Issues in Early Childhood Education

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Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education, also called nursery, is an aspect of education that involves teaching of small children either informally or formally until they become at least eight years old. There is also toddler or infant education, which is a part of early childhood education involving teaching children from birth until the age of two, usually existing in the nations with high rates of literacy. Early childhood education program is an area where a lot of studies have been conducted in order to establish the issues affecting the sector and the ways it could be improved. The efforts have been made to ensure that more children have access to early childhood education services through funding and making such services accessible. The program of imparting education to young children before they reach the age of eight offers important, long-term benefits which include efficient development, the maintenance of the wellbeing of children, creation of good relationships, and helping kids understand the cultural, social, and physical dimensions of the world around them. Implementing early childhood education, which can be of a very high quality, is an important investment the country can easily undertake, and therefore, it is recommended that all states offer publicly funded and free early childhood education programs. These programs ought to last all day and be mandatory. The following essay seeks to highlight and discuss the issues surrounding early childhood education programs.

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Early childhood education programs have fundamental issues which effectively influence the programs offered in both formal and informal settings. Quality concepts of the program differ according to various countries and multiple priorities of the stakeholders. Many quality perspectives are founded on differing assumptions about childhood, practices of child-rearing, and purposes of early childhood programs. Some of these issues contribute to long-term and short-term outcomes of the child’s development. Researchers have delved into the issue of early childhood education programs to understand all aspects affecting them for the purpose of getting relevant information that could be used to improve the services offered. Good child-centered quality programs are crucial in providing early childhood learning services, because they result in good outcomes of children’s development. This paper will discuss issues which affect early childhood education, including group ratios and sizes, staffing, training, supervision, curriculum, pedagogy, regulation, and auspice. It will also regard the existing access to the programs, their availability, aspects of inclusion, gender equality, parent participation, funding, delivery model of the program, its capacity and strategies, as well as the areas of health, nutrition, school transition, measurement, and monitoring (Zhang, Bertrand, Corter, & Janmohammed, 2007). The objectives of good development, the wellbeing of children, the creation of good relationships, and the process of helping kids understand the cultural, social, and physical dimensions of the surrounding world can only be met when these issues are taken into account by all the stakeholders in the sector. Thus, it is crucial to highlight and discuss issues in early childhood education and the way they affect academic success and overall development.

Funding

Funding is a major issue in early childhood programs, as it ensures that the program runs smoothly. A lot of resources need to be invested into an early childhood education to promote high-quality programs. The sufficient funding also ascertains that good infrastructure, such as buildings and children’s playgrounds, are available. By receiving good pay at the center, the workforce will be motivated to offer exceptional services. Funding is a vital issue, ensuring free access to the program. It means that all young children can attend early childhood learning centers without having to pay (Zhang, Bertrand, Corter, & Janmohammed, 2007). Generally, parents are charged a lot of fees for the services, but with enough funding, that will not be the case, as no young child will be left without education because parents and guardians cannot afford the fees.

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Training for Teachers and Other Staff

The training in early childhood education programs implies equipping the service providers with professional skills that will make them qualified for the job. Policy documents and research studies have indicated that high level of education of the staff often leads to relatively good outcomes of children’s development and high quality programs. Studies in this field recommend the childcare workforce to be highly trained, and each program center should have at least one person with a university degree in the early childhood development studies. Most of the countries have a problem with the lack of school-trained employees working in the early childhood learning centers. Therefore, most of the staff does not have motivation for training, which becomes a real challenge for the sector. Program community leaders lack training as well, and they cannot access the ongoing information and undergo the pedagogical practices offered by the early childhood learning programs. In many countries, the interventions in childhood learning have led to the increase in staff development, and the training offered resulted in significant improvements in program quality. Support and training of the service providers and the local workforce can ensure that they have been equipped with relevant skills and are capable of developing a culturally appropriate curriculum (Issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education, 2014). Training also changes the caregivers’ attitudes, enabling them to create good environment for children. It makes them interact with children in a respectful manner, having embraced the early education as profession.

Access

Access is a critical aspect of any program involving early childhood education, since not all children can access it. Therefore, the problem of access needs to be improved for all young children, becoming a matter of priority, like it has happened in many developed countries. The access to early childhood education is the objective of many developing nations that aim to meet the goal of offering education to everyone. The services of early childhood education are generally unequal because of the existence of some barriers. These barriers include programs which cannot accept children with various disabilities. The other barrier limiting the access is fee payments needed to be given to early child education services, since a lot of parents and guardians cannot afford them. The other barrier is curriculum which does not correspond to the culture of many children, thus hindering their access to early childhood learning. The other barrier that limits access to childhood education is a lack of centers near the residences of the families (Early Childhood Education. Issues and concerns, 2017). Long distances need to be traveled in order to access these services, which essentially forms a significant obstacle.

