Education plays a very important role in the early developmental stages of a child. It equips them with about their environment and various factors that affect their lives. Early childhood education is useful since it shapes the way a child develops. These early years in life of a child entails massive mental development. This type of education assists children to shape what they want to become in their future lives (Carma, Baxter & Imes, 2010). It is also important since it identifies talents in children early in life, and this makes it possible to nurture them as they grow.
However, there are issues that undermine the quality of early childhood education. These issues include malnutrition, poverty, and other health related issues. Some scholars have also reported that there are inadequate facilities and poor government planning of early childhood education in various countries. According to Currie (2001), many governments have not taken the issue of early childhood education seriously. Children living in poor families get fewer opportunities to attend early educational programs compared to the children from rich families. These concerns need to be addressed in order to ensure that every child gets equal chances of early education, to become a productive member of the society.
Discussion of Key Terms
It is always important to have a clear understanding of some of the terms used in a piece of research to enhance its understanding among readers. Bullough (2001) defines education as a process where knowledge is imparted into a leaner by a teacher in an environment such as school, or other relevant places. It does not just entail formal classroom learning, but any other forums where knowledge can be passed from one person to the other.
Currie (2001) notes that although the term a child is always used to refer to individuals who are aged below 18 years, the term is popular with minors who have not reached adolescent stage. This scholar also states that early childhood are minors who are aged below eight years. According to Mouw and Weyrick (2008), early childhood education refers to the first three years of education, especially from the age of five to eight. This scholar also defines early childhood development as growth accompanied by expansion in knowledge of a child through a clear educational program.
Importance of Early Childhood Education
According to Laurie, Garrett, Buka (2004), education plays a pivotal role in shaping a child’s future in the current society. For this reason, there are certain targets that are set in order to improve the quality of knowledge that is given to children at their early stages of learning. According to Nomaguchi and Brown (2011), it is vital to take a keen interest when designing the nature of information that is given to children at early stages of learning. It is important to ensure that the kind of knowledge that is presented to them is easy to understand and meets the set standards at this level.
Bullough (2001) explains that the role of early childhood education is to ensure that a child is ready for school and he or she has cognitive skills, and develops emotional and social skills. Early childhood education is also important as it offers the less fortunate and the fortunate children in the society equal educational opportunities. It aims at providing children of all origins with equal educational opportunities. The less fortunate children may face financial problems, poverty, and other health related issues but early childhood education is crucial. It is the foundation upon which the destiny of child is decided in its future academic endeavors. When this is done properly, such a child will be able to excel at higher levels of education (Currie, 2001).
Early Childhood Development
According to Mouw and Weyrick (2008), the education in early years of a child is vital in the overall development of an individual. This means that the way a child is handled when young determines his development, and consequently the child’s behavior during maturity. The experiences, values, and virtues that a child acquires early in life play a significant role on his or her development. The article explains that the brain starts to function when a child is very young. Bullough (2001) states, “These early years are the times when the brain develops and much of its ‘wiring’ is laid down” (p. 12).
Children have the desire to learn and develop from other people and their surroundings. This means that positive experiences are necessary for the development of the child (Curby & Timothy, 2013). It also means that there are certain key things that determine the development of a child. When a child is exposed to a negative environment, it is very likely that his or her behavior as an adult will have a reflection of this negativity.
Determinants to Development of a Child
According to Bullough (2001), health of a child and the character of parents determine how the child will respond to education. The family values, parenting skills and their financial situations play a vital role in the development of a child. Additionally, the parents’ level of education, mental and physical health is also important in the development of a child. Another determinant to the development of a child is the immediate environment (Laurie, Garrett, Buka, 2004).
A peaceful environment is likely to help in positive development of a child, while violent and unsafe surroundings may affect this positive development. Culture shapes the values and ethics an individual will have in future (Nomaguchi & Brown, 2011). There are various cultural practices that require a child to be educated in a certain way. This may lead to different people having different values, virtues, and code of ethics.
Early Childhood Development Skills
There are certain skills taught early in life such as music and arts that are vital in a child’s development. Early childhood education aims at producing an all rounded child. Bullough (2001) says children should be allowed to express themselves through art. In the same light, it is also important for a child to appreciate the skills of others. This will inform them about different cultures and promote understanding of their environment. At this stage, art may involve drawing with crayon, making a collage, or modeling with clay.
The most important thing about art in early education is that it works towards the development of an all rounded person. Letting children express themselves through art enables them to choose the materials they will use in making an item of their preference (Curby & Timothy, 2013). The decisions that they make is a vital step towards enabling them to have independence in decision making. It teaches them about responsibility which is an important life skill.
According to Carma, Baxter and Imes (2010), children should be encouraged to express in more than just oral communication. This is so because it enables the educators read their mind easily. In addition, art boosts self-esteem and confidence of children (Curby & Timothy, 2013). Musical skills are also important in the development of a child. According to Mouw and Weyrick (2008), early childhood development is the time when children discover many things in their surroundings. Music and art helps children to understand the new things they encounter. Music helps in memorization leading to quick learning.
