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Should the behavior of 3-year-olds be assessed?



From what age and under what conditions can the behavior of a young child be assessed? The question arises again, while the Department of Statistics of the Ministry of National Education (Depp) must consult teachers and parents of students on the establishment of a panel of 35,000 children in early kindergarten. . The idea is to follow the academic successes and misfortunes of this cohort until it enters working life. “Such follow-ups already exist for older children, explains Fabienne Rosenwald, director of Depp. By focusing on toddlers for the first time, we will better assess the relevance of kindergarten education. We will be able to know whether it helps to reduce or, on the contrary, contributes to widening the educational inequalities that already exist in CP. “

→ READ. “It’s so much better than in France”: in Quebec, early childhood laboratory

However, some children’s specialists dispute the questionnaire because it contains certain items on the behavior of very young students. Next to classic points on language skills or premathematics, teachers – who will answer on behalf of the children – will have to tick, for example, if such and such a child cries ” Often sometimes “ or ” never “, according to extracts from the questionnaire posted on the Pedagogical Café website. Problem, warn these experts: asking this type of question out of any context (does the child cry when his parents leave? At nap time? During activities?) Would not make much sense. from a scientific point of view and leaves a large part to the subjectivity of the teacher.

A new avatar of a project carried out in 2005 by Inserm?

Great specialists in childhood, such as the psychologist and psychoanalyst Sophie Marinopoulos, the pedagogue Philippe Meirieu and the pediatrician Pierre Susser, went further and signed, last January, a forum in The world, to denounce a new avatar of a project carried out in 2005 by Inserm. At the time, they write, it was about “To identify in nurseries and nursery schools children who are supposed to bear from 3 years in their behavior the” pre-stigmata “of a later delinquent development”. A very controversial questionnaire had been abandoned by the executive after a petition had gathered 200,000 signatures.

Joined by The cross, Pierre Susser confirms that, according to him, this new questionnaire participates in the same deterministic philosophy, even if, this time, it is not a question of following the evolution of each child by name. He also disputes the scientific approach – “The observations are collected out of any context and therefore have no meaning” – which harms the educational relationship: “The teacher no longer encourages what goes well, but picks up everything that goes wrong. However, it has been proven many times in psychology that the child is very sensitive to the way we look at him, and that he conforms to it. “ Clearly, the toddler would be labeled from kindergarten, and would lock himself from that age in his role.

Identify the difficulty some students have in adapting to the school environment

Conversely, the proponents of the project praise the merits of an assessment of psychosocial skills from an early age, as is customary in Canada in particular, “Because they are the basis of everything”, explains Olivier Houdé, professor of developmental psychology and neuroscience specialist. According to this approach, a large part of academic failure is not explained by poorer intellectual performance but by the difficulty of certain pupils in adapting to the school environment. Therefore, by playing on this framework, if it is unsuitable, or by integrating the learning of so-called “psychosocial” skills – taking turns, cooperating, participating – we can remove deep blockages.

This is the point of view, in particular, of Grégoire Borst, professor of developmental psychology and director of the Lapsydé laboratory (CNRS), who participated in the development of the contested questionnaire. “It is important to be able to objectify these behavioral difficulties, he pleads, and this is precisely what this variation of the American Brief-P test allows. “ However, some questions will be reformulated this month, following the return of the teachers. They will ask, for example, if the child is waiting for his turn to speak, instead of asking if he is cutting off. “Always”, “often”, or ” never “. In order to count the successes rather than the failures of toddlers.

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