‘Childhood is not the stage of building a curriculum’ warns Daniel Becker, a pediatrician and researcher at the Federal University of Rio Janeiro, Brazil | BEHAVIOUR | SHANTIBADI POTRIKA 

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Comportamento / 01/07/2020

‘Childhood is not the stage of building a curriculum’ warns Daniel Becker, a pediatrician and researcher at the Federal University of Rio Janeiro, Brazil

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‘Childhood is not the stage of building a curriculum’ warns Daniel Becker, a pediatrician and researcher at the Federal University of Rio Janeiro, Brazil

Dr. Daniel Becker

For pediatrician Daniel Becker, a researcher at the Institute of Studies in Collective Health at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and one of the creators of the Family Health program, this curricular view of the activities in which the child needs to be involved may end up causing him develop competitiveness and individualism behaviors.

The specialist argues that, in childhood, the priority should be free play, an activity that cannot be repeated in another stage of life and that is capable of stimulating a series of human competences that no classroom will be able to teach.

Becker gave an interview to EXAME * about the importance of cultivating health the first years of life during the VII International Symposium on Early Childhood Development, in Fortaleza.

Many parents believe that leaving the child occupied with activities that make up a curriculum are assisting in education. Why do you criticize this practice?

We live a culture of over-valuing adult learning, it is a paradigm of the development school. As if the development of a child occurs only in its interaction with adults, in classes, supervision, programmed and structured activities.

When, in fact, it only provides that child with a type of gain, a type of intelligence. This banking education - in which one masters knowledge and the other is there to receive it - is increasingly recognized as a model that has many limitations.

Our children play to be adults, because of their parents' belief that they will become more ready for the market. Playing the child learns things that no one else can teach him.

A child who plays in the park with friends will learn to negotiate, interact, empathize, listen to each other, make themselves heard, assess risks, solve problems, develop courage, self-regulation, self-stimulation, creativity, imagination… A series of skills that none class will offer for her.

And they are much more important to a successful adult than a Kumon or violin lesson. Not that we need to devalue the importance of enrolling our children in some activities, but it is important to never forget that playing freely in nature the child is learning.

Is there any risk that these children will become more unproductive or disabled adults?

There is some research that is already evaluating that the children of generation Y, the millennials, who were overprotected and were victims of this excess of schooling, are becoming narcissistic adults, unable to cope with frustration and conflict, tend to escape bad weather. …

We started to have some evidence of that. These are predictable effects. A child who faces reality with his father and mother standing between him and the problem will not learn to solve it on his own. Not even with the teacher teaching her some discipline.

She has to fall and grate her knee. Because life hurts, reality hurts. But pass. And the next day, the wound got a cone, the body is reacting and doing something.

In a little while, that little mark disappeared and the knee returned to normal. Look at everything she learned there about coping with pain, about knowing that this pain passes and that the body works and regenerates. What class will you offer this experience?

You stressed, in your lecture, that investing in full development in early childhood helps to reduce future health costs. Because?

Because children will become more capable, healthier adults, who will be able to make better choices and develop good habits, will have a better job and achieve better living conditions… And these are the living conditions that determine better health in the long run.

With better nutritional habits, the diseases that kill most today are more likely to be prevented ahead, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension. It is in early childhood that the prevention of these diseases begins. Investing in family training, in prenatal care and encouraging breastfeeding, which helps to strengthen the body's defenses, is very efficient in terms of investment in public health.

You also said that early childhood helps public managers to overcome the dilemma of the search for equity and efficiency, which are usually seen as irreconcilable. Like?

It is a classic duality of the politician, who wants to have results four years now, when he is re-elected. For the public manager, investing money in poverty reduction is often very costly and has little result.

And he manages to be efficient with this resource, because the structure of these people is already very addicted to oppression and low development. Investment in early childhood overcomes this duality.

Investing in this moment of life helps to promote poverty reduction in the medium and long terms, with a very high efficiency of resources, because investing early is what brings more resulted. In the short term it also works, because this manager will have happier families and children doing more at school. It is a path towards citizenship and a more capable society.

* Originally published in Exame magazine.

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