Goals of Early Childhood Education
According to Laurie, Garrett, Buka (2004), early childhood education aims at developing a child who is fully equipped with necessary learning skills for higher learning stages. For this reason, early childhood education is used to prepare children for education, develop them socially and emotionally, and improve their cognitive skills. Nomaguchi and Brown (2011) support this argument by stating that early childhood education teaches a child about the use of hands and body to communicate.
In addition, a child also learns on how to respect adults and peers at this stage. This means that early childhood education is essential in the development of social skills by teaching children how to relate with people in the society. Therefore, it focuses on helping people from different cultures to respect and understand each other. It also teaches children on how to resolve conflicts by equipping them with problem solving skills. This is done by teaching them on what is wrong and right.
A child can be able to learn about the law and the socially acceptable behavior at this stage. According to Miquela (2008), early childhood education teaches a child how to communicate with their superiors, and also understand why people behave differently. Additionally, one can develop self-awareness, identifying his or her strengths and weaknesses. It also helps in building self-confidence of children and gives them a sense of belonging in the world of different cultures. At the end of the program, children should be able to take care of themselves, communicate effectively, respect one another, and identify their interests.
Requirements for the Support of Early Childhood Education
According to Laurie, Garrett, Buka (2004), early childhood education needs the support of everyone in the society. This starts from the family at home, the school they attend, and the people they encounter daily. The society needs to ensure safety of children and make sure that they are healthy. Additionally, the materials that children are exposed to should be carefully monitored for a sound mind development. Children learn most things by seeing and hearing what other people around them do and say (Levinowitz, 1999).
For this reason it is important for a child to have a role model around for proper growth. This role model should support the child by believing in him or her, and providing support through challenges. People, including the educators, should appreciate the uniqueness of each child and give each child indiscriminate attention. Materials for learning should also be availed to them in their early learning stages. They should be encouraged to interact with other children under the supervision of caring, patient and understanding adults.
It is important to note that children are different and they develop at different rates (Curby & Timothy, 2013). The level of understanding and comprehension also differs amongst children. The government needs to step in and provide infrastructures such as schools and hospitals specifically for childhood development. Children from rich families have better environments to develop compared to those from poor families. The government needs to ensure that the opportunities the children get as far as early childhood development is concerned are approximately the same. Guardians should also teach the children where they are coming from and what is expected of them throughout their lives (Laurie, Garrett, Buka, 2004).
Challenges of Early Childhood Development and Education
Bullough (2001) says that health, poverty and unemployment in the society are major problems that affect early childhood education and development (Currie, 2001). Health and physical state of a child and parents determines ability to learn. Deaf, mute, crippled, and chronically ill children will find it difficult to cope with other normal children in the society. On the other hand, parents who are ill or have a disability will raise their children differently from the other parents.
This in turn, leads to children developing with different levels of abilities. Poverty and unemployment hinders the quality of life and attention a parent gives to the child (Bolen, 1989).Parents are therefore, encouraged to plan their families so that they can be comfortable when raising their children. However, the situation in many countries is that many children lack people who can appropriately monitor their development.
Early childhood education is very important in the overall development of a child. During this stage, a child’s mind develops very fast through general observation of their immediate environment. They learn by seeing what others do or say. This means that it is at this stage that educators should be keen on instilling values in a child that would define its personality in future. When a child is given a solid foundation during early childhood education, it will find it easy for him or her to learn at advanced stages. However, poor development at this stage may affect mental capacity and social behavior of a person at advanced stages.
- People should take responsibility in the development of children, not only their own but every child around them.
- Children should be exposed to material that will help them have a sound mind. This means that people should not wait for help from outside, but strive to provide an educational environment for the children.
- Many governments try to intervene with a person’s education later in life. Such programs include adult training and technical education programs for school dropouts. Most of these programs have been unsuccessful and the results are poor. For this reason, early childhood education should be a serious concern for the government.
- Early intervention is beneficial since one can be able to identify the problem and shape a child to be a responsible and productive person in the society. Parenting and guardianship should also be carefully monitored to reduce the number of children that are mistreated.
- There should be an expansion of the early childhood education programs and facilities. This should be developed to ensure there is universal and quality early childhood education.
- Children should also be exposed to different environmental settings, and be encouraged to play with other children. Children services are a good step towards promoting early childhood education, and these services should be expanded.
- In addition, every person should take it upon themselves to ensure a healthy development of the future generation. In this light, relevant institutions should publicly educate people on healthy upbringing of children.
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Bullough, R. (2001). Student Cohorts, School Rhythms, and Teacher Education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 28(2), 97-110.
Carma, L., Baxter, L., & Imes, W. (2010). Parental Rule Socialization for Preventive Health and Adolescent Rule Compliance. Journal of Family Relations, 59(1), 1-13.
Curby, W., T. & Timothy, L., L. (2013). Teachers’ emotional consistency matters for preschool children. Early Education and Development, 24(1), 292-309.
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Nomaguchi, M., & Brown, S. (2011). Parental Strains and Rewards among Mothers: The Role of Education. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73(3), 621-636.