Early Childhood Education Policy of a Nation

Every nation has an educational policy that is a reflection of its cultural and political foundations. This course aims to examine the role of basic factors like culture and economics of a nation on framing the educational policy that is followed there. Policy

Early childhood education is the result of a cooperative endeavour of various stakeholders with the government at the apex. Individuals join hands with organisations and agencies to establish a mutually agreed upon policy regarding early childhood education in a nation; and the government has the most important role here of setting down the legalities and framing and endorsing the basic premises of the same. It is a known fact that resources in this sector vary from nation to nation but what is constant is the major role that the government has to play in setting down the basic curriculum and the training procedure and standards, as well as the legalities involved. It is upon them to examine the appropriateness of private stakeholders and validate their endeavours, as well as ensure funds through patrons.

However, this system will work only with the active efforts of all the stakeholders and their cooperation in working towards the common goal of providing sustainable inputs into the early education sector. The two early childhood education systems which come to my mind are ‘Head Start’ in the USA and ‘Aanganwadi’ in India. The basic premise of these are similar; however, there are major differences between them in scope and objectives.

Advocacy efforts play a major role in endorsing and framing educational policies as well asadvocacy providing direct aid to children. It is imperative that child advocates take active steps to ensure that children are provided with the basic amenities like regular nutritious food, health care and education.  Advocacy also involves supporting a specific idea by indulging in methods that are aimed at influencing the public and the relevant organisations, often through internet based expertise. Successful advocacy leads to change in existing procedures and creating new ones, more relevant and effective, and ensuring that these changes are put into practice with immediate effect. The recipients of such advocacy are the framers of policies like politicians, bureaucrats and public servants as well as people whose voice matter, like that of journalists, the media and NGOs.

In this context, I would like to draw attention to the insight presented in the various papers presented in the international workshop entitled ‘The Role of Early Childhood Education for a Sustainable Society’ that was held in Göteborg, Sweden in May 2007. The delegates presented diverse ideas based on their individual research and experiences in their own countries; however, there was mention of certain underlying goals that were agreed upon by all; they being:

  1. True education should aim at maintaining peace and justice in the world and arm children with the resources to thwart degradation of our planet.
  2. The recipients of such education should not be a mere handful but it should be available to all in the world, irrespective of the status and economic condition of the families and communities to which the children belong.
  3. Such education should be meted out to students when they are in the early education stage as that is the most receptive stage and any input at that stage leads to maximum benefit and to sustainable development.

These goals, although agreed upon by all, have led to certain confusions in my mind. First of all, I came to realise that there is a basic difference in the concerns in the developing and developed worlds in the arena of early childhood. The pressing concern in developing countries is providing basic amenities like health, nutrition, hygiene and water provisions first, and only when these priorities are met is the early childhood curriculum evaluated and changes suggested. Developed countries where the basics are already accounted for lay emphasis on the procedures to improve the existing early childhood education through improved curriculum and appropriate teacher training, among others.

Additionally, different cultures accept and follow different practices that may be positive and negative; and it is upon the educators to identify the relevance and efficacy of each and encourage the positive ones while trying to relegate the negative ones into the background. This is difficult, more so because the times have changed and the effect of these practices may have undergone drastic changes with their results ambiguous and differing from culture to culture.

Another consideration that should be kept in mind is the effect of the specific local contexts that have an effect on children. The aim of early childhood education is sustainable development, and this may only by achieved if the children are impacted effectively and in methods that reflect their local environments and beliefs. Only then can there be active participation of children, their families and the communities they belong to.

A question that assails the mind is the nature of early childhood education that is considered appropriate for sustainable development. It is agreed by all that such education should not comprise merely teaching children the formal method of reading and writing. One of the lessons taught should be leading children to the demerits of the materialistic society that encourages more than enough consumption of luxury items like fancy clothes, toys, etc. The question that is raised here is how to impart the same learning objective to children in developing or under-developed countries where such items are relegated to the background in the face of demand for basic items of existence.

