WES 2012 :: Importance of Early Childhood Education On Learning Abilities Of Students

WES Track: School Track

Title of Paper: Importance of Early Childhood Education On Learning Abilities Of Students
Email: rodrigremy@yahoo.com


The first four to five years of life are the most significant years in a child’ development. It is a critical period for the development of language, numeracy and social skills. These emerge naturally for most children as they interact in the world around them. These early skills are essential precursors to success in school. This essay highlights the importance of how what a child learns in early childhood enhances his overall educational process and plays a vital role in the successful progression of all his future education. Early Childhood Education refers to the education that children obtain during early stages of their childhood. Early childhood is a crucial time period for the development of the mental functions of children. This development, including the emergence of the abilities and skills in areas such as language, motor skills, psychosocial cognitive and learning, is now known to be greatly influenced by exogenous factors, including the nature of the educational environment to which the child is exposed during the first 6 to 8 years of life (Bowman, Donovan and Burns, 2001). Henry Schultz, Professor at the University of Chicago point out that learning starts in infancy, long before formal education begins and continues throughout life. Early learning begets later learning and early success breeds later success, just as early failure breeds later failure. Success or failure at this stage lays the foundation for success or failure in school, which in turn leads to success or failure in post-school learning. Recent studies of early childhood investments have shown remarkable success and indicate that the early years are important for early learning. Moreover early childhood interventions of high quality have lasting effects on learning and motivation. Shonkoff Jack P stresses on the importance of early childhood education by mentioning that ‘Investment in early childhood development lays the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society. The first years of life are important, because what happens in early childhood can matter for a lifetime. Science shows us what children must have and what they need to be protected from, in order to promote their healthy development. Stable, responsive, nurturing relationships and rich learning experiences in the earliest years provide lifelong benefits for learning, behavior and both physical and mental health.’ In early childhood, learning is at ‘flood-tide’ and is particularly crucial during the first three or four years after birth, affecting the every architecture of the brain and our dispositions to think and act, thus building life-long habits of mind. It has been shown that early childhood education can be a major input into a child\’s formal education. A number of studies link it to increases in school readiness for primary school, and it has been shown that school readiness is an important predictor of early school achievement (Forget-Dubois et al 2007). One review of 36 studies of ECE effectiveness in small-scale demonstration and large-scale public programs—each study comparing participants with a control group of non-participants—finds \”overwhelming evidence that ECCE can produce sizable improvements in school success.\” (Barnett 1995, pg. 40)Further, early gains in school readiness due to early childhood education have been shown to have enormous positive economic and social impacts lasting well into adulthood, from higher educational attainment and less chance of involvement in criminal activity, to higher status employment and higher earnings (Schweinhart 2007; Sparling, Ramey and Ramey 2007). James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics from the University of Chicago, reviewed the literature and found that the long-term, economic return on investment in high-quality Early Childhood Education programs is more than 8 to 1 (Heckman 2000). Summarizing the few longitudinal studies and many short-term studies of ECE interventions, Heckman argues the important lesson to take away from successful early childhood interventions is that social skills and motivation are a young child\’s most easily life-altered attributes, even more so than IQ. Further, social skills and motivation have large impacts on school performance. In his view, a student with strong social skills and motivation tends to acquire a higher level of education. Then, with all three attributes (social skills, motivation and education), the individual becomes highly valuable in the work place. Heckman concludes, \”We cannot afford to postpone investing in children until they become adults, nor can we wait until they reach school age—a time when it may be too late to intervene. Learning is a dynamic process and is most effective when it begins at a young age and continues through to adulthood.\” (Heckman 2000, pg. 50) A good quality early childhood education program should be a multi-dimensional educational program with a focus on the holistic development of children in the early stages of their childhood and have the following characteristics: • it should be built around a good learning environment with an effective, well-thought out curriculum; • it should begin at an appropriate starting age; it should be provided in a physical space that is safe and one that has certain specialized facilities; • it should be given by professional care givers, attentive to the individualized needs and progress of the child, and, if possible, it should include the involvement of parents. \”While no single curriculum or pedagogical approach can be identified as best, children who attend well-planned, high-quality ECE programs in which the curriculum aims are specified and integrated across domains tend to learn more and are better prepared to master the complex demands of formal schooling.\” (Bowman, Donovan and Burns 2001, p. 7-8 I strongly believe that early childhood education is important because if the needs of children are not met in the earlier years of life, it leads to behavioral problems and various other physical and mental disabilities in later life. Childhood education being holistic focuses on the intellectual, social, emotional and physical development of children which is of utmost importance for the sound growth of children. Early childhood education encourages aesthetic appreciation. It also encourages independence and creativity by providing the child with sufficient opportunities for self-expansion. Childhood lays the foundation for adulthood. The seeds are sown during childhood. The adult only harvests what has been sown. It is very important to sow the right seeds during the early childhood stage. Our children are our future leaders. The health, welfare, and growth of any country will depend upon the young minds that are currently being shaped. Without early childhood education programs, the children who benefit the most from them may lose opportunities to realize their greatest potential in life.

Brief Biodata of Presenter:

Remediana Dias is the Chairperson of Vision Education Society, Goa, India. http://dyslexiagoa.wordpress.com She is a Dyslexia Specialist by qualification. She began her teaching career in 1995 as a Special Educator in Holy Childhood Special School, Goa. With over 12 years of teaching experience in different parts of the world, she decided to start her own NGO in 2009 to train teachers in handling pupils with dyslexia and help pupils with learning difficulties. She regularly contributes various articles on Special Educational Needs to magazines.

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