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Group Sizes and Ratios

Group sizes and ratios have a significant impact on the provision of early childhood education services and programs. In essence, small groups of children can get numerous benefits at the care centers and kindergartens, since they ensure effective service delivery and positive outcomes. Research conducted in regard to early childhood education programs has consistently indicated that large groups of children in the class get dismal results, as far as service delivery is concerned. The number of childcare providers in regard to children ratio in urban areas is small, since one teacher serves a small group of children. In some instances, there is also an aide and one other extra teacher serving the same group. The kindergartens in rural areas, on the contrary, face the problem of large groups of children being taught by only one teacher. Therefore, the urban areas are better in regard to teacher/child ratios, while rural kindergartens are often faced with situations where the teacher/child ratio is huge (Zhang, Bertrand, Corter, & Janmohammed, 2007). As such, urban schools are relatively better than rural early childhood development centers.

Staffing

Staffing, in this case, means the human resource personnel in the early childhood learning programs, which include caregivers, teachers, and other aides. The interaction between the staff and individual children strongly determines the quality of early childhood learning services. Skills and knowledge attained by the staff are crucial in creating a supportive environment for the children. The quality of the program and the outcomes of children’s development are highly dependent on the country’s capacity to invest in the human resources in early childhood learning programs. Human resources strategies need to be introduced and expanded in early childhood learning programs to ensure adequate staffing in all kindergarten centers. After introducing the strategies, the efforts need to be made to further improve them. In other countries, steps have been made to expand the training programs in colleges and universities (Zhang, Bertrand, Corter, & Janmohammed, 2007). These programs have also been highly popularized to make professions in early childhood programs seem lucrative to young people.

Supervision

Supervision of early childhood learning programs is an important issue, since it is an area that needs close management. The managers, directors, or supervisors of the kindergarten are people who maintain the quality of the programs. The training and education of these supervisors enhance the quality of early childhood learning programs. Supervisors, who are highly trained and preferably have a university degree in childhood education, can offer better pedagogical and curriculum leadership to the workforce. In general, a gap seems to exist in regard to the supervisors’ monitoring ability that could result in the implementation of appropriate human resource management, which could ensure that the staff is retained, trained, and given the necessary support. Early childhood learning programs with professional leaders tend to have good results regarding the outcomes of children’s development because of the quality services being offered in a supportive environment. On the other hand, poor supervision of these centers often leads to low results, which is discouraging. It happens due to poor leadership which results in a lack of focus and motivation among the workforce.

Curriculum

The curriculum is the materials, contents, interactions, and activities offered in the course of early childhood learning programs. In many cases, the curriculum can be a set of activities and materials prepackaged to be applied in a program. A local community can also generate its curriculum basing on personal interests. The curriculum framework is a set of orienting principles, content outcomes, program standards, as well as pedagogical guidelines, according to which particular outcomes are realized. As far as early childhood education is concerned, no particular curriculum can serve all children in the same way and be called best. A curriculum which is designed for a particular group of children and is child-focused is crucial, as it ensures that the goals set for children are met and supported. New abilities and skills are more likely to be acquired by young children when activities and materials are related and linked to their local culture. However, there is a discrepancy amid frameworks which advocate skill development among children and make an emphasis on children’s development goals. In other countries, literacy skills are not specifically focused on curriculum principles and policies, as they do not address the programs designed for languages which are a minority (Issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education, 2014). It should not be the case, since literacy has to remain the main focus of the policies and programs of early childhood education. The focus of these programs is literacy, and parents and guardians are involved as partners in their children’s learning, even when the kids do not participate in formal programs.

Pedagogy

Pedagogy is a technique of the curriculum delivery and the process through which the desired outcomes are achieved. In the developing countries, most general early childhood learning programs adopt child-centered approaches. Models of active learning are being increasingly applied by many countries, since reading success and cognitive abilities are significantly improved by preschool education. Some of the technical approaches are found to be more effective while others lack the efficiency. The most effective pedagogical approach is childcare intensive education, while the least effective approach is home-based initiatives. The child-centered pedagogical approach is arguably the most efficient, as it is guided by curriculum objectives and goals, all of which are clear. Pedagogical approaches that are not child-centered are therefore the least efficient, meaning that the outcomes of children’s development are below the acceptable threshold. Home-based initiatives lack a good pedagogical approach, therefore the potential reading success and cognitive abilities are not improved. It happens because this kind of approach lacks clear curriculum objectives and goals (Early Childhood Education. Issues and concerns, 2017). The efficient pedagogical approaches are improved further by staff training, and as such, the program quality increases.

