February 4 2021 - The first true teaching environment that a child will encounter (other than their home) is the elementary classroom. Elementary educators have a powerful role in society: they introduce new concepts, new perspectives, and new knowledge to the young. They have a hand in developing a more educated, empathetic, and just society.
It may not be immediately clear how deep the significance of elementary education is. The things we learn as children are woven into the fabric of our lives. Here are four of the ways in which elementary education matters:
Social Justice In The Classroom
Elementary school is where children pick up a great deal of their moral understanding of the world. There has been a growing movement within educational circles dedicated to introducing concepts of social justice into the classroom. What is social justice in education? Essentially, it involves the incorporation of concepts that should exist society-wide into early learning. Concepts such as racial and gender equality being included in educational curricula help children develop healthy attitudes towards their peers and allow children to see the world from multiple perspectives. Educating children on social justice will help build a more harmonious society in the future.
Literacy And Numeracy
Compulsory elementary education is the single biggest contributing factor to the systematic eradication of innumeracy and illiteracy. In the past, not knowing how to read or write held back huge swathes of the population - restricting job opportunities, access to justice, and any further education opportunities.
Although there is still a problem with innumeracy and illiteracy, these twin woes have largely been dealt with thanks to comprehensive efforts by primary educators. Knowledge is a powerful social leveler. Elementary education aims to address the inequalities in our society.
Elementary school is often the first place that a child will learn to socialize. Socialization is absolutely crucial in the development of a well-adjusted person. One of the most complex aspects of human life is the unspoken acknowledgment of social belonging. A child cannot learn this alone - they have to be placed into a society in order to navigate it for themselves.
It is not just the presence of lots of peers that aids children as they learn to socialize in school. Increasingly, schools themselves are designed to help facilitate the social development of young students. Common areas and classrooms are designed to provoke social exchange that is not merely transactional. This is known as socio-technical design and is an absolutely fascinating way of looking at building educational facilities.
In his sweeping report on the status and significance of elementary education, former US secretary of education William J Bennet pointed out that elementary education helped shape children's "first and lasting views of themselves". This is one of the crucial roles of early education. Children are offered the opportunity to take stock of their individual personality away from their families for the first time. Self-knowledge is crucial if a child is to grow up comfortable with their own ontology.