Early Childhood Studies – a Global Perspective

Exploring the concepts on early childhood studies through the lens of people across the globe


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How to Ignite and Empower Children

Listen to Soulaima Gourani talk about how each and every member of a community can spark hope in the life of a child who has faced adversity. Many people decide to have a child even before they know what it takes to raise one. In a world where adversity and stressors are inevitable, how can we bring hope to the future generation. We, as adults can be one of the protective factors to develop resilience so that these children may still fare well in life even in the midst of challenges. As Soulaima notes, “be someone’s Ebbe.”

The Power of Play

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Most times we forget how play is important in a child’s world. It is their window to learn and understand the world around them as they explore their environment, discover how things work, and make social connections.

“I cannot go to school today”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there’s one more – that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in.

My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There’s a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is …
What? What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is ………….. Saturday?

G’bye, I’m going out to play!”
Shel Silverstein

Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/children

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A Closer Look At China’s Assessment System

My days of school were filled with memorizing dates to pass the test in history. I needed to remember formulas to solve equations in Math of which I could not even make sense, and scientific terms that were hard to say. My textbooks and medium of instruction were in English, not my native tongue. Multiple choice and matching types of tests were reflections ofstudents-395568_1280 my understanding. The results indicated how I ranked in my class and whether I was a high achiever, an achiever or a low achiever. Then, a national test was given to every graduating student to qualify for a university admission. These tests that I came to know “defined” my capabilities as a person.

In this day and age, many other forms of assessment materials have been designed for different purposes. However, there remains a number of achievement test given especially to those who are intending to pursue a degree in university. The history of this type of test dates back in 604 to 6017 during the reign of Emperor Yang in China. Yan instituted the Imperial Examination system in order to “sort the multitudes of men seeking civil service jobs” (Hammond, n.d). Just like my home country, China also requires students to pass a national exam called, Gaokao in order to take a degree in university.  It was deemed a passport to professional work. Regardless of economic status, everyone work to prepare for this exam. It requires a lot of money and preparation to take this exam. Moreover, the great test-taking ability of Chinese students was shown in their top performance at the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Gibbord (2010) shares the insight of a middle school principal in Shanghai that although they perform well in an internationally benchmarked exam, China still needs reforms in the educational system towards analytical and critical thinking. Educators expressed that these excellent test-takers still do not qualify in the workforce that needs creative managers of the global companies. However, many believe that as long as “Gaokao” remains the measure for a student to gain further education, the shift to a different educational system is still far from happening.

The experience of China in implementing an assessment system and their purposes for implementation are still common inchildren-214437_1280 many countries around the globe. It is about time to look at assessments and their use in the whole spectrum of the global economy. We have to consider the development of the whole child ( ASCD, 2014) and meaningful methods of assessment to a sustainable future driven by mature, and healthy individuals.

References:

ASCD (2014). Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child. ASCD-CDC Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/wholechild/wscc-a-collaborative-approach.pdf

Education Reforms in China: What the Educators Think (2010). OECD Insights. Retrieved from http://oecdinsights.org/2010/03/19/education-reform-in-china-what-the-educators-think/

Gibbord, R. (2010). Call for Reform. NPR Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2010/12/29/132416889/chinese-top-in-tests-but-still-have-lots-to-learn

Hammond, B. (n.d). Great Test Scores, Bad Schools: A Cautionary Tale From China. China and Testing. Retrieved from http://www.isacs.org/misc_files/Hammond%20article.pdf


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Assessing the WHOLE Child

What is a whole child in the 21st century? How do we develop the whole child? Why is it important to support the development of the whole child? The ASCD Whole Child (2012) tackles the whole child’s learning and success as a prerequisite to a better future. ASCD Whole Child (2012) notes,

“A child who enters school healthy and feels safe is ready to learn. A student who feels connected to school is hands-543593_1280more likely to stay in school. All students who have access to challenging and engaging academic programs are better prepared for further education, work, and civic life. hese components must work together, not in isolation. That is the goal of whole child  education.”

This message indicates the balance of support that a child needs for healthy development. From pre-birth, up to the early years, a child’s brain development is dependent on the nutrition, experiences and physical environment. Jack Shonkoff (n.d), director of the Developing Child – Harvard University mentions that “what happens in early life, that’s the foundation for everything that follows.”  Therefore, even before a child enters school, she or he has predispositions from early experiences that have support-205187_1280already started to shape the brain architecture.

A child’s development does not rest solely on the hands of the parents. The parents who are a part of a larger community may have needs that must be supported as well. Do they have jobs that equip them to take care of families? Work that entitles the parents to have some time off to nurture the newborn child, especially the mother who ideally must breastfeed? How are communities supporting healthy development among young children? Is there support for the production of healthy quality food for mass consumption? Are there provisions for nutritious food in public schools? Are school and community policies supporting sound and healthy development that can impact success at school and later in life?

The ideals of healthy development may be far-fetched. Thus, this will warrant individual support for the needs of every child from the different sectors of the soceity. To identify the needs of the children is by looking at the big picture of assessments. Herman (2010) notes the pitfalls of many assessments especially when they fail to serve the purpose. Herman (2010) proposes a coherent system of measures that is composed of horizontal, vertical and developmental measures of learning that encompass the varying needs of every child. Horizontal coherence can narrow down the gap between what the child knows and what she or he needs to know as teachers identify the goals and engage the child in learning to achieve these goals. Developmental coherence is building of assessments from grade level to college and work preparation. Through feedback from assessments, teachers can refine their approaches to learning to help the children build on skills set in benchmark assessments. Vertical assessments allow for visibility of how children are doing and can direct educators and policy-makers to make the necessary improvements in the classrooms, schools and districts.

Different assessments cater for the different needs of learners. As we look at identifying these needs, we have to dig deeper than remediating the current manifestation of learning needs as behavior can also be an overlapping factor. Trying to improve teaching to help children perfom better in standardized tests do not guarantee future success. Looking at the big picture can help in rethinking the assessment approaches to help every individual student. We do not assess to label and define the person the child is, but label and act upon his or her needs to function at a personal and eventually social level. Scrutinizing the past, present and future predicament of a child will foster appropriate assessments to address needs appropriately, making an impact not only in the current situation, but also the healthy develoment of a whole child – the next driver of the forthcoming generation.

References:

ASCD (2014). Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child. ASCD-CDC Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/wholechild/wscc-a-collaborative-approach.pdf

Center on the Developing Child–Harvard University. (n.d.). InBrief: The foundations of lifelong health.[Video file]. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/multimedia/videos/inbrief_series/inbrief_the_foundations_of_lifelong_health/

Herman, J. L. (2010). Coherence: Key to Next Generation Assessment Success (AACC Report). Los Angeles, CA: University of California Retrieved from http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/policy/coherence_v6.pdf