Small children are “overprepared” for arithmetic and reading when they start school. Terrible, the report screams. What complete nonsense and what a triumph for our Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) program.
Everyone is concerned that some children starting with toddlers are “overprepared”. The findings are included in the latest Children’s School Lives study, which follows 4,000 children in 189 schools to learn more about their experiences.
The research, which focuses on the transition from preschool to elementary school, was conducted by the UCD School of Education on behalf of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
That’s largely due to the success of our ECCE program here – something that’s often hammered because of the short hours that don’t tally with parents’ weekly work schedule.
But imagine an early childhood education system that allows parents to send their babies and toddlers to quality care, regardless of income. We’ve had that here in Ireland since 2010.
Children from low-income families will often fail before they get a chance to start, while children from more privileged households have easy access to pre-school programs and early education opportunities (and often at a younger age). ECCE was designed to level this playing field. It has.
Until I had children I might have had a vague, superficial knowledge of the meaning of those early years, but I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t really want it either. I didn’t need to know. Or at least I thought so.
I should have cared. We all should. I know that now. The statistics on the impact of quality early childhood education on our society as a whole are staggering. This isn’t just a parenting problem. It’s a social one.
The ECCE program is a universal two-year preschool program available to all children within the eligible age group. It offers children their first formal experience of early childhood learning before they enter primary school.
The program is offered three hours a day, five days a week for 38 weeks a year and the program runs from September through June each year. Every day, parents send their toddlers on their fun journey of learning letters and numbers, playing, jumping around, socializing and all the other things that Irish preschools do so well. Apparently too good.
Sending a child into early childhood care is much more than just babysitting so both parents can work. It’s about giving them pure, unmediated, (mostly) unsupervised free play. It’s about playing around with water and sand tables, rummaging through the dress box, piling huge blocks of wood to the ceiling and back, and endlessly using little fantasies to spark social interactions and complement the curriculum. Well done, no kid left behind.
It’s hard to believe my oldest’s preschool is coming to an end. A complete vocabulary has emerged from around a hundred understandable words. Walking turned into dancing via running, hopping and hopping. The Picasso-like finger painting gave way to targeted brush strokes.
My four year old is starting junior infants next week and already knows the alphabet, how to recognize and count simple words.
There is something else that stimulated her early reading skills. You see, reading is crucial when navigating and filing the Disney app Encanto on.
No one should dismiss “academic” skills as worthless in the real world.
And yes, she can put on a jacket, pull up her own leggings after pee, and learned to share at ECCE too.
The adventurous young learners of the digital age are very different from the kids who sat quietly in their orderly rows half a century ago, working from books and relying on their teachers for information.
The little ones are now swiping cool and solving puzzles and tasks. They scan their screens in search of experiences and information.
My point is that literacy itself has changed. Just as importantly, learning has changed too.
While kids used to go to school to learn their literacy skills, the kids of the internet generation come to school with basic digital literacy and literacy skills.
When our children are young, we really rely on our extended villages to raise them. In the early years there are breastfeeding groups and toddler playgroups. In the pre-school it is the other parents and the teachers. My daughter was nurtured and supported by these wonderful adults.
Preschools don’t make much money. Preschool teachers earn even less. That’s wrong. It has to change, but the ECCE program was still one of our better achievements as a country.
Early childhood education is thriving in Ireland and more importantly, our children are too. Overprepared or not.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/the-early-childhood-care-and-education-programme-gives-our-children-tools-to-thrive-in-life-over-prepared-or-not-41943398.html The Early Childhood Care and Education program gives our children tools to succeed in life—overprepared or not