Neuroscience has confirmed the important role of 0-8 years in the overall development of the child. It is the honeymoon period and put on state welfare for children. Recent research confirms that the child experiences faster growth and development during the first three years. During this period, optimal learning occurs because of interaction with adults and the environment given. The research shows that the ECD environment promotes creativity, critical thinking, increased participation and the internal motivation to learn (Watkins, 2010)
The twentieth century revealed a century’s discovery of children. Children’s activities and learning experiences have been critically noted by many researchers, psychologists and educators who led to different theories and educational approaches. All these theories provide rich knowledge and information on the importance of early childhood learning and development.
Most of the theorists and researchers talked about the importance of hand-on activities in child learning and development process such as, John Comiuns said, children learn to speak by speaking, write by writing and reason by reasoning.
To add to this Johan Pestalozzi was against cruel punishment and rote learning. He believed that a child learns through participating in a learning process, through meaningful activities and in grouping of various ages so that the elders can help the younger ones. Moreover, he says that teachers must teach in a naturalistic way. This has been identified by Fredrich Froebel the “father of the kinder garden” “child’s garden” who believed that education should produce a pure, faithful, and holy life. He thought that everything in the universe functions in relationship to the God and every individual has a specific purpose that he/she has to fulfill in his life. Frobel used the garden as a metaphor to represent the childhood education. Moreover, he said that, like a flower blooming from a bud a child also grows according to their laws of development. Therefore, kindergarten education follows the nature of a child and the child natural activities to help him in learning process. In addition, he believed that education should begin from concrete and move to the abstract. The work of John Dewey in ECE adds a significant contribution. He is lauded as the greatest educational thinker of the 20th century. Furthermore, he believed that, students should be involved in real-life tasks, challenges and learn by doing.
Besides, much acclaimed and recognized particularly in Pakistan is Maria Montessori approach to schooling that focuses on a carefully prepared environment employing self-correcting manipulative materials. Montessori believed that child learns best by direct sensory experience and early education has a crucial role in a child’s later development.
Furthermore, Jean Piaget’s major contribution has been in helping the teachers and parents to understand how children learn. His view of how children’s minds work and develop has been very powerful, particularly in educational theory. He worked on how children increase their capacity to understand the world that is why he put emphasis on hands-on activities.
On the other hand, Vygotsky talks about the role of adult in scaffolding the learning process by naming it zone of proximal development. He expressed that a child need guidance and support for a specific time to be independent.
Moreover, in 1962 David Wiekart developed High Scope Approach. In high scope MAMACHOLASU (material, manipulation, choice, language and support) heart of active learning gives an edge to the child to interact with the available material, manipulate it according to his/her own choice and share his/her learning through language with the support of a train caregiver. The day routine is design in such a way that help child work independently and with peers to explore, experiment, experience and build on his/her learning. All this improve his/her social, emotional, spiritual, cognitive and physical competencies. Such environment contributes in child overall learning and development.
In this approach teacher/caregiver provides a platform where a child gets a chance to discover and experiment in order to assimilate, associate and accommodate learning. This is supported by Bruner (1966) who debate the child physical stimuli in three manners that are en-active, iconic and symbolic. He shared that to develop cognitively human use five senses that helps them take a picture of a specific thing and build his competencies to define it with language. That’s why schools should encourage teachers/caregivers to find creative ways or innovative ideas for children to help them enjoy their learning process and develop holistically.
Realizing the critical role of initial years, the recent educational world has kept the ECD&E on top precedence. Resultantly, different countries are investing a considerable amount of their budget for early childhood development quality improvement.
Pakistan is one of such countries that engrossed this area and developed 2007 ECD&E curriculum. The curriculum is based on High Scope Tactic with courteously defined thematic areas, core competencies, learning outcomes and a detailed view of Classroom management and daily routine plan. Unfortunately, even after passing a decade the teachers/caregivers have no access and understanding of the curriculum.
To change the state of affairs and get promising results, our Government should focus on early childhood education (ECE). Provide conductive teaching learning environment and develop the teachers’ proficiencies and pedagogical skills.
The Government should provide curriculum copy to all schools and allocate a big chunk of the budget for education especially the early childhood.
On the other-side, the teachers/ caregivers should realize their role, own their obligation, and contribute positively. They should work sincerely with children, explore their developmental needs and work on their own knowledge so to deliver the concepts in an effective way with full decorum.
Adding to this, impartial and excellence based teacher hiring should be ensured by the Government schools. Moreover, highly qualified teachers should be inducted with attractive packages. The teachers/caregivers should be provided professional development opportunities and monitor for quality assurance.
Government should make known to educational research wing to explore the needs and impact of early childhood education and come up with planned way forward.
To sum up, Education is the yardstick of a developed country and early childhood their priority. If we want to be called a developed country, we must amend our primacies.
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