler, 2016). Finland’s school system
argues that good school performance begins at a very early age. They do not put
a lot of emphasis on math, reading and writing but instead they put more
emphasis on creative play. They believe children do not need to receive any
formal teaching until they are at least seven and in primary school. This is a
big difference to how things are run here in America.  Their main goal in daycare is for the children
to be happy and become responsible individuals. To teach good social habits,
such as “how to make friends and respect others, or how to dress themselves
competently.” (Butler, 2016). Finland enforces a mix of play. They have free
play and teacher-directed play to assess how children play. Their children’s
development is evaluated constantly. “It is not just random play, it’s learning
through play.” (Butler, 2016).  David
Whitebread believes that play at this stage in child development “can
successfully engage them in the process of learning”. (Butler, 2016). “Once
engaged in a task they enjoy, whether acting out a story or constructing a
building, children become motivated to constantly refine and improve on their
task and to increase the challenge they are facing”. (Butler, 2016). Play that
is organized carefully develops many qualities in the children such as,
concentration, problem solving, attention span, and perseverance. These four
things are strong predictors of academic success. “There is evidence that
high-quality early years play-based learning not only enriches educational
development but boosts attainment … The better the quality of pre-school, the
better the outcomes, both emotionally and socially and in terms of academic
achievement.” (Butler, 2016). In Finland, they strongly believe that the time
spent in pre-school are the more important years of the children’s lives. Finnish
students are also happier and stress free because their parents are not consistently
pushing them and stressing them for good SAT scores or about getting into top
schools. Their school hours are much shorter than the US, homework is very
light and there is barely any tutoring given.

Norway is very
similar to Finland in their structure of teaching in education. Parents of a
child with ADHD was a witness to their teaching methods. Rebecca Lowen took a
spontaneous move to Norway for six months after wanting to give her son a break
from his medication. She starts off by saying that the medication helped him in
his standardized scores, which his old school seemed to put a lot of emphasis
on. She then goes on to explaining to us that her sons school performance skyrocketed
when he began school in Norway. He even caught on to the language quickly.
Teachers at her son’s school even noticed that he began showing no signs or
evidence of his diagnosis.  He no longer
had trouble sleeping at night, instead he would readily read a book before bed
and quickly fall asleep. He was no longer fidgeting in class or being
inattentive. Instead of his usual symptoms he was excited to go to school each
day and was always happy to do his homework. Rebecca noticed the key difference
that caused this change in her son was his school experience. She states all
the differences that schools in Norway do compared to her son’s previous school
in Minnesota. “He now has three recesses rather than one. His classroom is
virtually free of technology. There is an interactive whiteboard, but it is not
used much. The teacher has no computer. She also does not grade assignments
during class. The entire day, she is both physically and mentally present with
her students.” (Lowen, 2013). Aside from the curriculums he is taught he is
also learning to dance and cook. And in addition to all this the class takes a
half-day field trip every other week. Another key difference in Norway schools
compared to school in the states, is that there are no standardized tests.

Japan is another
example of play through education. In Japan, they make sure play is enforced in
pre-kindergarten. Parents in Japan believe that “in pre-schools, children play
and should be part of a large community.” (YNG, 2014). Although their
classrooms are much larger and their teacher to student ratio is very different
compared to Norway, Finland and other countries their reasoning behind this is
valid. The teacher to student ration averages between thirty to thirty-five
students to one teacher. One pre-school teacher, Ms. Masami Oshima said “one of
the advantages of having big class sizes was that it helped the pupils’ transition
into primary schools.” (YNG, 2014).  She
goes on to comparing when she taught in smaller classrooms with only twelve
children per classroom versus teaching in classrooms with thirty plus students.
She says students “are not able to adjust primary education as quickly. The
kids don’t feel as uncomfortable (going into primary education) as they are
already being used to big group settings”. (YNG, 2014).  In 1997 the Japanese education system
underwent a series of changes which included curriculum cuts and Saturday
morning classes being eliminated. They also added guidelines, where pre-school
teachers were “encouraged to spur children’s creativity and zest for learning
among other goals.” (YNG, 2014).  In
addition, this primary schools started a curriculum where they break up
forty-five minute periods into smaller blocks while allowing the children to
sit on the floor for group lessons instead of having them sit at their chairs
and tables. This gives the children time to interact with their peers while
learning. “The curiosity and interest to learn will help them to adapt in the
primary education and beyond”. (YNG, 2014).

