In Germany, children go to school at the age of 6. But before that, they must undergo a special examination to check that the child is well developed for his or her age.
Primary education in Germany is compulsory. In the months before becoming a student, every child undergoes a compulsory examination (Einschulungsuntersuchung) to confirm that he or she is mature enough to attend school.
The examination is performed at the Health Service of the place of residence and includes various elements – medical examination, but also a psychological test, a conversation with the child, etc. What should the child who becomes a student be able to do? “Read? No, that’s what they’ll teach him at school,” smiles Imke Maywald, who is head of the Bonn Health Service. Yes, he can count? No, and it doesn’t.
“Many parents fear that if their child is unable to complete certain tasks, he or she will not be allowed to go to school,” Maywald says of the DV. But this is not the case”, she points out.
The medical examination allows determining if there are diseases that could adversely affect the educational work of the child. For example, a vision test is performed. Even if the child has some eye problems, they are often able to compensate for the deficiency. It is difficult for parents to notice the problem in time.
Almost all children go to school by the age of 6
Children who are 6 years old by the end of September will go to school in the same calendar year. Only those who are born later have the right to go to school seven years old.
What is the review in particular? In the first part, the parents are not present. “We want to see how the child behaves in certain situations close to the school. Therefore, he or she remains alone with specialists and performs certain tasks. What is his or her behavior? Can he communicate normally or refuse to perform certain tasks? Say that the child is closed to himself and does not answer the questions of the doctors. The information is passed on to the school. Or, say, the specialists notice that the child has difficulty maintaining balance or has any other problems. The doctor may then order appropriate therapy.
The second part of the examination is conducted in the presence of the parents. The doctor must check the height and weight of the child, check his teeth, make him do some physical exercises, draw a picture, and describe in words the drawing. This examines some common habits and skills that a child is taught at home and in kindergarten. “It’s nothing complicated. It’s not an exam. It’s all in the form of a game,” says Imke Maywald. She also points out that the child does not need to be specially prepared for the school examination.
In very rare cases, after the examination, specialists recommend that the child goes to school not next year, but next year. These cases are no more than one to two percent. The examination also indicates whether the child may be admitted to mainstream school or be sent to a school for children with special educational needs. Most children go to mainstream schools and very few to special schools. This is because there are inclusive classes in primary school. The term “inclusive” means that in the relevant classes and schools, alongside healthy children, children with physical or mental disabilities also study.
It is curious that relatively many parents in Germany would like to leave the child for another year in kindergarten, thinking that it is not yet ripe for school. But for such a decision to be upheld, there must be good medical evidence. There are also cases where the child is intellectually mature but mentally and socially not yet ready to go to school. In such cases, experts recommend postponing it for the next year.
The conclusion of the school review is advisable.
The opinion of the medical committee is advisable, and the school and parents are not obliged to comply with the recommendation. The decision of whether to allow the child to be taken is the school itself. The Director shall be guided by the conclusions of the committee and his own observations. Practice shows that only in some cases, the decision of the director is contrary to the conclusion of doctors and psychologists.
And how are today’s children different? “Increasingly, we see children who, instead of flipping through pages, automatically move their finger as if using a smartphone or tablet. We live in the age of digital, it’s clear, but sooner or later, children will master them. It is important for them to spend their free time in the fresh air, to play, to climb, to be able to hold a pencil in their hand, “says Imke Maywald. Increasingly, she and her co-workers have to find the absence of certain habits that today’s children do not learn.