Research suggests that children learn best when schools provide a comprehensive range of supports. Unfortunately, most kids – especially in the poorest countries – don’t learn much.
Infant classrooms are safe and nurturing spaces that support healthy brain development. Teachers focus on infants’ physical, social, emotional and cognitive (thinking) development.
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is the learning that children receive during their preschool or pre-kindergarten years. The curriculum can include a variety of experiences, like domestic play, sensory play and constructive play, as well as educational activities.
Oftentimes, the lessons that children learn in ECE programs are fun and exciting. This helps them learn that education can be fun and that they can concentrate for longer periods of time. Young children tend to have short attention spans, and a good education program will help them develop a sense of focus that will carry into their school career.
A quality ECE education also teaches children the importance of cooperation. They will need to work together with their peers in a classroom, and will also learn how to work with adults. This will be valuable in their future careers, as well as in their relationships with other family members. They will also have the skills to build positive self-esteem and regulate their emotions.
For people of all ages, socialization is important for the acquisition of skills that are necessary to function in society. Education is one of the main sources of socialization. In school, young people receive guidelines regarding authority, schedules and tasks from teachers who are responsible for guiding their behavior.
Children learn a variety of social skills from their peers as well, especially in the peer group that forms at school. Siblings also play a major role in socialization, with older siblings serving as tutors and managers for their younger sibling.
Class and gender are other significant influences on patterns of socialization. For example, white parents are likely to socialize their children in ways that emphasize the importance of obeying law enforcement officers, while parents of color must have what’s known as “the talk” with their kids to teach them how to interact peacefully with police. Gender stereotypes are also conveyed through the types of toys and clothing that are typically given to girls and boys.
Learning to Think for Yourself
Thinking for yourself is a key component of learning to cope in the world outside school. It requires a space that allows children to take some charge of their own explorations, and to plan their own work. It also means that adults can’t be expected to impose their own agendas on every working group – and that they can’t be a substitute for the children themselves.
Historically, schools have been places where children have learned to think for themselves – although not always in the ways we might have imagined. The mandarin education of imperial China, for example, was an important avenue of social mobility and elite renewal. But it did not aim to foster independent, critical thought – rather, it taught the bureaucrats of an empire how to manage and administer the state. The same can be said of many current teaching approaches. Recipe approaches that follow the experience, explore and explain mantra do not automatically embed this capacity.
Learning to Cooperate
Working cooperatively with others is a vital skill for all children. It allows them to balance their own needs with those of a group or individual and helps them see how following rules or requests is actually beneficial for all.
Children learn cooperation mainly through observation and imitation, so parents need to show how it’s done. This doesn’t mean putting your toddler on a sports team but rather engaging in team work at home (e.g. sharing the dustpan or helping with a chore) and reading books that feature people working together.
When a child does cooperate, be sure to let them know that you noticed and praise their efforts. This will encourage them to continue to do the right thing. Also give them some choices during play to empower them, for example, letting them decide whether they want crayons or markers to use in an art project or asking them to put on their jackets or hats first before heading outside to play.