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Critical importance of early childhood education

EducationWorld November 2023 | Anniversary Essay
Micaela Ventura is Head of Primary at DSB International School — Deutsche Schule Bombay

The critical importance of professionally administered early childhood care and education cannot be overstated. Simply put, it has profound impact on every child’s future

Micaela Ventura

Micaela Ventura

After several decades of advocacy by early childhood care and education (ECCE) champions in India including EducationWorld and the Early Childhood Association, early years education has been incorporated into official policy and the new 5+3+3+4 education system under the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

Yet the importance of professionally administered ECCE is underestimated by the parents community. There’s considerable scepticism that early years education is about providing infants opportunities for unstructured play under casual supervision. However, for effective implementation of the new 5+3+3+4 schooling system mandated by NEP 2020, the critical importance of professionally administered ECCE cannot be overstated. Simply put, it has profound impact on every child’s future. Extensive research endorsed by renowned education theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky, Maria Montessori, and Froebel, indicates that ECCE focuses on key areas of learning: soft skills, physical development, and personal, social, and emotional growth.

Soft skills: the building blocks of character. Soft skills, encompassing communication, empathy, teamwork, and problem-solving, are the essence of human interaction. These skills, often neglected in traditional education models, are the bedrock on which future success is built. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework in the United Kingdom recognises that developing soft skills in the early years shapes a child’s character and interpersonal relationships, laying the groundwork for a successful and fulfilling life. Studies consistently highlight the correlation between strong soft skills developed in childhood and professional achievement in adulthood, underscoring the enduring impact of professionally supervised ECCE.

Physical development: gateway to cognitive growth. Physical development in early years schooling is not just about acquisition of gross motor skills; it is a catalyst for cognitive growth. Engaging in physical activities enhances coordination, balance, and fine motor skills, vital for academic pursuits. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development emphasises the inseparable link between physical and cognitive growth, stating that a child learns through her interactions with the environment. Promoting physical activities in early childhood education lays the foundation for a child’s academic readiness, highlighting the importance of a healthy body for a healthy mind.

Personal, social, and emotional development: nurturing well-rounded individuals. The development of emotional intelligence and social skills is paramount in the EYFS Framework of the United Kingdom. Emotional stability, resilience, and ability to form meaningful relationships are key predictors of lifelong well-being and success. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory stresses the influence of social interaction on cognitive development. Likewise, Montessori and Froebel championed the idea that social and emotional development is as vital as academic learning. Focusing on these aspects in early years schooling cultivates confident, compassionate individuals equipped to navigate life’s challenges.

Parental engagement: a partnership for success. Parents are the first and most influential teachers in every child’s life. Understanding the pivotal role of early childhood education empowers parents to actively engage in their children’s learning journey. Engaging in activities that promote soft skills, encouraging sports and exercise, and nurturing emotional intelligence are simple yet impactful ways parents can support children’s development. Moreover, remaining informed about latest research and education pedagogies enables parents to make well-informed decisions about early education.

Parental engagement is not just about involvement in school activities; it is about creating a conducive environment at home that complements learning experiences in school. When parents actively participate in their child’s education, they reinforce the importance of learning, curiosity, and creativity. Simple activities like reading together, exploring nature, and engaging in imaginative play enhance a child’s cognitive and social development. Additionally, parents serve as role models, demonstrating essential values of empathy, respect, and resilience, which children absorb and integrate into their own personalities.

In conclusion, professionally provided early childhood education serves as the foundation for shaping children into resilient, empathetic, and intellectually curious individuals. Therefore, acknowledging the significance of soft skills, physical development and personal, social, and emotional growth is vital for parents. By aligning parenting practices with the principles of early years foundational learning drawn from influential theorists, parents can play a crucial role in nurturing not merely academically competent, but compassionate and socially skilled future generations. Armed with this understanding, parents transform into advocates, providing conducive environments where every child can thrive, achieve, and make meaningful contribution to their host societies and beyond.

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