- Membership / Join Us
- Store / Online Shop
- Weekly Alert Newsletter
- News Stories & Analysis
- Conference Reports
- Conference Calendar
- Parent Information
- Childcare/ECE Options
- Articles on ECE Services
- Making a Complaint
- Fees, Childcare Subsidy & Funding Rates
- Research Snippets
- ECE Jargon Dictionary
- Feedback Testimonials
- Training for Early Childhood Teaching
What is Early Childhood Education?
In the early years of a child's development research shows that the family has the most powerful influence on the child's learning. Siblings, parents, and extended family members significantly influence a child's attitudes, physical well-being, social skills and behaviours and future success.
As well as caring for children, licensed early childhood services provide education as children are learning all the time in all contexts. The education provided in a licensed early childhood centre or home-based education setting may be purposeful (planned and structured by the adult) or unintentional.
The educational benefit of licensed early childhood education services, such as kindergartens and preschools, lay in how the service can support the family as the child's primary educators and what additional experiences and challenges for learning the service can give a child.
Below is a video clip from the Video "Choices For Children" which is available from the ChildForum online store. The video clip provides an introduction to the different types of early childcare and education services in New Zealand.
Who Benefits in Academic Achievement from Participation in Early Childhood Education?
Many overseas research studies on young children living in deprived areas and from low-income families whose parents don't have high school or college qualifications have shown that these children can be given an educational head start and are more likely to succeed at high school, engage in less crime, etc if they are placed in a high-quality well-funded organised early childhood programmes with qualified teachers, small group size and high adult-child ratios from an early age. The benefits can wash out in later years due to the effects of later school experiences, ongoing problems associated with poverty, and the community children live in. However, where families are involved in the early childhood programme the benefits of attending the programme for the child seem to be more enduring and greater.
Children from well-resourced homes along with children whose parents recognise the importance of supporting their child's early learning at home (whatever their socio-economic status) are not likely to experience a long-term educational advantage from participating in an early childhood education programme. In other words, these children are not disadvantaged if they do not have ECE prior to starting school. In some cases if the home environment is richer educationally and can provide the child with a greater range and variety of learning experiences the child may be disadvantaged by being placed in an early childhood programme with little opportunity to participate in the community outside of the centre building for more than a few hours a day.
What Mediates the Influence of Early Childhood Education on Children's Development?
The effectiveness of the school that the child goes on to after attending an early childhood programme makes a difference as to whether any early educational benefits/advantages are retained or not.
A child's home-background and home learning environment is something that is important to take account of when determining the degree of benefit obtained from attending an early childhood programme.
- If the early childhood education programme is better resourced and the learning experiences provided for children exceed in quality what can be provided for at home then the child will be advantaged academically. In later high school years some of the academic benefits are likely to wash out but not totally. There is also a school of thought that the benefits of getting a good head start perhaps make a young adult more resilient and able to cope with life's pressures and challenges.
- But if the quality of the early childhood education programme is lower than that of the quality of the child's home learning environment, the child is not likely to be greatly advantaged by participating in a formal early childhood education programme. Family background factors, including parents' education level and home learning environment has a much greater influence on children's development and achievement. Having said that, every parent and every child would want to experience a quality of ECE at least equivalent to the quality of their home setting.
Does Early Childhood Education Mean Formal or Structured Teaching?
Some people think that early childhood education in NZ must involve structured teaching.
In some early childhood programmes it may mean this, but in most programmes the philosophy is that children learn through play with the guidance and support of adults.
Any performance advantages that a child has because of structured teaching before age-5 usually washes out in later years.
The best start to a formal school education you can give a young child is to help the child to learn to develop independence, along with developing thinking and problem solving skills.
Things you can do to encourage a young child to develop independence include: learning to make his/her own breakfast, tidying up his/her own toys after play, carrying his her own bag, and learning to dress and undress without help.
For developing thinking and problem solving skills:
- provide puzzles for the child to practice on and add harder puzzles as the child's skill develops
- ask the child questions and together chat about possible solutions and answers, for instance how does a butterfly grow inside such a tiny cocoon?
- support the child to persevere when a task is proving hard and affirm the importance of practice as being important for obtaining success.
- help the child to expand his/her knowledge through hands-on activities and experiences. Provide lots of play-based learning opportunities, lots of discussion, fun, and engaging in a broad range of activities in the community, through travel, shopping, going on nature walks, watching a building being constructed, etc, etc.
An early childhood centre can provide only a fraction of all that a young child needs - which is why parents and everyone in the community also play a role in children's early learning.
How to Go About Selecting a Service
When selecting which ECE service to enrol your child at, write down first your reasons for wanting to use a service then match these reasons to what the different early childhood services in your area provide.
See the following articles for information on:
- The six signs of quality
- The personal characteristics of a good educator or teacher, nanny, or caregiver
For a service to benefit your child educationally, what you want to see is that the service provides an enriching environment and doesn't become boring after the child has attended for a while. Also it should extend on what you can provide for your child. For example, if you live in an apartment building then an early childhood service that provides opportunity for contact with farm and native animals, outdoor physical play, painting and sand play would be one that would be enriching for your child. For checklists to use when selecting a centre, home-based service, or playgroup click here ...
- Develop strategies to mediate the effects of this (Example 1: If the centre requires you to pay for and use hours of childcare that you don't need, then stay with your child at the service for those hours instead of leaving your child so that if your child can't be with the family you can go to your child. Example 2: If your family traditions and expectations for behaviour, for example to take shoes off at the door before entering, are not recognised at the service discuss and guide your child to understand that what's acceptable at the early childhood service is not acceptable at home);
- Consider withdrawing from the service and looking into other options, for example an arranged childcare exchange with another family or taking your child to work with you if possible (click here to read more).
The video clip above explained some of these points. It also noted that the responsibility of staff and providers of early childhood education services is to work in partnership with parents and to serve children and families.
If you are a ChildForum member you can access a lot more detailed information, research, and also reports and discussion of issues and problems in early childhood education services.
Child Information Pages
SPACE (Supporting Parents Alongside Children’s Education) - Available Throughout NZ (1 match)
- early education
A Review of the Literature on the Participation of Men in Early Childhood Teaching (1 match)
- early childhood
The Seven Essential Skills for Children to Have Before Starting School and Suggestions for Ways You Can Foster These in Your Child (1 match)
Professor Anne B Smith - Distinguished Researcher, Academic and Children's Advocate (1 match)
Parents as First Teachers Programme: Family Exit Survey (1 match)
- at-risk children