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Regulation

Regulation is a very important issue in early childhood development programs, since it concerns the involvement of young, vulnerable children. Issues of health and safety regarding the environment in which the children learn need to be regarded seriously by relevant regulatory bodies. Frameworks for regulation of early childhood education programs are normally functions assigned to government agencies. These government agencies are the ones who establish the process of licensing and award the licenses to early childhood education centers and kindergartens. Regulations should not be impossible to achieve, especially when the resources are considerably limited and can lead to the closure of the programs. Instead, they ought to focus on health and safety, and offer necessary assistance to the centers to help the conditions improve. Despite the fact that regulations are there to ensure quality, measures need to be put in place to provide support and help in the implementation of the deigned approaches. Traditional inspectors that enforce regulation compliance are being continually replaced with the pedagogical experts who work together with parents and staff to promote the quality of the program and offer effective support practices. In many instances, the fees parents are charged with by early childhood education centers are determined by quality assessments. While this assessment may be popular, it might focus primarily on indicators like facilities and materials, ignoring aspects of pedagogy, processes, and relationships. Filling these gaps in the assessment process is crucial and beneficial for parents, because they will know what they are paying for and the outcomes that they can expect for their children.

Auspice

Early childhood education programs can be run directly by a corporate owner or an individual, by the government of a particular country, and by non-governmental organizations operating in the community. Service delivery of these programs is largely influenced by who operates the facility. Early childhood learning programs run by corporate owner or individuals provide them with profits. Research in this area depicts that programs which are run for the purpose of profits do not deliver the developmental programs and childhood education efficiently in most cases. Early childhood learning programs run by the government, on the other hand, provide people with quality services. Programs which are run by non-governmental organizations also deliver very well, and thus the outcomes of children’s development are satisfying. The difference in service delivery arises from the fact that non-governmental and government-run early childhood education centers receive more funding, which makes them more equipped with both the materials and human resources. Centers which are run by individuals for profits, on the other hand, struggle with funding issues, which makes them vulnerable to insufficient materials and human resources. However, in the developing nations, the private individuals make efforts in creating their early childhood education centers, and thus deliver quality programs and services for fees (Zhang, Bertrand, Corter, & Janmohammed, 2007). The problem with this is that children who are disadvantaged and those coming from low-income families cannot access the services, since their parents and guardians cannot afford to pay high fees charged by the owners.

Availability

As far as early childhood development in the developing nations is concerned, the enrollments in preschool have been increasing, but the margins of these increases are small. Children from rich families often attend early childhood education centers. The same thing applies to children who live in towns and cities. The rate of children going to these centers in rural areas, on the other hand, is very small as compared to their compatriots in the urban areas and those from rich families. Some countries have achieved early childhood education universally by building as many centers as possible within the reach of many people, thus increasing the availability of the programs. Others — those who have not done the same, are struggling, because the centers are situated so far away from the majority of the population that the services are not available.

Inclusion

Inclusion is a sensitive issue in the provision of early childhood services, and it requires that all children in the program participate fully. These programs of participation are important in ensuring that there is a reduction of social exclusion which has been noticed in the later years of schooling. Children with various disabilities, for example, need to fully participate in the program in order to feel like a part of it. The other group of children who need inclusion is those challenged with social problems and poverty. Also, there is another group that needs inclusion and participation, comprising children of migrants and refugees that face cultural and language barriers (Issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education, 2014). Special attention needs to be given to them in order to make them feel engaged.

Gender Equality

Gender equality has been enhanced by ensuring that the number of girls and boys is balanced. When girls attend early childhood education programs, they stand a better chance of progressing in their post-primary education. It is especially true in communities that are disadvantaged and situated in the developing nations. Therefore, the lack of enrolment bias is crucial in promoting gender parity.

Parent Participation

Parents’ participation is an important issue in the success of children’s early education, since better academic success and development outcomes in childhood learning are usually associated with the active engagement of parents. Their active participation improves learning and education in the home setting. The mother’s educational level is important because it increases the likelihood of the children’s participation in early childhood education programs. Also, programs have been created to assist parents in increasing their levels of literacy in order to enhance their participation in the program. It helps the parents to become capable of teaching their children directly, thus creating the needed bond between them.

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Nutrition and Health

The nutrition and health programs have been incorporated into early childhood education programs to increase children’s developmental needs and benefits. Immunization programs are implemented extensively in the kindergartens, as well as deworming programs. At the same time, most centers have developed feeding programs, which imply that children are fed at school. It is particularly the case in disadvantaged communities and areas where poverty rates are very high. These nutrition and health services are important in attracting more children to enroll in early childhood education programs, thus increasing the enrollment rates (Zhang, Bertrand, Corter, & Janmohammed, 2007). However, it can only be achieved when there is enough funding from the government and other parties, like non-governmental organizations.

Conclusion

In summary, early childhood education programs are an important aspect of the education system. They ensure that children are equipped with knowledge to understand their surroundings better. Early childhood education programs also fulfill children’s developmental needs and affect their academic success. Furthermore, they help kids achieve better levels of health, ensure their wellbeing, the creation of good relationships, and assist them in understanding cultural, social, and physical dimensions of the world around them. However, there are issues that affect how these services are delivered, and they include group sizes and ratios, staffing, training, supervision, curriculum, pedagogy, regulation, and auspice. Other issues consist of the access to the programs, their availability, the aspect of inclusion, gender equality, parent participation, funding, delivery model of the program, its capacity and strategy. Such factors as health, nutrition, school transition, and monitoring are given the priority as well.

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