For those wanting to know more about ‘ability’… (under construction)…
What is ‘ability’? Are we born with it? Do some have more than others from brith?
Dr. Suzuki reasoned that ability was ‘grown’ and could be fostered in all children, depending on their environment. With this thought, it is exciting in that we, as parents, have the opportunity to encourage our children to grow in ability in a way that is very natural and is within every child’s capability.
A child never finds learning his language difficult or stressful. He hears the sounds so many times in his environment that he just learns automatically (this is why we make such a fuss about listening to the Suzuki CD every day). He is able to process the information without conscious effort and learns with enthusiasm as ability to do one thing leads to further ability in an accumulation process. The child feels happy at his achievements without realising his achievement. The speed of language acquisition is impressive : in the same, natural way, Suzuki knew that that was a superior way to educate children.
The Mother Tongue Method in Suzuki’s music teaching for young children was at first experimental, and children were selected without audition. They all made very good progress and many went on to become world leaders in music. As the programme progressed, Suzuki became convinced that his method would produce the same results in general education, and he set up an experimental class within a school environment – a primary school in Matsumoto, Japan, where he lived and worked. His Mother Tongue Method was introduced into the children’s daily routine.
The experiment involved one group of children over a period of 4 years. The ordinary class teacher conducted the class and no child was excluded. There were certain ground rules – no homework, a happy atmosphere, no child was made to feel inferior and knowledge was absorbed in a subconscious way. One child, outstandingly, proved this method to be infallible – a child thought to be retarded, who could only count up to 3. By the end of the 4th year she passed her entrance exam for high school (a very competitive examination in Japan) having reached the same level as her peers.
A pre-school experimental class was set up at Suzuki’s Talent Education Institute, where the purpose of developing individual abilities so that the ability becomes an integrated part of the child is fostered. In the same way as the primary school experiment, the children were accepted without special selection…60 children of ages 3, 4, and 5. The mixed age group was deliberate as Suzuki saw that younger children progress well with the stimulating influence of the older ones. The curriculum includes speaking their language correctly and well, English conversation, physical education and developing quick reflexes, memorising Japanese poems (5, 7 and 5 syllables in 3 lines in each – and they managed over 180 in a year!), reading and writing numbers, drawing and calligraphy…over a 3 year period the children’s IQ was tested and averaged at near 160. The school was, countless to say, fully booked and sought after :
‘The Mother Tongue Method leads the child, by repeated stimulation, to develop an ability and make it his own.’
The child’s ability and success will lead to more success and more ability in other areas.
Pre-school education in Sweden is very successful and follows similar principles. The home environment , as much as is possible, is mimicked in the school in as much as the decor is not institutional – the environment is seen to compliment. A series of small, homely rooms have small groups of children with a teacher and the day is constructed as a family group. The children play outside, even in winter as it is believed that being near to nature encourages creativity. Even small babies sleep in their prams outside. There is no formal emphasis on specific school based learning, but the day is structured around social skills, creativity based on play and lots of singing and movement games. There is no evaluation of the child, only a quest for fun through challenge, discovery and adventure, which enables learning. The government spend 3 times more than Britain on pre-school education and the children are very happy when they go to a formal school at age 7 and progress rapidly. Sweden leads the the European Literacy Tables in reading skills for primary aged children, again proving that the environment, as Suzuki stresses, is the most important factor for excelling in ability.