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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Discussions on Equity and Excellence Across Nations

    From the poorest to the most most affluent communities worldwide, the Global’s Children’s Initiative (GCI) seeks to find ways to address the adversities young children face on the basis of science research on healthy, and life-long development of mind-767591_1280children.  The GCI seeks to shield children and women from the adversities brought about by biological and environmental risk factors. Across the globe, there are efforts to promote these noble intentions not only to promote school readiness, but to improve the well-being of children. In Brazil, a project dubbed “Applying the Science of Early Childhood” is in place. Also, “Global Learning Community: Saving Brains” in Canada; “Assessing Child Mental Health Needs in Shanghai” in China; “Expanding effective interventions to improve preschool quality” in Chile; “Exploring the intergenerational impact of war through war-affected youth” in Sierra Leone; and “Piloting assessments to measure child development outcomes linked to malaria control strategies” in Zambia are initiatives that tackle the issues unique to their communities. Regardless of the issues, what research in science indicates provides the foundation for taking action to address the different forms of adversities. 

    

A Closer Look at the Issues in Nigeria

    The acknowledgement of the primal need of early childhood education not only as a right, but as a way to fight poverty and an effort to assure the future stability of a nation is just the initial step in development. What comes next is to identify what and how are the issues in early child care and education can be tackled to fulfil the end goals. Let’s look at Nigeria’s approach to their issues…

    Back in the 1980’s only 7.7% of children in Lagos, Western Nigeria of the parents had sent their children to informal early childhood programs in rural and urban areas. Olanrewaju (2014) surmises that during those years, parents did not have the education to understand the importance of early childhood programs in the development of their children. With the recognition of children’s right to equal opportunity to education, the Early Childhood Education became part of the 1998 National Policy on Education. There was a mix of private and public programs available for children 0 to 5 years old. Private programs charge fees that have implications on the quality of teachers and facilities for children. However, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act in 2004 now requires programs for three to five-olds as part of the public primary school. This increased the opportunity for young children to have access to free early childhood care and education. The success of the Early Childhood Care and Education could be attributed to the support from the government by allocating  five percent of the UBE to the early intervention services. Additionally, states must also allocate its equivalent to receive this benefit.

    Taking into serious consideration the quality of early childhood programs, assessment tools are deemed necessary to ensure their effectiveness based on the principles set by the National Education Goals Panels. These principles include,

    • Assessment should bring about benefits for children.

    • Assessments should be tailored to a specific purpose and should be reliable, valid, and fair for that purpose.

    • Assessment policies should be designed recognizing that reliability and validity of assessments increase with children’s age.

    • Assessments should be age-appropriate in both content and the method of data collection.

    • Assessments should be linguistically appropriate, recognizing that to some extent all

    assessments are measures of language.

    • Parents should be a valued source of assessment information, as well as an audience for

    assessment results.

The Early Childhood Committee Education lists areas to be assessed in children. They are,

  • Background information about family, early development, health, language, literacy  and educational experiences
  • Hearing and vision
  • Perception, memory, language, thinking skills, and problem-solving
  • Listening comprehension and expressive language
  • Awareness and manipulation of sounds in words, letter names, and picture names.
  • These are good predictors of early reading
  • Writing mechanics and early content
  • Mathematics
  • Reasoning
  • Social and self-help skills and use of non-verbal communication
  • Attention
  • Maturation

    As such, assessments are deemed to support learning, to identify special needs, to evaluate programs and monitor trends, and, to ensure high-stakes accountability. These principles as bases for the policies and practices in early childhood in Nigeria indicate their vision to develop responsive readiness skills and to provide early child care intervention. Recognising the benefits mother-434355_1280of working with families, identifying the points for improvement in the programs, and scrutinising the assessment formats for different purposes are key factors to realise their goals. Most importantly, finding resources, especially funding to take action is an advancement to advocate for Nigeria’s excellence and equity in education.

