EARLY CHILDHOOD LEARNING
- April 4, 2017
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Blog
Early childhood learning is considered to be a very important issue because in recent decades increasing attention has been paid to the development of preschool children. Consequently, early childhood has been recognized and valued as an important period of the growing up process. Yet, in parallel with recognizing the importance of supporting children’s development, there are cases in which the world of children, and hence their learning as well, has been detached from the real social and cultural context and placed within the frameworks defined by adults for all children equally, without reconsidering their individual interests and needs.
Neurological researches show that early childhood experiences have a decisive impact on brain architecture and hence on the type and degree of future possibilities of adults and the ways of their functioning (Pavlović Breneselović, 2015). Therefore, experts all around the world are increasingly emphasizing the advantage of being enrolled in kindergartens, even before the age of three, for it has been proven that high quality early childhood programs significantly contribute to the development of children. However, the average enrolment rate of preschool children in Serbia is 41,36%, which is significantly lower than the average enrolment rate in EU countries – which is between 70% and 85% (Strategija…, 2012). In addition to the low enrolment rate, one of the deficiencies of our early childhood education is the quality of early childhood programs, and the most common problem is associated with “schoolarisation” of kindergartens, i.e. domination of the school-based model of learning, in which learning is considered to be a separate activity, detached from play and life context and reduced to teaching. Preschool children learn in interaction with their environment, peers, adults and objects, they learn by observing, performing, experimenting, creating, through personal experience…Yet, instead of supporting dedicated learning of children, nowadays, even in early childhood, learning is becoming an obligation that has to be fulfilled. But, if it is not based on play and interests of children, it will become boring, stressful and frustrating.
According to OECD study (OECD, 2004), high quality early childhood programs are programs that promote learning through play and exploration and promote the children’s right to initiative and participation in deciding not only on what to learn, but on how to learn as well, i.e. on the way they participate in the process. High quality early childhood programs provide a stimulating environment, in which children are given various opportunities to explore different topics, to learn within different fields. However, it should be emphasized that all those opportunities are consequences of a continuous reconsideration of what is important and interesting from the children’s point of view.
Why is it important to reflect not only on the advantage of children’s participation in early childhood programs, but on the quality of those programs, as well? Because, in contrast to traditional programs, contemporary early childhood programs do not imply the need to measure and evaluate children’s progress in order to estimate their achievements in relation to average values predetermined for the children of a particular age. Indeed, nowadays we know that instead of prioritizing the number of new facts acquired by children, it is more important to consider the way they do it and how they feel in that process.
Such a reflection on early childhood learning has contributed to the change of perspectives of preschool teachers and parents, as well. Thus it is more commonly stated that a child is a creator of her/his own development and that the growing up process should not be shaped exclusively by adults’ perspectives about what is “good” for a particular child. Since the development of children is affected by the quality of their interaction with other children, adults and the environment, it is important for us – parents and preschool teachers to reflect upon the issue of quality of relations our children build with the world around them. We play a very significant role in shaping their growing up process, particularly if we are aware that it is important to provide a stimulating environment for them, and what is even more important, to listen to and respect children’s opinions with regard to how they feel in that environment.
OECD (2004). Curricula and Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education and Care – Five Curriculum Outlines. Paris: OECD.
Pavlović Breneselović, D. (2015). Gde stanuje kvalitet 2 – istraživanje sa decom prakse dečjeg vrtića. Beograd: Institut za pedagogiju i andragogiju.
Strategija razvoja obrazovanja do 2020. godine (2012). Službeni glasnik RS br. 107/2012.