At a time when teachers, early years practitioners, parents and mental health experts are questioning the benefit of testing and benchmarking our children in their early years, these same competent and capable children continue to show an innate self belief in their own abilities. I would argue that it is this self belief which we need to protect and preserve to enable our children to continue on their path to resilience and independence. An academic highway littered with instruction and testing rather than exploration is in danger of sowing the seeds of doubt in a child’s mind as to their self worth and self confidence.
In adulthood, we can sometimes seemingly doubt our every move in life, procrastinating our next steps as if we were staring at a chess board. A child however fails to see an obstacle or the extent of a risk, in fact, they openly embrace risk, perhaps already trusting in an instinct and therefore believe themselves to be capable, even when very small, of achieving tasks beyond their years. This desire to achieve does not stem from a sense of academia, but from a desire to be just like their parents or siblings, a self belief and a sense of curiosity as large as the world is wide.
Take for example an independent toddler who repeatedly asserts “I do it” to their parents in connection with each daily task, or a pre school age child who, when asked what they are intending to make, replies “an aeroplane…and an airport”; an expression of firm intentions rooted in firm evidence of an innate self confidence. Children in their early years may be small in stature, but what they lack in height, they make up for in the size of their dreams.
With increased testing and discussions around baseline assessment, we risk curtailing the enormity of these dreams. We risk telling children what they are capable of, rather than allowing a child to explore freely, to research, to test for themselves, to decide and to experience a sense of accomplishment.
Independent learning provides children with a firm footing on the path to resilience, a child learns their limitations but also becomes aware of their talents, making choices about their own future and developing pride in the process.
By contrast, testing a child’s arithmetical and grammatical abilities does not inform teachers or parents of a child’s potential in the wider sense, instead it arguably categorises every child, making them a prisoner of a system. Let us stop testing and comparing and instead, free our children’s dreams, allowing them the opportunity to keep on believing.