On the other hand,
there are countries that strictly enforce excellence and focus mainly on
structure and curriculum and do not utilize as much play in their education
system. Singapore is a prime example of this. In Singapore, the children attend
nursery for one year and kindergarten for two years. Whilst in preschool the
children are encouraged to learn two languages, usually English and either
Chinese, Tamil, or Malay. Children are in school from January to November with
a summer break of one month in June. But they only have a school day which
consists of three or four hours per day. As they move on from pre-kindergarten
and kindergarten they begin Primary education. This is for children of the age
seven onwards. “This is a four-year foundation course and a two-year
orientation stage. In this stage, the children are put to focus primarily on
basic math skills, and give them a good grasp of the English language, and also
improve their knowledge of their mother tongue.” (Singapore, 2016). Singapore
has been aiming to make their education system more flexible and diverse. Their
goal is to “provide students with greater choices to meet their different
interest and ways of learning. Being able to choose what and how they learn
encourages them to take ownership of their learning.” (Singapore, 2016).
Parents are doing all they can to ensure their children get a head start in
their education. “It is very common for parents to organize enrichment
activities for their children at a very young age, choosing to use books
instead of the outdoors to ensure their development.” (Singapore, 2016). Many
Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea follow a very similar
structure of education as Singapore.

Hong Kong’s school
system is similar to that of Singapore’s. They have primary and secondary
schooling as well. Their primary schooling begins at the age of six with six
years of schooling at this level. They have three different options of
schooling. Either AM, PM or whole-day, with most parents being encouraged by
the government, students are now attending whole-day more than any other. Hong
Kong’s primary school’s curriculum covers many subjects including science,
English, Chinese, math, social studies, music and arts, giving the children
much to learn and retain. Hong Kong’s classrooms hold from little as
thirty-five students to as many as forty-five, very similar to that of Japans.
Children in Hong Kong go through many systems just to be accepted into primary
and secondary schools. Systems such as the Secondary School Places Allocation
System. “All students attend six years of secondary education. After completing
their secondary education, they then have to take an exam in order to receive
their diploma of secondary education.” (STUDYHK, 2017). Overall Hong Kong is
running an education system that is strictly examination-based with little to
no play time. This has even caused many children to now have mental health issues
such as anxiety and depression.

In South Korea
structure is definitely stricter than Hong Kong. Beginning with primary
education just like Singapore and Hong Kong. Although in other countries
kindergarten is recommended and often enforced, in South Korea kindergarten is
left as an option. But children are still required to begin school at the age
of six. Where they begin learning core subjects such as English, Korean, math,
science and moral education. Although they are already learning English in school,
parents still choose to send their children to take additional English classes
at private hagwon schools after hours. After primary education students then
transition to middle education where studies are taken far more seriously.
Everything in middle education is far stricter. Far beyond education, children
are expected to wear uniforms that include having specific haircuts and
punctuality is strongly enforced. After middle education, the children then
move on to secondary education which includes three years of high school. Then
on to Vocational Education where they are taught skills in five fields which
include Fishery, Home Economics, Agriculture, Technology and Commerce. Only
twenty-five percent of middle school graduates go on to vocational education.
But a large percentage of South Korea’s students want to go on further in their
studies to what they call Teritary Education which requires a college
scholastic ability test.

