School Readiness from the Vygotskian Aspect

In my haste to publish the last post on defining school readiness, I missed some of the salient points of school readiness as defined by Vygotsky which I felt were interesting because they differ somewhat from the traditional considerations regarding a toddler’s readiness for school.

What were Vygotsky’s views on school readiness?

Vygotsky believed there were two aspects to school readiness:

  1. The social situation as it relates to the cultural practices of schooling and the expectations associated with the role of the child as a student.
  2. The child’s awareness of the expectations and the ability to meet them (in other words, as we discussed in the previous post on school readiness, the ability to receive instruction)

What I thought was particularly interesting was Vygotsky’s view that children developed school readiness in the first few months of elementary school through interactions with teachers and other students.  He believed that such interactions were necessary in order for a child to develop the awareness of expectations from school.  School readiness did not develop prior to the entry into school but rather when the child begins to attend school.

In a way that helped to alleviate some distress I have been experiencing with regards to having sent Gavin to school earlier than I was comfortable with.  If I had thought that waiting for him to be older and more mature would mean he would be more prepared for school, I might have been waiting in vain.

Regarding school readiness in terms of a child’s accomplishments and abilities, Vygotsky believed that mastery of certain developmental tools, self-regulation and the integration of emotions and cognition can assist a child in developing the “readiness” for school.  For Vygotsky, it was the level of cognitive function rather than the quantity of skills and concepts that a child has that is more important for development school readiness.  In other words, it is the child’s ability to learn intentionally rather than the ability, for instance, to count to a hundred, that facilitates the child’s adaptation to school, because it is the cognitive abilities that facilitates the child’s learning process later.

Most important is that child’s motivation to learn formally – where a child can learn in a situation where the outcome of learning is not necessarily tied to their interests or desires.  Such motivation requires a child’s curiosity, the desire to learn how to do new things and meet the expectations of school.  Young children are generally only interested in learning things that suit their own needs and desires.  When they are able to shift that focus so that it is in keeping with the school’s objectives, then only have they achieved school readiness.

This information probably seems rather irrelevant but I thought it was important because a child who resists being taught (as Gavin often does right now unless it is of interest to him or if it meets with a particular desire of his) will be wasting his time being in a class room.  My interest, particularly, lies in the ability to help a child develop school readiness and the willingness to receive instruction.  It doesn’t matter how bright or intelligent a child is – if he refuses to be taught, he will fall behind and any precociousness the child might have exhibited in their early years is moot.

The goal is not to have the brightest and most intelligent child, but one who is willing and eager to learn.  If a child truly has the desire to learn, he can achieve anything, even if he is below average.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “School Readiness from the Vygotskian Aspect

  1. I would like to add a few words to the last sentence: “… he can achieve anything …”

    A child’s innate ability is very critical to the achievements he could potentially have. A positive attitude to learning and a conducive learning environment would help him reach his potential.

    There are many below average-ability children who are eager to learn and hardworking, but their achievements are highly limited by their ability to absorb, retain and interpret information.

    On the other extreme, there are very high-ability children who learn more effectively by themselves and need only a little guidance rather than being taught.


  2. There is a very interesting book you I think you would be interested to look at. It’s called “Bright from the Start” by Jill Stamm. It talks about intelligence from the point of view of nature versus nurture and the science that reveals how bright and intelligent our children turn out may not necessarily be limited to whether or not they have the “smart gene”.

    Certainly kids who have the smart gene are more likely to turn out smarter given the same environmental conditions, however, a child without the smart gene can still develop intelligence provided that child is given the right stimulus during the critical period from birth to age three.

    Historically, the problem has been the assumption that intelligence is innate and cannot be increased. Additionally, the problem has been exacerbated by the belief that learning begins in school and that learning involves processes like learning how to count to a hundred, knowing your ABCs, etc. Through brain scans and observations of living brain tissue in action, we now know through science the effects of the environment on the development of the brain. We have also discovered that learning begins a lot earlier and through ways we never even realised before.

    Part of what I have been trying to learn as a parent and the reason why I keep this blog is to see how much nurture can influence the outcome of a child and what I can do as a parent to ensure that that influence has positive results. My fear has always been that my children are a legacy of myself – my genetic makeup and all its flaws. The new findings from science gives me hope that my children will be much much more than that and that they will be able to overcome any flaws they have been dealt.

    I plan to blog about the contents of “Bright from the Start” so I’ll talk about it more in time to come but you’re welcome to continue this discussion and air your thoughts.

    My mother, who was a school teacher, agrees very much with you because she has seen a lot during her teaching days. I have no doubt what you and she believe is true. The book I refer to discusses a time period that occurs much earlier in the lives of children. If we can get to them then, perhaps we would see less of these “below average-ability” children struggling and possibly failing to achieve what the “brighter” children can do.


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