EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Early childhood, which consists of several stages, is known as the period from your child’s conception till he or she is eight years old. Accordingly, early childhood can be divided into four phases, each with its developmental priorities.
Prenatal & Birth to 6 Months
To ensure the health and nutritional well-being of the mother and child as well as early emotional and behavioural stimulation for the child through family-based childcare.
7 months to
To develop bonds with their caregiver in a nurturing environment.
Approximately 3 to 8 years
The priority shifts to learning through a centre based and play-based approach; the focus also begins to move to more structured school readiness elements. Early childhood education primarily caters to this age group.
Early childhood is an essential period in the growth of a human being since 85% of brain development occurs by the time the child is five years old. Consequently, the bonds formed during this period with the parents and first learning experiences profoundly affect the child’s future physical, cognitive, linguistic and social-emotional development. Accordingly, enhancing the early years of your children’s lives is the best investment you can make to ensure their future success.
Helps Instil Important Life Skills
A holistic early childhood education plays a vital role in your child’s overall development as they foster essential life skills such as concentration, patience, respect, corporation and teamwork which in turn builds their confidence and self-esteem.
School Readiness / Continued Learning
Early childhood education (ECE) can also enhance your child’s school readiness and educational outcomes. Research suggests that children who received excellent early childhood education can read and write better, perform better on standardized tests, have reduced school dropout rates, and have increased grade retention. Additionally, good ECE is also proven to instil in children the skills and the inspiration for lifelong learning.
On the other hand, the lack of proper ECE is linked to cognitive development gaps that begin early on and continue to widen over time. Accordingly, children who are disadvantaged this way are likely to have lower educational attainment levels and low productivity.
This is a severe problem in developing countries where parents tend to focus less on early years education than primary, secondary, and tertiary education. As a result, many children are left to play catch up during their primary school education, limiting their full potential.
Participants in good early childhood programmes are proven to do significantly better in terms of occupational status and are more likely to have higher long-term earnings compared to their counterparts.
Research suggests that early childhood education can improve adulthood earnings by up to 4%, making the investment in good ECE a priority.
What are the characteristics of good early childhood education programmes?
The characteristics of good early childhood programmes can be divided into 3 broad categories namely:
The Quality of Inputs
Early childhood education inputs range from teaching and learning materials to classroom arrangements, child-teacher ratios and teacher qualifications. Accordingly, to be effective, programs should have ample material for both indoor and outdoor use. Also, classrooms are required to be arranged effectively to facilitate activities while promoting safety and maintaining hygiene. Furthermore, having qualified and competent educators and low child-teacher ratios are essential to an effective ECE program.
The Quality of the Pedagogical Process
The teaching philosophy or philosophies employed by an effective ECE program should promote your child's overall development. For example, many early childhood curriculums in the country only focus on the child's literacy, numeracy, and gross motor skills.
Consequently, essential skills such as sequential thinking, independence, patience, respect, empathy, and corporation are often overlooked. It is vital that ECE programs are designed to foster the holistic development of your child for them to do well in school, have better mental and physical health and have happier and more fulfilled lives.
The Process of Monitoring Quality Assurance
Monitoring and evaluation are vital to good ECE programs as it helps strengthen the effective process and discontinue methods that do not work. Similarly, it helps to keep programs current and up to standards. It is essential that every effective ECE program has a monitoring and evaluation process that acts on feedback from teachers, parents and students.