Then there are
countries whose education system is somewhere in between play and strict
examination systems. One of these is America. There is such a wide variety of
schools and programs offered to students that it can become overwhelming. Americas
educational structure goes as follows, beginning with primary and secondary
school which is a combined total of twelve years (elementary, middle/junior and
high school). Children begin primary school at the age of six in the united
states, “they attend five or six years and then go onto secondary school.” (USA,
2017). Upon completing secondary school, they move on to high school. A diploma
is then awarded after graduating high school. After high school students may
decide to go on to college also known as “higher education”. Students have a
transcript that holds all their grades from their academic career and this is
what universities and colleges look at if students choose to apply. This
transcript not only includes your grades but also your grade point average
(GPA) “which are measurements of your academic achievement. Courses are
commonly graded using percentages, which are then converted into letter
grades.” (USA, 2017). Grades and GPA’s are strictly enforced in the United
States. Colleges solely depend on this and SAT scores. Student’s academic year
goes from either August or September and goes on until either May or June. The
year is broken up into two semesters or terms. Courses and curriculums are
designed to be taken in sequence so that children can continue in their
learning throughout the years. Around the end of each school year students take
“state exams” in ELA and Math, testing the knowledge they’ve acquired
throughout the year, and this determines whether or not they move on to the
next level. As students move on to high school they then take exams that are
called “regents”. These exams vary from English, algebra, geometry, global
studies, living environment and foreign languages. These regents are what
determines whether or not the student is able to graduate. Besides all the
testing that goes on in the American education there is some play involved. In
elementary and middle school children are given some time of free play known as
“recess”. As children move on from primary and secondary education, students
only play time is limited to only physical education, but this is not always
free play, it is mostly teacher guided.

Education holds a
great impact on a child’s life. Whether or not play is enforced in a child’s
education, this molds the child not only in their social life with their peers
but also in their desire to learn. Through education, children have the
opportunity to grow and achieve. Play in many cultures can be a very
influential activity. It is an activity that can stimulate and encourage active
learning for children during and after their school day. Play time is crucial
to the day of most elementary aged children. Although this is very common in
the American culture, some cultures eliminate major play time while others
value it and include play time multiple times a day. It is also very common to
incorporate play into regular educational activities, such as learning songs or
dances to help remember things. While some cultures highly encourage their
children to engage in physical play, others prefer to keep it minimal.

 

Sources

1     
Jenkin,
M. (2013, February 15). Learning through play: pedagogy, challenges and ideas –
live chat. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/feb/15/learning-play-imaginative-inquiry-teaching-schools-live-chat

 

2     
Kohn,
D. (2015, May 16). Let the Kids Learn Through Play. Retrieved January 03, 2018,
from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/opinion/sunday/let-the-kids-learn-through-play.html

 

 

3     
Butler,
P. (2016, September 20). No grammar schools, lots of play: the secrets of
Europe’s top education system. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep/20/grammar-schools-play-europe-top-education-system-finland-daycare

 

4     
Lowen,
R. (2013, November 7). What works for kids? In Norway, it’s a less-stressful
classroom atmosphere. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from
http://www.startribune.com/in-norway-it-s-a-less-stressful-classroom-atmosphere/231064001/

 

5     
YNG,
N. (2014, February 03). In Japan’s pre-schools, children must play. Retrieved
January 03, 2018, from http://www.todayonline.com/daily-focus/education/japans-pre-schools-children-must-play

 

 

6     
EDUCATION
SYSTEM. (2017, December 5). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.moe.gov.sg/education/education-system

 

7     
Singapore,
S. N. (2016, January 05). ‘The best education system in the world’ putting
stress on Singaporean children. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-06/best-education-system-putting-stress-on-singaporean-children/6831964

 

8     
Ministry
of Education. (2017, December 5). EDUCATION SYSTEM. Retrieved January 03, 2018,
from https://www.moe.gov.sg/education/education-system

 

9     
STUDYHK.
(2017). Hong Kong Education System. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from
http://www.studyinhongkong.edu.hk/en/hong-kong-education/education-system.php

 

10  
Usa,
S. (2017, June 21). Understanding the American Education System. Retrieved
January 03, 2018, from https://www.studyusa.com/en/a/58/understanding-the-american-education-system