Early Childhood Education InfoIn the past, most children spend their pre-school years at home. If a family can afford a baby sitter who can teach at the same time, then the children learn their alphabets and some nursery rhymes and songs. For families who cannot afford a baby sitter/tutor, the mother serves as their first teacher.
As early as the 19th century, infant schools were established in Europe in order to provide care and education to the small children of women factory workers. Later, the kindergarten was founded and children as young as two years old were accepted. Hence, early childhood education is not something new for it has started hundreds of years ago.
Early childhood education refers to formal teaching given to young children by persons other than their parents or any family members. It is also defined as a branch of a theory in education in relation to teaching very young children before they reach the compulsory age for schooling. In some countries, this covers the age from two years old to five years old while in others it extends up to seven years old.
Early childhood education aims to arm children with the necessary skills and knowledge that will help them cope academically and socially as they enter elementary grades. The activities help develop them emotionally, socially, and academically. Teachers focus on developing their motor, language and cognitive skills. Curriculum is based on children’s needs and interests and may vary from child to child. Children below three years old have different activities from those above three years old. At this stage, lessons focus on games and children learn from playing rather than from formal class discussions.
Importance of Early Childhood EducationSeveral studies show that early childhood education is vital for every child. There are several reasons why this is important.
First, early childhood education helps young children develop social skills. During playtime, they learn the value of sharing and helping each other. As they interact with other children, they come to realize that they need to make adjustments in order to have an enjoyable time with others.
Second, children with behavioral problems tend to change for the better. Some children throw tantrums and become violent when at the peak of anger. In early childhood education centers, there are teachers who are trained to deal with this kind of behavior. With the guidance and care of their teachers, children realize that a bad temper is not good and being nice and pleasant will gain them more friends. Third, studies have shown that children who had early childhood education can easily cope with school work and have longer attention span when they enroll in the first grade than children who did not have the opportunity to go to an early education center. This is because those who attended early childhood education have already developed the skills needed in performing the learning tasks in the first grade. In addition, they have already developed the habit of listening and playing attention. School work is not new to them and they know pretty well what is expected from them during class.
Fourth, children who had early childhood education are less likely to become problems of society. In a 25-year study of children who attended pre-school and those who do not, results revealed that the percentage of individuals who committed crimes and incarcerated is higher among those who had not attended pre-school than those who had. In addition, more persons from the group who did not attend pre-school tend to be involved in drug and alcohol abuse. These findings simply reveal how early childhood education helps in shaping better members of society.
Fifth, children who attended early childhood education performed better than their counterparts who were given early training at home by their parents in terms of early reading scales, mathematical scales, expressive vocabulary, color knowledge, and fine motor skills. These data highlight the many advantages that acquiring an early childhood education brings.
Philosophy of Early Childhood EducationEarly childhood education is founded on the philosophy of Jean Piaget, who theorized that children learn better through play. He believes that learning takes place easily when children experience what they learn. This is done through art, social games, and dramatic play. It mixes the child’s ability to “make believe” and the lessons to be learned.
Piaget and his colleagues used the Developmental Interaction Approach, which aims to make children learn by discovering on their own. This approach considers five domains of child development. These are the physical, social, emotional, language, and cognitive. Physical development focuses on the child’s physical development. Early childhood education teachers must be alert about eyesight and the child’s motor skills. At this stage, the child must be able to do some crafts and solve puzzles. Social development refers to how the child interacts with others. It involves developing socially acceptable behaviors and the ability to adjust and get along well with others. Emotional development refers to the child’s emotional connections and to their level of self confidence. Language development is manifested on how the child expresses his thoughts and feelings and how he communicates or interacts with other people. Cognitive development is all about the child’s ability to live with environment and his skill in resolving issues and problems.
Other theories that have influenced early childhood education is the socio-cultural learning theory of Vygotsky and the constructivist theory of Piaget. The socio-cultural learning theory posits that an individual’s learning is highly influenced by the social and cultural experiences. How the child thinks and interprets the world is affected by his experiences.
Piaget theorized that learning comes from within. When children encounter information that contradicts his previous learning, he tries to adapt to the new schema to suit reality. He assimilates it so that it will fit what he knows to be the reality. Through this, children learn by fitting the new reality they encounter with what they had experienced.
These two theories served as the basis of early childhood education, how teachers must teach, and how they can promote the cognitive development of the child.