The traditional pedagogies give importance to imparting of knowledge meted out through different subjects as isolated disciplines. New pedagogy need not be construed from scratch; infact it would be beneficial to work on the existing traditional pedagogies and adding relevant practices like the use of activity based learning, projects involving real life situations, interdisciplinary learning systems; etc. The difficulty arises in integrating the new with the old, and ensuring that the ensuing development is concrete and sustainable.

One of the greatest challenges is the system of training of early childhood educators. There is an urgent need to assess the quality and system of pre-service and in-service training of early childhood educators and caregivers all over the world and improvement made on them for sustainable development.

Accreditation is another tool that may be given importance as a means to improving the standard and effect of early childhood education that leads to sustainable growth. It is a powerful instrument in the hands of policy makers and serves as the basis on which the existing system may be assessed, and improvements suggested, if necessary. It is the yardstick that evaluates the system while monitoring it and ensuring quality and protection of children at this vulnerable stage of their lives. Mention may be made of ‘NAEYC Position Statement on Licensing and Public Regulation of Early Childhood Programs’ [NAEYC 1998] in this context.

Sustainable development ensures creation of an inclusive society in which there is development inspite of the differences. This may be achieved when people of different age groups, gender, financial status and cultural background work in cooperation with each other towards similar goals. Keeping this in mind, I would like to rethink and redefine my professional goals in the arena of early childhood education. The goals would be as follows:

  1. First Goal: I would like to raise awareness regarding the real objective of early childhood education; which is to impart skills of a greater kind rather than acquiring of mere academic knowledge and competencies.
  2. Second Goal: I would like to embrace the families of the children in the process rather than involving only the students in the course of imparting of skills and understanding as families provide the base and is the extension of the local context that binds the child and forms his mental make-up.
  3. Third Goal: I would endeavor to raise awareness about the requirement of a universal programme for early childhood education and ensure that all the stakeholders unanimously agree to it and rethink the existing traditional ideas and work on them to embrace a universality that assures sustainable development.

References

Child advocacy. (n.d.). Retrieved September 01, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_advocacy

Implementing child rights in early childhood. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/files/Guide_to_GC7.pdf

International Early Childhood Education. (n.d.). Retrieved September 01, 2016, from http://www.icfi.com/markets/education/campaigns/international-early-childhood-education

Early Childhood Education Schools, Quality Education. (n.d.). Retrieved September 01, 2016, from http://www.centralsquarefoundation.org/issue/school-systems/early-childhood-education/

NAEYC Position Statement on Developing and Implementing Effective Public Policies to Promote Early Childhood and School-Age Care Program Accreditation. (1999, April). Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/psacrpol.pdf

Samuelson, I., & Kara, Y. (2008). The contribution of early childhood education to a sustainable society. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001593/159355E.pdf

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One thought on “Early Childhood Education Policy of a Nation

  1. A very impressive post. I have to say that I disagree that the policies are mutually agreed upon. For example, recent research is calling into question the validity of quality rating systems assessments (Schaack, & Setodji, 2013; Winterbottom & Piasta, 2015; Yazejian, & Iruka, 2015), the effectiveness of instructional programs for English Language Learners (Valentino & Reardon, 2015), gifted and talented recruitment policies (Peters & Engerrand, 2016), and the cogency between what early childhood professionals know and actually do in practice (NSCDC, 2007).

    References

    National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (NSCDC) (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development: Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

    Peters, S. p., & Engerrand, K. G. (2016). Equity and excellence: Proactive efforts in the identification of underrepresented students for gifted and talented services. Gifted Child Quarterly, 60(3), 159-171. doi:10.1177/0016986216643165

    Schaack, D., Le, V. N., & Setodji, C. M. (2013). Examining the factor structure of the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale—Revised. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(4), 936-946.

    Valentino, R. A., & Reardon, S. F. (2015). Effectiveness of four instructional programs designed to serve English learners. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37(4), 612-637.

    Winterbottom, C., & Piasta, S. B. (2015). Does accreditation matter? School readiness rates for accredited versus nonaccredited child care facilities in Florida’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program. Journal Of Research In Childhood Education, 29(1), 60-72. doi:10.1080/02568543.2014.978918

    Yazejian, N., & Iruka, I. U. (2015). Associations among tiered quality rating and improvement system supports and quality improvement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 30, 255-265.

    Like

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