References:

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2010). Global children’s initiative. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/activities/global_initiative/

Olarewanju, A. (2014). Early Childhood Assessment: Implications for the Development of Responsive Readiness Skills, Child Care and Early Intervention In Nigeria. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences 4(6). Retrieved from http://hrmars.com/hrmars_papers/Early_Childhood_Assessment_Implications_For_The_Development_Of_Responsive_Readiness_Skills,_Child_Care_And_Early_Intervention_In_Nigeria.pdf

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Sharing Web Resources

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          Scientific and economic findings all agree that early childhood education is crucial in assuring the future of a nation. Science emphasizes the importance of early experiences in the formation of the brain architecture when the development of different domains is emerging (Shonkoff, 2009). Heckman, (2011) an economist, shares similar view that cognition and character building developed in the early years through parental involvement and early childhood education are crucial to the functioning and productivity of children in the future. What research indicates have implications in the policy formation to address the issues that science and economics present. These policies include support for quality early childhood education to realise the goal of preparing the children for the generation ahead. Although quality has been at the forefront of discussions to ensure efficiency of programs and assure the return of investments, it is yet to be fully realised. The International Step by Step Association (ISSA) envisions “a society where families, communities and professionals work together to empower each child to reach her or his full potential and embrace values of social justice and equity.” In its effort to work towards the realisation of their vision and mission, ISSA works with different social, political, and economic organisations globally. The ISSA website has a PUBLICATIONS section that includes studies, reports and books on issues that concern early childhood education and development. In this section, there are two major sources that indicate their participation in studies and discussions with international organizations. One of them is the consultation participated in by ISSA, UNICEF, UNESCO and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation in partnership with the World Bank and Brookings Institution that was held on September 2014 in Leiden, Netherlands.  The consultation focused on the measuring and improving quality in early childhood environments in cognizance of the fact that the development of approaches to measuring quality has yet to be consistently utilized. Inclusive of the discussions are the new approaches to quality measurement and the recommendations to expand the global network. The discussions attended by different sectors seem a primal move to establish a common vision to improve the quality of early childhood education through a convergence of ideas and interests. The other resource in the PUBLICATIONS is the report by the European Commission on ECEC for children from disadvantaged backgrounds: findings from a European literature review and two case studies. The report indicates the importance of governance in ensuring that early childhood care and education is part of an integrated system of services that include employment, health, education and social services. As such, human and financial resources are crucial in implementing a quality early childhood care and education.

    Indeed, early childhood development is not a miniscule section of the development. Almost, it comprises the whole range of development, and the baby-432665_1280different aspects of early childhood are ramified in sections such as health and nutrition, parental support in the form of employment, social services, environment and education. It, therefore, needs a wealth of human and financial resources invested by the different communities – in local, national, and international levels. The ramification of policies is an integration of social, political and economic thrusts where early childhood must be on top. 

References:

Heckman, J. (2011). The Economics of Inequality- The Value of Early Child Education. American Eductor. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ed.gov/early-learningRetrieved from file:///Users/pamelacastillo/Documents/Heckman%202011.pdf

ISSA (n.d.). Studies, Reports, Books. Retrieved from http://www.issa.nl/content/studies-reports-books

Shonkoff, J. P. (2009). Mobilizing science to revitalize early childhood policy. Issues in Science & Technology, 26(1), 79–85. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.


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New Insights and Information through Personal Contacts and Websites

nigeria-162376_1280It was four years ago since I first connected with my early childhood resource. She was my workshop leader on Reggio Emilia Approach. Since then, we have been in touch and some occasions have expanded our chats about the different aspects of early childhood – the challenges of inspiring colleagues to continue reflecting on their practices on how to be better at what they are doing is just one of our favourite topics.

She left Nigeria in the mid 80’s and is now a citizen of the United States of America. She continues her connections with her birth country by visiting at least once a year. Although not very familiar with the current issues and trends in Nigeria, she seeks to look for projects in which she can be involved. Thus, I would like to dedicate this journey of getting to know Nigeria to my friend, colleague and mentor.

The Unicef website shares an overview of the situation in Nigeria. It is Africa’s most populated country, with 171 million people, of which 41 million are children. Its economy is the largest in the continent and highest economic growth. However, with half of its population besieged by poverty, it remains challenged by the issues that relate to it.

Nigeria experiences natural disasters political instability brought about by the insurgency. Millions of mothers and children die from diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and HIV. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation is still prevalent.

