Many families find themselves in a situation where they need to relocate and enroll their child or children at a new school whether it be public, private, international, etc. Parents who are not educators or who do not work at the same school that their child or children attend may never realize that a gap exists between their previous school’s curriculums and the curriculums offered at their new school, and as I have recently found out, this gap can be massive and significantly impact a child’s learning journey.
My daughter had attended preschool and kindergarten in Jakarta, Indonesia; we then repatriated to Canada for a few years and we are now back on the international circuit and living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The process of enrolling our daughter at EtonHouse International School was easy enough – she had excellent report cards from her previous school in Canada and due to her age, she was placed in Year 4 (equivalent of grade 3) – no questions asked. As a parent this made sense to me, and it never occurred to me that my daughter would be significantly behind her peers – she did complete the second grade with flying colors, after all.
During her enrollment process, I also accepted an offer to cover a Year 1 class for a few months because the teacher who had been hired would be delayed in her arrival, and so I found myself attending Professional Development (PD) on math the week before school started. The PD focused on “Maths - No Problem!”, which is a fantastic math program out of Singapore, and as I sat in the PD, I started to feel sheer panic for my daughter’s sake as I realized the curriculum she was meant to follow was miles ahead of the math she had been taught in British Columbia, Canada. As I flipped through the resources, I realized my daughter’s math skills were a good one and half to two years behind where they should be in order to be able answer the questions in the Year 4 math textbooks. She had never been taught how to multiply, never been taught fractions, how to tell time, etc. Not only this, but during the PD session, samples of Year 2 student writing were displayed as part of problem solving, and my heart sank as I realized there was no way that my daughter, who was entering Year 4, could write a paragraph at that same level; her writing was Year 1 level at best even though in Canada she was considered an age appropriate writer.
Once over the shock of how far behind my daughter was going to be, I was so grateful that I attended that math PD and thankful that I was able to notify her teacher of the situation. I consider myself lucky that my daughter can receive the support she needs from the school and from myself, and that she won’t be left behind to flounder or thought of as a student who struggles with learning, because she isn’t. The errors she makes are most often due to the fact that she missed being taught the foundation needed to answer math questions in the Year 4 “Math’s No Problem” textbooks or how to write a well-constructed, detailed paragraph, and these can be fixed accordingly, with guidance.
But what of those students who are not so lucky? The ones that transfer schools and do not receive the proper support because a large gap between curriculums in the school they previously attended and their new one was not flagged? What will the impact on their educational journey be? And what of those students who are unable to even enter their schools of choice because of failed placement tests that didn’t factor in prior curriculums and knowledge? How will this impact their self-esteem and their learning journeys?
If this is the reality of education on a global level – that such a large disconnect between school curriculums and expected skills/knowledge at each grade level exists between public schools, international schools, private schools etc. – what is being done about it? As an educator and as a parent of a child who will most likely switch schools at least two more times before graduating, I would love to know.
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