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What Makes For An Effective Early Years Programme?

The programme should support schools with a range of resources that support teaching, learning and assessments.

Early years education has been a late focus of many nations, including India, and yet it lays the foundation for a child’s entire educational career. Evidence tells us that children who enjoy learning from an early age are more likely to succeed in their later education and beyond.

The New Education Policy 2020 envisions a five-year foundational stage of education and this proposal has been welcomed by educators and practitioners in the field of Early Childhood Education (ECE). Once introduced, the foundational stage will still require a well-rounded education programme in line with the policy. Therefore, the need for a high-quality early childhood education programme has never been greater. 

Children who participate in high-quality early years programmes are better prepared for further classes and tend to perform higher academically. A longitudinal study conducted by the Cambridge Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (Cambridge CEM - one of the largest and longest established providers of formative assessments for children of all ages.)revealed that being in an effective class in the first year of school when the children were aged 4-5 years, was significantly related to later attainment at age 16.


But what does an ‘effective’ programme look like?

An aspiring early years centre should look for a programme that provides a solid foundation that young students can build on as they progress in their education. 


Below are some of the key elements educators should look for:

Child-centred programme

The programme should complement the social and cultural factors (like experiences of home and community) that shape a child’s learning and development. Children should be involved in their own learning through well-planned experiences that help them develop competence, agency, emotional attachment, and self-worth. Learning should encourage an appropriate balance of physical, cognitive, language and communications, and social and emotional development and should help children transition successfully to primary school, moving from informal, play-based learning to teaching that is more formal.


Holistic curriculum

The curriculum should offer a holistic approach that focuses on the whole child and connects their development with the world and people around them. It should comprise of learning statements or objectives, which reflect well-established developmental milestones for children’s learning giving the program a holistic structure. Each child has their own developmental pathway, and the learning statements should promote progression to enable the development of knowledge, understanding and skills at deeper levels and in different contexts across the stages. The curriculum should focus on key areas like effective communication, creative expression, mathematics, social & emotional development, physical development and understanding of the world around them. Focusing on these areas will encourage children to communicate, create, cooperate, and think critically. These are skills that children need in primary years and beyond.


Professional development for teachers

Good-quality training and reflective practise are essential parts of a practitioner’s professional life and a core part of an effective early years programme. Schools should look for a programme with comprehensive support to help teachers deliver the curriculum successfully. A good early years training programme for practitioners should help them develop best practices, and allow the exchange of knowledge among teachers. It should also equip teachers to reflect on their practice and develop strategies that will help them deliver the curriculum with confidence in the classroom. 


Tools to measure progress

Assessment is a crucial part of early years education. It provides valuable insights into children’s progress and can help schools to plan and support the next stages of their learning and development. The use of continuous formative assessment through observations and gathering evidence during learning should be central to a programme’s approach. The programme should include tools and resources that can help early years schools to assess and evaluate a child’s learning and development against the key parameters. 


Resources

The programme should support schools with a range of resources that support teaching, learning and assessments. Resources should include skill books, workbooks and rhyme books that support in-class learning and activities as well as home learning with specific home links to further reinforcement and practice of concepts introduced in the class. The programme should be well equipped with a definitive framework that clearly lays the areas of learning and learning goals and provides clarity on how to implement the curriculum through tools, strategies, and modules. A clear and structured programme constituting a wide range of resources will build an enriching learning experience.


In addition, an early years programme should prepare young learners for a successful transition to primary school helping them move from play-based learning to teaching that is more formal. When they finish such a programme, they will be prepared for their next step in education. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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