International Parenting: Schooling


There are many hot button issues when it comes to parenting. It doesn’t matter what the issue is but you know you will have one opinion and someone else will have a differing. SEEK has interviewed moms from around the world because we are curious about their cultural and personal views on certain issues.

By Becky Horace


This week, SEEK wanted to learn more about the cultural norms of sending children to school. Do certain cultures home school? Will the child start school early or later? Everywhere is different but some are dictated by laws where others it seems like the decision can be made by the family.

There have been several studies done about the readiness age of children for school. Some believe that if the child is the youngest in the class they might keep them out for an extra year to ensure they are ready while others might say they want their younger child to learn from the older kids.

“Those who support older entry ages argue that older children are biologically, cognitively, and socially more mature, and therefore that they are better able to take advantage of formal instruction. There is also the implicit assumption that the “‘gift of time’ and general (out of school) experience, outweigh the benefits of a school setting” for increasing readiness (Stipek, 2002, p. 4).”

To read more about this topic you can click here for an interesting article found during my research. Here is another interesting article on a study looking into the differences of delaying entry into school. The one big find that stood out to me was there was no difference academically between the kids delayed versus those who were not. Click here to read more about that study.

From the moms interviewed here most believe the idea of school is needed for socialization. I am sure some home schooling parents would say their children have the opportunity to be social as well with other home schooling co-ops and groups. Since we didn’t have any mothers who interviewed who were homeschooling their children we didn’t really hear that side of the story. It’s all a matter of preference, what works for the child and what works for the family.



  • Cultural: Homeschooling is not a very popular concept in my culture. Children are sent to school after a certain age usually at 3 years old. The kinder or pre-school concept is emerging only recently. As mentioned before, class division is very strong and only recently the importance of basic primary education is being reinforced and made available with the help of NGO and government support. Hence primary education is being provided, even for free in villages and remote areas. In addition, the concept of food for bangladesheducation drive is being implemented in order to encourage poor families to send their kids to school instead of putting them into some kind of child labor, domestic help or any other job in order to earn money to chip in to help the family with income but this is the case for the poor and uneducated families only in the villages. City kids belonging to the middle, upper middle and upper classes all go to playgroup, nursery and continue onto grade levels.
  • Personal: I plan to put my kid in a kindergarten or nursery pre-school if possible and then into a bilingual school which will focus on Thai and English studies if we are staying in Thailand. If we return back to Bangladesh, he will go into an English medium schooling leading to O and A levels.

FYI: Bangladesh has an English medium schooling and a Bangla schooling system. For the Bangla schooling system, the national language is the mode of teaching and leads to a different curriculum very different from O and A levels.


  • Cultural: In my home country, most of the kids will start school at age 3, and if both parents work they will usually go to a nanny or nursery. The main difference I find will be the level of education. Today my son is 3, he is in K1. He knows the alphabet, numbers, franceshapes and colors, can count, start doing some additions, and can read small syllables. He started learning this at nursery. At this age myself, I was really far from this! And it is still the reality, because when he meets friends in France he knows much more… I am fine with this as long as it doesn’t become like military learning and pushing competition too hard and too early, it has to be fun!
  • Personal: I am against homeschooling. I think kids need to socialize early and school is very good for this. My first kid started some “schooling/nursery” activities he was 15 months old. He liked it so much and was really happy. That was the key condition to continue, if he is not happy no need to push, he has time, but if happy why should we stop? Also being far away from the family, I found it important to get him in a nursery and now school, otherwise he gets to know only mummy, daddy and the nanny!


  • Cultural: Sweden is very proud to have children starting school at the age of 7. I am not sure homeschooling is even allowed. I would think it is because school is free and mandatory in Sweden, except a very few private ones. Schools are free to choose regardless of where you live and you can chose a public one or a private one without any fees. Food in school is also free. It’s hard to afford to live onsweden one salary, so to stay at home to teach your child would be difficult. It’s generally thought that kids should learn by playing first, should be physically active and outdoors a lot, before having to manage to be still and focus on learning. I guess also one reason is to give children a chance to catch up,  since they have different development speed and patterns long up in age.
  • Personal: I agree with the above but with that said, seeing my son, age 4 in school now and how much he learns has made me become more open to early schooling. On the other hand, I miss all the jokes, the hugs and the fun he had in his old nursery class where teaching wasn’t the main focus. But then again, in reality it seems to be quite similar in regards to playtime etc. I guess, on a personal level, I wish it could be more dependent on the child’s ability and maturity. Some kids are ready for school early on, others need more time. In the end, with help of parents, support and flexibility, most kids catch up eventually.


