A Life-Changing Academic Decision
“How old are you?”
“Wait, I don’t understand, you’re so young!”
“Weren’t you supposed to be in the grade below?”
These are the typical responses I get every time I tell someone my age. I was enrolled in first grade at 5, I started secondary school at 11 and then cegep at 16. I’ll graduate college this year at 21. People are always surprised by my answer. I was born on October 17 1994, approximately three weeks after the deadline for school admission. In Quebec, it is required that a child turns 6 before September 30th to be eligible for first grade. My parents didn’t want me to “waste” a year in kindergarten so they decided to apply for derogation. This blog will describe why I consider this process as the most critical testing of my academic career.
This exemption obtained by parents from the provincial government allows their child to skip a grade, usually one year of preschool or kindergarten. This life-changing decision implies that a child will always be around 7 months younger than his/her classmates, which is a considerable difference in terms of mental and physical development. In order to be granted this grade advancement, a member of the Order of Psychologists of Quebec needs to evaluate a child’s abilities and readiness to attend school early. To execute a complete assessment of their competences, a psychologist needs to test three elements: cognitive development, social and emotional development, and psychomotor development (see link below for more information).
I still have vague memories of my evaluation with the psychologist. I distinctly remember a woman asking me all kinds of questions about my life, my family, and my interests which made me quite uncomfortable as a shy 5 year old. I also recall doing a lot of puzzles and drawings in our one hour session. These types of test were meant to determine if I had above average IQ, advanced motor skills, and emotional maturity (e.g. autonomy and tolerance of frustration). These little psychological tests as futile as they may seemed were going to have a huge impact on my academic career.
In this fast-paced world where competition is praised, some parents seek a derogation more for the social praise than for the well-being of their child. Such behavior could have detrimental consequences on their child’s future school performances. Luckily, my parents did not prepare me for this assessment which eliminated the possibility of a practice effect on my results. Therefore, the psychologist was able to adequately evaluate my skills which were not biased by extensive prior training for these tests. I am thankful for my parents’ “relaxed” approach which greatly benefited my development. For me, these tests were direct determinants of my success and were the most important of my academic career.