DISCUSSION: Primary curricula – Quality and skills?

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You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                      – Plato

Children develop attitudes towards education and of themselves, during the early years of education, which will stay with them throughout their lives. Those children whose conclusions are positive develop a strong foundation for subsequent life success. The early years are critical learning years as children experience rapid growth in their cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and physical competence. High-quality early childhood programs can help children to succeed in school and later in life. In recent research, 97% of parents surveyed stated that “quality” was a determining factor when choosing which early childhood program/establishment they wanted their child to attend (Barnett & Yarosz, 2007) 1410539782977

What are high quality programs?

These refer to excellence. They represent more than the minimum standards and have value exceeding the ordinary. Children in high quality education enjoy a variety of benefits, such as: higher levels of language development; greater social competence; a better ability to regulate their own behaviour; and better academic performance; than their peers who attend poor-quality programs (National Research Council, 2001).

What do high quality programs look like? The essential components are:

* Practitioners and well prepared and well compensated

* Staffing is stable

* Group sizes are small, and a small number of children are assigned to each practitioner

* Warm, attentive relationships are established between adults and children

* Environments are safe and healthy

* Environments are stimulating

* Family engagement is evident

* There are links to comprehensive community services

There is also increasing unrest for curricula developers and practitioners to support children in preparing for being able to function successfully in the 21st century.

Some of the core abilities that are being raised as important for children are:

* possessing a solid education and being able to apply what they know and can do in relevant situations

* working well with others

* acting as problems solvers

* utilising skills broadly and engaging in flexible thinking

* functioning as information seekers

* seeing themselves as lifelong learners

To do this, researchers and academics suggest practitioners need to engage with a developmentally appropriate curriculum / practice (DAC / DAP).

References:

Barnett, W.S., & Yarosz, D.J. (2007). Who goes to preschool and why does it matter? National Institute for Early Education Research. New Brunswick: NJ.

National Research Council (2001). Eager to learn: Educating our preschoolers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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