  • Cultural: Generally in my culture, kids will start going to school in Kindergarten at 5 USyears old. For families that can afford it, kids will start to go to school in Pre-School at private institutions around 3 to 4 years old.
  • Personal: We planned to send our daughter to pre-school. Living in Thailand, school starts at 15 months at some schools and 18 months at most others. Since our daughter was in full-time day care back in the US, we sent her to school here.


  • Cultural: We send our kids to school as soon as the school accepts them for day care. Labor laws allow moms to be with their venchildren until they are 9 months old and in some cases until 1 year old. Home Schooling? Venezuelan moms do not even know that word exists.
  • Personal: I think that everybody has a place in the world, my duty is to educate my child by teaching manners, respect, kindness, honesty, even maybe religion, but I’m personally not prepared to teach academic topics and to be honest I don’t have the skills or the patience to do so. Besides, in my opinion kids should socialized with other people, make their own friends, and watch how the real world works. Of course making sure they are in the healthiest environment possible.


  • Cultural: In India, schooling usually starts by 3 years old but nowadays people send children to play school as early as 1 year old. indiaHomeschooling is totally unheard of in India. There are government schools for children whose parents can’t afford private schools but there are no strict rules to enforce education although there are many advertising and marketing campaigns which focus on the importance of education. Home schooling is not illegal but the Indian education system doesn’t have provisions for home schooling.
  • Personal: I think 3 years old is a good time to send children to school. I guess my thinking is influenced largely by my culture and upbringing.

United Kingdom

  • Cultural: “In England you are required by law to make sure your child begins education from the beginning of school term after he ukor she turns 5 years old. However, children normally start Reception class in a state school from the September after their 4th birthday.” For more information on what the UK school system and norms are you can click here.
  • Personal: As a teacher, learning starts the day the child is born with language acquisition. In terms of more formal methods of learning, I am a firm believer in every child has his or her talents. Provide a range of toys (that’s rich coming from the mother of a Hot Wheels and all things car-related obsessed 4 year old) and allow them to choose. Balance it with a mix of interactive play and digital play and I think we set our children up to be the masters of their own destinies.


  • Cultural: I went to preschool three mornings a week when I was four, and started kindergarten five mornings a week when I was five. “Education in Canada usually starts with kindergarten followed by grades 1 to 12. By law, children must go to school starting at the age of 5 or 6 and until they are between 16 and 18, depending on the province or territory.” To read more about the Canadian system click here.canada
  • Personal: I thought the same would apply to my children and that I would just teach them the basics at home in an unstructured way (letters, colors, numbers, etc.). Instead, I feel a pressure to have my children in school full time by the age of 3 (particularly in Asia), and if not, why don’t I have a good home schooling schedule, teaching them math and such? I feel my oldest isn’t yet ready for school – he likes to play, he’s imaginative, he likes to ask me questions. Right now he’s really into pretending. One minute he’s a puppy, the next a train. We do some arts and crafts at home when I have the energy to supervise and clean up the chaos of two preschoolers with paint brushes. We recently started focusing on widening our oldest child’s vocabulary and teaching him to write letters (what at trial! he just hands the pencil back and says ‘mommy do it’). He’s inquisitive and I feel that he can explore and develop more outside of school at this age. Still, it’s hard not to verbally slap back at people who give looks of horror when you say ‘no, my two year old and three year old haven’t started school yet’ as though this is some form of child abuse. They’ll start when they are four years old and besides in Bangkok, if your employer isn’t covering tuition, who can afford $15,000 a year for preschool?


A big thank you to the moms who were able to help us with this interview.

Check back next week when we discuss the issue of breastfeeding vs bottle formula feeding! 

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