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I was held back a year, so I was the oldest in my class. My first few years weren't stellar and weren't cellar. I didn't really start doing well until I got out of elementary (first form?) school. This actually corresponds with when I started having difficulties in School. Difficulties getting enough education that is.
Last night I met with my son's Kindergarten teacher. I have many dissatisfactions with the current education system, but the progress my child is making in this classroom is more than adequate. I suspect this won't be the case in the future, but we will take each year as it comes.
If you recognize that education is not a degree, it will always be achievable as long as we gather knowledge and make it available. Parents are just going to have to take a very active role in making sure their children get it. You can't rely on institutions to do it for you.
The greatest boon of literacy should be that teachers no longer have to teach reading. If they don't have to teach children to read they can focus on more complicated subjects sooner. Sadly, this boon hasn't truly shown itself. You might wonder why here in the states this isn't so, since we are constantly bombarded with adverts to "READ". Sort of sad isn't it..... We have to try and sell people on "READING".
I think we would be more successful if we started telling people "You can't read!"
This is not always clear cut. For example my son was born on August 28th ten weeks prematurely. For his first years this will certainly make life tough for him.
I believe in the French system they do allow people to be put back a year, and I can see it makes sense in some cases. Do I trust the current British educational establishment to implement it in a sensible fashion. No.
To trust ANY education system to do what is best for your child is probably a bad idea. The only possible exception to this rule is if your child is developmentally challenged. The state will pay $40,000 / year to support a person who will never return a cent back to the economy. Unfortunately for the challenged individual, the state will spend most of the money on tracking every one of his movements as opposed to allowing the caregiver (er teacher) to help the child develop into the maximal human that he might become.
I will be doing my best to make sure my children have access to things that help them become better. I can't expect my school system to do it for me.
Another reason why my wife and I homeschool our children. We don't expect ANYTHING good out of any school system so we bypass them completely.