The stark reality of poverty, with the basic needs lacking for more than half of the population, comes a web of issues that the country faces, including education. Currently, only 21 percent of the young children are enrolled in Early Childhood Care Centres.

In the midst pf poverty, what is the early care and education like? Historically, it was in 1977 when the National Policy for Education was introduced that the need for early childhood education was recognised. Since then, early childhood centres and programs were established in different places – from work offices, church premises, school campuses to namibia-344890_1280residential buildings. However, the proliferation of these entities does not warrant the purpose being served. The standards and regulations for operating these programs have been waived. The Unicef reports that about 85 percent of caregivers do not have the basic qualifications for the job. The infrastructure, equipment, and facilities are behind standards. The teacher-pupil ratio of 1:25 is not observed due to lack of monitoring and supervision initiatives. 

Through initiated actions, there is always hope. There is community-driven and home-based support for young children from zero to three years old supported by the Unicef in 222 focus communities. Beyond the education and care initiatives, UNICEF and the World Health Organization empower communities and parents through programs on prevention of diseases such as immunisation, training on support and care for parents and household practices and stimulation. These are just a few of the many initiatives the Nigerian government and international organizations espouse to help the poor population.

References:

Country Profile commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report. (2007). Strong foundations: early childhood care and education. UNESCO International Bureau of Education, Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001472/147201e.pdf

Sooter, T. (2013). Early Childhood Education in Nigeria: Issues and Problems. Journal of Educational and Social Research Vol. 3 (5) Retrieved from file:///Users/pamelacastillo/Downloads/653-2597-1-PB.pdf.

UNICEF Nigeria. (n.d.). Nigeria. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/nigeria/


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Learning and Sharing: The Journey Continues

social-media-580301_1280The digital world has expanded the possibilities of finding ways to connect with people and organisations to learn and share resources. As long as we keep an open-mind and persevere to find what would match our needs, there is nothing we can not achieve.

The issues and trends in early childhood, although the same can look different depending on the contexts in which the learners belong. The following are snippets of stories that tell how people tackle what they believe is crucial in the education of children. My awareness continues to expand as I explore the possibilities of finding resources about early childhood education.

My search for connections continues and although things did not turn out as originally planned, there is so much to learn fromtown-sign-749613_1280 people we know and people that people we are connected with know and so the web of connections seems endless. This week, through Facebook, I heard from a friend and a former colleague, Daun Yorke, updates about a workshop that she recently attended.  She presented in her website how the philosophy of Reggio Emilia Approach prepares the foundation for learning and how it prepares the young learners for the initial stage of  development and sustain the intrinsic motivation to learn throughout middle childhood and early adulthood. Teaching and learning then are not a fragmented process. Instead, it is a continuous process of forming and making – as how Daun described it, a process of weaving a tapestry. Moving on,  through LinkedIn, I came across a non-governmental organisation, Developing Real Learners (DRL). This organisation aims to equip different stakeholders in the community through collaboration. The DRL group serves as a discussion forum on different topics that relate to learning for sustainability of the future. The organisation, although still in the process of completion aims to work with students, by helping them develop the attributes as an approach to learning. They provide professional development to schools and organisations by catering to their needs. As well, to offer free online learning for teachers, administrators, teachers, workshop leaders and parents is at its stage of development. The website also shares a wealth of resources that could be useful for different needs.

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To hear accounts of attempts and triumphs is reassuring that change is not only a desire, it is slowly transforming communities that empower the learners.

