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Are Japanese programs used in schools doing more harm than good?

A Japanese program used in Melbourne and Sydney schools is aimed at children as young as 5 months old. Are we stopping kids from being kids? Or is this a great learning advantage for children and their future?

Is Japanese learning program doing more harm than good?

Image: Pixabay/White77

Every parent thinks that their little Sally or little Johnny is the smartest, most adventurous, outgoing or intelligent little person on the planet. It’s just the nature of being human. It’s part ego, it’s part pride, it’s part narcissism, too, that we want to shout from the rooftops or share on social media just how great our kids are.

But in our pursuit to give our children the best chance in life, and ensuring that they really are smart and outgoing and intelligent and have all the necessary tools to propel themselves forward, have we forgotten to just let our kids be kids?

There’s a program that has been introduced to schools in both Victoria and New South Wales, called Shichida, and the average age of students taking part in these classes is 18 months old, and sometimes they are as young as 5 months old.

More: Tips from teachers on parental involvement

Babies and toddlers attend weekly classes in which they learn maths, English and foreign languages in an attempt to stimulate their brains and make them smarter. But is 18 months old too young?

True, there is not enough emphasis on learning in Australia and there isn’t enough value on education because we have so many choices. We can choose not to go to university and still have a high standard of living and a good income; we can choose not to speak a different language and assume that everyone just speaks English. We can choose to leave school at just 15 years of age and know there will be opportunities available to us. These are all signs of growth and democracy and equality and we’re lucky to have them. But while I think there needs to be a cultural shift towards valuing education and knowledge in Australia, I just wonder if it really has to start so young.

Maybe it does. Hanako Ward, who is one of the teachers at the learning centre, told A Current Affair that the learning process is meant to be relaxing and low-pressure. Don’t expect these little ones to be cramming for exams.

More: Tips for raising a bilingual baby

“It’s meant to be like they’re watching TV. They’re just not thinking too much about it — they’re relaxed, just watching and absorbing it,” Ward said.

“They might not be able to say, ‘That’s [the number] 10,’ right away, but eventually it will connect in their minds. We aren’t trying to create little geniuses, we want them to love learning.”

One mother, Keira, said her daughter, Tara, who has been attending the classes since she was 5 months old, now speaks Spanish, Greek, Tibetan and English at home and enjoys the program and doesn’t realise she’s learning in a classroom because she’s just having fun.

“I think we underestimate what babies can absorb and their intelligence, and I think that they are very ready. It’s great, it can’t do any harm and she loves it.”

What do you think about the program? Are the students too young or is this a great learning tool?

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