Bij de start van het nieuwe onderwijsprogramma in Vietnam rond kleuteronderwijs en de overgang naar het lager onderwijs keken enkele medewerkers van VVOB in Vietnam naar hun persoonlijke ervaringen met dit thema. Ze zijn zelf ouder en derhalve ervaringsdeskundige als het gaat over wat zo'n transitie doet met een kind, hun eigen kind in dit geval.
A time of change and adaptation
Many of us are parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts. Around us we have a lot of children. All of these will or have one day enter(ed) education. The truth is that after spending a few months or years in the home environment, they go to kindergarten and then enrol into primary schools and then... et cetera et cetera. We take all this for granted.
However, moving into a new environment is a time of change and adaptation for children, their families as well as for the schools. When children leave kindergarten and enter primary, their school lives change in many ways. Children have to form new relations, take up new roles and responsibilities and adapt to a different environment in which learning shifts from an incidental, mainly play-based development process to more organised and intentional schooling.
Like in many countries, thinking about education in terms of transitions is quite new in Vietnam. To date, transition has not been commonly understood or defined in the context by experts and practitioners. This has lead to a fragmentation of initiatives mainly focusing on children's school readiness rather than a comprehensive approach addressing children's needs to deal with the changes in transition.
Sharing our own experiences as parents
VVOB Vietnam colleagues and parents have vivid memories on the transition to primary by their own children. They remember the changes and the impact on their children very well.
Was the transition from kindergarten to primary easy?
Tuyet Anh: "At the beginning, my two children were excited about going to kindergarten and then to grade 1 in primary. Starting kindergarten for both of them was an easy process. However, entering primary was a bit more difficult."
Thuy: "My first son went to kindergarten already at 22 months, a little younger than other students. For the first two months he didn't like kindergarten and was very happy to go back home. After that he got more comfortable with the kindergarten and easily moved into primary school. He even liked the school uniform. For my second son, starting kindergarten was easy as he was a bit older than my first son to enter. But when he came to primary he faced some problems, including with writing and for lunch as he was not in good health at that time. Sometimes he did not sleep well in the evening."
Tuyet Anh: "The speed of teaching in primary was too fast with a really difficult content for a year-one pupil. My son had to practice writing every evening and he often cried, complaining that his hands were too tired from homework."
How did you prepare your child for the transition to kindergarten and primary?
Tuyet Anh: "I brought my children to school before the starting date so that they could get familiar with the new environment. I showed them how other children were happily playing. After each school day, I also showed interest and asked what had happened at school that day. When they entered primary, I shared how I started in grade 1. I tried to explain about the school if I saw that they showed interest in it and I spent time with them in the evenings, trying to know what they learnt in class that day, explaining them if something was not clear to them."
Thuy: "Using books with nice pictures of and stories about the school were helpful for my sons. I took them to visit both kindergarten and primary school introducing the classroom setting. I also took them to visit a teacher of grade 1 prior to the school year, so that they had a chance to talk with her and get familiar with her."
Chau: "For both of them, I told them when they would start in kindergarten and what would happen there. I made a careful selection to find a kindergarten suitable for them and for myself. Some criteria I used were the teaching programme, the behaviour of teachers, the infrastructure and toys, the environment of the school, the number of kids per class, the tutoring fee and the distance to my home."
Thuy: "As I was aware that the learning in grade 1 was stressful for them due to homework in the first months, they gradually started with 15 minutes home activities, for example drawing, while still in kindergarten."
Did you do anything else?
Chau: "At primary, they needed to become independent in learning and playing activities and at the same time follow more strict rules at home. So I had to talk with teachers often to know how they behaved in the class. They made new friends, so we arranged for them to meet each other to play together."
Tuyet Anh: "For my son, I often talked with his form teacher to know his progress. For my daughter, I really did not communicate much and just participated in school meetings and sometimes talked with few other parents."
Chau: "I know all school activities and became friends with other kids' parents to talk about the school. We exchanged about the teachers, about what our children talked about at home. I also kept a good contact with the teachers."
Thuy: "For my first son, I didn't communicate that often with the primary teacher as everything went smooth. But with the second son, we often talked with the kindergarten and primary teachers. I asked the teachers and supporting staff to encourage him, even when he showed small progress in his learning."
Did the kindergarten do something related to the transition?
Chau: "During the last year at kindergarten, the teachers prepared the children for primary school through visits, sharing what they would need to prepare, how it would be. So I didn't need to prepare much."
Did primary school do something about the transition?
Thuy: "My second child had more difficulties with learning and was slower than other children. Homework was given every day, and he was not happy with this. But the friendship given by the teachers was impressive and helped my child to get more comfortable with the primary school though the learning itself was difficult for him."
Developing a model of transition in Vietnam
VVOB Vietnam and partners are developing a piloting approach and model for teachers, school leaders and parents to better address preschool to primary transition so that all children have a good start in primary.
In this model, school leaders need to better coordinate with each other to ensure a good cooperation between kindergarten and primary schools on transition of young children. The kindergarten needs to have a clear understanding of what is expected from five year old children once they will move to the primary school. Kindergartens can take crucial initiatives to ease the shift by gradually introducing the changes to these children, taking into account aspects of well-being and exposing children to the primary classroom environment. The primary schools, and especially the grade 1 teachers need to prepare themselves to be ready to support children in adapting to all changes including the changing learning environment and the shift from incidental to intentional learning. Future kindergarten and primary teachers need to be equipped with knowledge and skills on supporting children's transition. Teacher training institutes can support student teachers by introducing the topic of transition in the pre-service curriculum.
The importance of parental involvement is becoming more and more recognised as a key factor in providing learning opportunities for young children, both in school and in home-based learning environments.
A lot of exiting challenges for our programme. VVOB Vietnam and its partners - the Ministry of Education, the teacher training colleges and the Women's Union - believe that we can make a meaningful contribution to good transition practices at school, in the classrooms and at home.
Filip Lenaerts, Dang Tuyet Anh, Nguyen Thi Chau and Nguyen Thi Thuy