Early childhood is one of the essential stages in a child’s growth, as they rapidly develop and reach multiple milestones in these ages. It is a period of significant brain development, and the early experiences that they have with the environment and people have a considerable influence on their growth. Tending to their biopsychosocial development gives children a significant head-start in their schools and puts them on the right course. An early childhood education centre allows qualified professionals to teach and train children with structured, play-based learning programs a year or so before starting their formal schooling education.
Currently, in Australia, around 342,476 children between the age of four and five are enrolled in these programs. They are known as kindergartens, preschools, and pre-preparatory institutions across various territories and states. Global organisations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and governmental organisations like the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) promote Early childhood care and education (ECCE) extensively for the children’s learning, development, and well-being.
UNESCO on ECCE
UNESCO states that ECCE is not just a mode to prepare children for school. It also plays a significant role in a child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development holistically and creates a solid foundation that promotes lifelong well-being and learning. These programs can nurture children and help them to become capable, caring, cohesive, open-minded, accepting, and responsible citizens in the future. Hence, the organisation recommends every country invest in these programs to prevent later investments in remedial programs. Early education programs work as an excellent compensation for children who have special needs and help them combat educational inequality. Furthermore, UNESCO has reinforced this agenda in its Education 2030 plan by the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure that all kids can access good quality early childhood care and education.
UNICEF on ECCE
UNICEF states that a good quality early education is the foundation of a child’s life journey, and it highly influences its success in the future. Children who have been enrolled in early childhood education centres develop the critical skills required to sustain themselves in schools and are less likely to be dropped out. However, over 175 million children between the ages of 3 and 6 globally do not have access to pre-primary education due to numerous constraints. Failure to provide good quality ECCE may limit the child’s development and the opportunity to reach their unlimited potential. It also promotes gender, educational and economic inequality, which might lead to the disruption of peace and prosperity of the society. To develop early childhood education, UNICEF urges countries to scale up their investment, improve quality and ensure 100% reachability of their programs among all children.
AIHW on ECCE
AIHW reports that around 3 in 5 children between the ages 0 and 4 attend some form of an early childhood education centre in Australia. Nearly 90% of the children are recorded to have enrolled in preschools before beginning their formal schooling. Their research also indicates that formal or informal early childhood education improves a child’s readiness to attend school, attendance rate, overall performance and development. In collaboration with Universal Access to Early Childhood Education and Care, the Australian government has developed centres that provide holistic alternative forms of learning to children, which helps them develop their ability to express thoughts, retain concentration, control impulsivity, adapt appropriate behaviours, show curiosity, and develop social competence.
Therefore, parents of toddlers and young children must consider enrolling them in one of the best childhood education centres available in their neighbourhood.