Arthur and I have been trying to put our finger on why kindy drop off is so different in Australia. At his new kindy, Elliot enters, signs himself in, hangs up his bag, puts his hat on, and goes off to play. What’s unusual about that?
Contrast that with his first school in Dar. There as soon as we entered the gate, we were mobbed by the other children. All the kids had this massive group hug, often falling down together, and then they ran off together, sometimes to play and sometimes just to sit on the step to wait for the next child. All children were greeted in this manner.
The Aussie kindy is trying to give him space, and allowing him to find his own way. Their concern is his autonomy and freedom to pursue his interests. That’s because they’re a culture oriented towards the individual. What matters is an individual’s flourishing, and the formation of their own identity.
In a collective-oriented culture, the individual is subsumed into the greater whole, just like the hug at his old Dar school. Boredom is not seen as so much of a problem, as long as you are with everyone else. It’s less about being stimulated for your own gifts, and more about learning as a group. You only know yourself when you are with others. And even the way the day starts with welcome illustrates that cultural difference.
Elliot’s new school in Dar is somewhere in between. It also has a welcoming party. It’s a kiss-and-drop situation where there’s a guy who opens the car door, greets Elliot, helps him out and gives him his bag. There’s a teacher there as well who shakes hands with Elliot, and then when he gets to his classroom he’s greeted again by his teacher there. He then hangs up his bag, puts his diary in the crate, and finds something to play with until the bell goes for class to start. Quite a good fit for a little guy who lives between cultures!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.