The World Forum Foundation lists fourteen issues in the working groups section. Each working group shares stories of attempts and successes in addressing the issues. I paid particular attention to the story of the community-based rehabilitation (CBR) efforts to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in Nepal. The video depicted the actions that different social workers and teacher students took to enable communities to include people with disabilities in the education and skill acquisition efforts for sustainable living. They shared powerful stories of individuals who traversed the journey of leading, guiding and empowering individuals in the midst of adversity. The conditions of the whole community are taken into consideration and not only the plight of the people with disabilities so that support can be given from the grassroots – the families. For example, parents are educated about health and sanitation so they can better take care of their children. Children with disabilities, on the other hand, are taught how to explore and strengthen their capabilities instead of focusing on things that they can not do. Children with cognitive disabilities are encouraged to learn skills that would be practical to sustain their living. For example, learning how to sew, and doing chores for themselves. Also, being a Friend of International Step by Step Association provides more access to inspiring stories of overcoming adverse situations that relate education from the different parts of the world. Browsing from archived news are tales of the mobile library in Macedonia that promote literacy amongst children including their families and teachers, the peer learning activity between parents and children in Belarus, and establishing intergenerational learning between senior citizens and young children in Europe. These are concrete actions taken by people in different forms to advocate for change in their respective contexts.

It is my wish to be able to tell my story one day.

References:

http://developingreallearners.org/index.html#real_learners

http://developingreallearners.org/resources.html

http://issa.nl/oc/

http://yorkedaun.wix.com/curriculum-director#!Reggio-Emilia-Approach-Warp-and-Weft/c1mbt/559968b40cf2585ebcde7f85


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Expanding Networks, Establishing Professional Contacts – A Journey

I felt my professional knowledge and skills were rusting, and becoming obsolete. Did I just finish attending a workshop? For a time, I was excited to pass on my colleagues all the new things I learned, practice them in the classroom but, the experience seemed like a temporary satiety for thirst quenched. Weeks, and months pass after a workshop, I reach a level of dissatisfaction again. I want to make continued connections, keep learning. Engaging in discussions with colleagues did not seem enough. How can I continue to learn? These thoughts drifted away for a time.

Competition in my field suddenly surfaced. Completing a Master’s degree in education almost seemed like a must. I have enjoyed discussions with colleagues and professors, heard new perspectives and discovered that I could still widen my connections to learn and share. Then the time came to expand connections with other organizations…

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It is amazing how technology can extend networks and connections around the globe – emails, websites, online organizations, they are just a click away!

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Global communication, global collaboration

Day one, I was so excited to send out emails to as many groups as I can. First, I looked at all the possible places where I could establish connections. I know that I have limited links with the groups in my home country. I have been attempting to forge partnerships with public schools so I can contribute my skills and resources, but this has not yet materialized. I looked up to Reggio Emilia schools, so I visited the Reggio Children website. I found Lella Gandini’s email, one of the authors of Reggio books. I emailed other organizations such as the country to where I will move for my next job and one from a developed country to have a balance of ideas from organizations operating in different economic zones.

Day two, I was overjoyed to see Lella Gandini’s email. She mentioned suggestions on how to establish links. I am still far from accomplishing something concrete, but I thought it was a good start. I have yet to hear back from the other organizations I emailed.

Day three, no replies yet. I remembered the connections that I just made through LinkedIn. A non-governmental organization, Developing Real Learners, would like to expand their connections. I am still learning in what capacity I can participate.

Day four, five, six … I am still waiting for replies.

Meanwhile, I explored the World Forum Foundation website. What a treasure of resources to read and learn from. Stories of successes on how early childhood advocates have made a difference in the lives of many children. I was moved by Meenakshi Dahal’s story about Nepal. What a great spirit to rise from adversity to help not only the children but families and teachers to rise from the remnants of the earthquake. Perusing the pages of the organization’s website demonstrated the work of many people working on child’s rights, curriculum initiatives, global learners for young children and many more. I can’t wait to participate! I signed up to join the MyFoNet conversations and made my first post on Play. There are still many more to learn from this website as I explore it.

I have just unveiled the endless possibilities of learning more about the issues and trends in early childhood education. The International Step by Step Association (ISSA) offers information on its effort to “to ensure equal access to quality care and education for all young children from birth to 10 years old.” I aim to be a Friend of ISSA, but still waiting for a reply to my request.

The clock is ticking, I might not be able to receive replies promptly but I will continue to communicate until such time I am not a single piece of a puzzle anymore. I hope to find the other pieces to tackle the issues and trends of early childhood.

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Linking and connecting all the matching pieces to see the whole picture

References:

http://www.issa.nl/

http://www.reggiochildren.it/?lang=en

http://www.worldforumfoundation.org/