"We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being."
- Dr. Maria Montessori
What is Early Childhood?
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.
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.
To develop bonds with their caregiver in a nurturing environment.
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.
Prenatal & Birth to 6 months
7 months to 2 years
Approximately 3 to 8 years
Why is good early childhood education (ECE) important?
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 can also enhance your child’s school readiness and educational outcomes. Research suggests that children who received excellent early childhood education are found to read and write better, perform better on standardised tests, have reduced school dropout rates and have increase 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 gaps in cognitive development which begins 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 primarily a problem in developing countries where parents tend to focus less on early years education compared to 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.
Future Earnings 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, programmes 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 programme.
The quality of the pedagogical process
The teaching philosophy or philosophies employed by an effective ECE programme should promote the overall development of your child.
For example, many early childhood curriculums in the country only focus their attention on the child’s literacy, numeracy and gross motor skills.
Consequently, other essential skills such as sequential thinking, independence, patience, respect, empathy, and corporation are often overlooked. It is vital that ECE programmes 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
The process of monitoring an evaluation is vital to good ECE programmes as it helps strengthen the effective process and to discontinue methods that do not work. Similarly, it helps to keep programmes current and up to standards. It is essential that every effective ECE programme has a monitoring and evaluation process that acts on feedback from teachers, parents and students.