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What Is Early Childhood Education?

Early childhood education focuses on birth through age 8.
Play activities in early childhood classrooms are intended to address areas of development, like creativity.
Most U.S. states have made kindergarten compulsory and government funded.
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  • Written By: J.S. Metzker Erdemir
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Early childhood education (ECE) is based on the idea that learning begins at birth, and that caring for children and educating them should be inseparable. The practice focuses on the years from birth to age eight, and people who have specialized degrees in this field often work in nurseries, daycare facilities, preschools, and kindergartens.

Much of the philosophy of early childhood education is based on the idea that children learn through play. By focusing the types of play children engage in, or by participating and helping in children’s’ play, parents and caregivers can learn to make the most of these activities and prepare children for future education. Developing an identity and sense of self is also central to education, where children are learning about who they are, their relationships to others, and their culture and language.

There are five main components of early childhood education, all of which are interrelated and believed to be the basis of learning and development. The social aspect of development is concerned with children’s relationships to other people and their ability to empathize, cooperate, and share. The physical component focuses on developing gross and fine motor skills, while intellectual development deals with how young children make sense of the world around them. Creative development helps children learn through music, art, and reading, and emotional development is about self-confidence, self-awareness, and understanding feelings.

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In much of the world, daycare for children under the age of three is increasingly incorporating an educational component. Caregivers are chosen not only for their ability to nurture babies and small children, but for their background and abilities in teaching. Universities offer degrees or specializations in the field to prepare teachers for this kind of work, and daycare facilities, preschools, and kindergartens often require their employees to have some education in early childhood development or offer their own in-house training. ECE curricula usually contain coursework in child psychology as well as pedagogy and teacher training.

Equal access to early childhood education is becoming a central international social justice and educational issue. Most US states and many countries have made kindergarten compulsory and government funded. In the US, Head Start programs focus on getting adequate nutrition and education to low-income children whose families cannot pay for preschool. Internationally, UNESCO works with governmental education, health, and social affairs departments in developing countries to ensure that poor children have access not only to education, but to health care, nutrition, and security.

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anon317304
Post 7

Early childhood education curriculum always includes fun stuff. I remember really enjoying myself in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

lighth0se33
Post 6

I can remember when children were not required to go to kindergarten. It seemed that the kids coming into the first grade back then with no kindergarten experience had a lot more trouble learning.

I had attended kindergarten, and my mother had read to me a lot at home. So, I excelled at reading in the first grade.

I could not understand why many of the other kids could barely sound out a word. The truth is that no one had really focused on their early childhood development through education. They were left to fend for themselves.

cloudel
Post 5

@seag47 – I know! The teachers did everything they could to make learning fun. Somehow, though, that wasn't enough for me, and I dropped out of kindergarten before the graduation ceremony.

I had terrible homesickness. My mother couldn't even leave me at kindergarten for a few hours in the morning without me crying and begging to go home.

I don't know if early childhood education courses deal with this issue when training teachers, but they should. My teachers tried to threaten me with punishment to make me get over my homesickness, but that only made it worse. They need to receive some sort of training regarding the psychology of young students.

seag47
Post 4

Early childhood education curriculum always includes fun stuff. I remember really enjoying myself in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

Yes, I was learning, but I was doing so through the use of crayons, paint, games, and songs. That's how they trick kids into receiving an education!

I especially loved my music class. I had a natural ear for music, and I really enjoyed learning songs and getting to play a few notes on an instrument now and then.

OeKc05
Post 3

I think that Head Start is a wonderful early childhood education program. I recently visited a Head Start location for a fundraiser, and I was surprised at how many students were in attendance there.

There are more low-income families in my area than I previously had been aware of, and that just made the program seem that much more valuable. They were selling food plates at lunchtime to raise money for the organization, and I went by with a friend to show support by buying food.

The place was packed with people there to give money, so I don't think that the organization is in any danger of shutting down for lack of funding. They will probably remain in operation for many years to come.

anon128718
Post 1

I am interested in early childhood learning, but what subjects should i take at school?

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