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Early childhood education: What benefit?

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IN EVERY modern society, it is believed that education is the key to national development and there is a need to maintain every level of education especially at the pre-primary stage, because it is the bedrock upon which all other educational levels are built. Once a child misses that early stage, it is usually difficult for the learner to get back to the basics.

  Pre-primary education is a common practice in most societies; they make provisions for early childhood education programs of various types for children below the official school age (usually six years) mainly to prepare them for the rigors of primary education and beyond.

  Speaking on the benefits of early childhood education, Mrs Theresa Ogazi, a teacher in a daycare outfit in Awka metropolis, said, “the young mind is like a sponge, and it has the potential to absorb a great deal of information. A child’s early years are the foundation for his or her future development, providing a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social development. Well-established research continues to emphasise the importance of early childhood education as an essential building block of a child’s future success.

   Early childhood education can start as early as three months, that is, for working class moms. It is more commonly referred to as crèche or daycare, preschool, pre-kindergarten, nursery school or simply early education. Despite the difference in names, they all have the same purpose – to prepare children for elementary school. Giving children special attention before elementary school helps in giving them a head start for their future.

  The importance of pre-primary education cannot be overemphasised; it enables children to improve on their self-confidence since they are given opportunity to interact with their peers and adults too. Pre-primary education enhances independence and helps curb the tendency of children that are highly aggressive during group activities.

  Children’s interactions with their peers and adults help to widen their scope of understanding and they also gain mastery of the world around them.

  Pre-primary education is vital to the child, parents and society because it permits smooth transition from home to school, because it enables the child to feel free to interact with other people outside his immediate family members. Pre-primary school helps to sharpen  children’s cognitive domain through learning rhymes and songs; while playing on the slides and swings help in physical development and build their muscles. Structured play with building blocks and puzzles, baby dolls, and teddy bears help in emotional development of the children.

  At  pre-primary school stage, children learn to share and co-operate with others instead of developing the selfish tendencies. Exposure to pre-primary education goes a long way to teach each child how to understand and manage their emotions. The provision of pre-primary education assists working class parents who have no relation or house help to take care of their children while they are at work. The children will be exposed to reading and writing. Statistical research has shown that children who have experienced early childhood or pre-primary programmes are more likely than other children to remain in primary school and achieve good results”.

  Also, Mrs Rose Igwebuike, a teacher in pre-nursery section of a private primary school in Onitsha metropolis said “for young children, every experience or encounter presents a learning opportunity. They learn from everything they see, do, hear, feel, smell, and taste; everyone they interact (talk, play, and laugh) with; and everywhere they go. Studies suggest that quality early childhood education  offers a range of benefits like the ones listed below to children, as well as to their families and their communities.

  Socialisation: Humans are very social beings and the main concept of socialisation takes root in early childhood. In a safe environment away from family, children meet other people of their age, and this helps to sow the seeds of ‘socialisation’ and ‘friendship’ in their young minds. This helps to develop self-confidence and eliminate their shy nature.

  Cooperation: During this phase, children learn to share, cooperate, take turns and so on. These are all part of a secure social life. This is especially beneficial for an only child, who is not familiar with having to share things. In the safe environment provided, the child will learn to cooperate with guidance from professionals.

  Holistic development: As a human being, it is important to have a strong foundation in every aspect of  personality such as emotional, social, mental and physical. Teachers who handle young children are well trained to identify the weaker aspects of a child and to encourage them to improve through practical sessions. Interaction amongst peers is extremely important in this context.

  Value of education: The new environment provided in preschool gives children an entirely different perspective on the requirement of education. Grasping knowledge and applying them to their lives demonstrates the value of education.

  Teamwork: A person’s teamwork capability is based on their respect for others’ opinions, listening skills and mentality towards equality. All these qualities should be taught at a young age. Many preschool activities are focused on teamwork and help children improve their attitude towards working as a team.

  Resilience: Our society is ever changing and it is important to develop resilience as early as possible. The challenging scenarios provided by the professional guides help children to learn through their own experience. The bruises and bumps from their challenges lay the foundation for better coping strategies for their future challenges.

  Concentration: The involvement in preschool tasks and activities demands higher levels of concentration from a child. The repetitive occurrence of the activities helps them to improve their concentration skills.

  Patience: In the life of an adult, patience is often tested and children should be trained to handle such situations for the future. Experiences such as sharing the attention of the teacher, waiting for their turn etc. will help children develop patience.

  Brain development: Professionally crafted activities in preschool enhance the development of the brain. Various activities involving analysing and logical reasoning help them to develop their skills.

  Exposure to diversity: There is so much diversity in the modern world and children need to be taught to appreciate and accept the differences in society.

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