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Early Childhood Education (ECE)

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Introduction

The ages 4-6 are critical for growth, development and education of a child. This is the time when an average child develops positive attitude towards learning, develops conceptual thinking, acquires problem solving skills and rapidly develops language skills. The child's mental operation develops with active exploration of things in the environment using objects that can be manipulated concretely. The curriculum at this stage should be child centred and the learning should provide opportunities for the learners to recognize common geometrical shapes and colours. Early childhood education provides children with a head-start for primary education.

Current situation

Early childhood education is provided to children of 4 - 6 years by the Government, private organizations, associations and individuals. Currently, there are 181 schools providing early childhood education. These include 24 government and 157 privately owned schools of which 65 are community based Madrassa initiated by the Aga Khan Foundation. The whole sub-sector currently has an enrolment of 15,601, or only 13.8% of the children of this age group. The education provided gives more attention to the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills and paying little attention to other aspects of early childhood development. Unfortunately, there are no schools which cater for children with special educational needs within this age group.

There is a wide variation among institutions providing early childhood education in terms of curriculum, entry age, duration, contact hours, quality and effectiveness.

Strengths

  • The contribution of the private sector has enabled the sector to show some visible positive growth compared to the period when government was the sole owner of pre-primary schools.
  • Plans are underway to harmonize the public and private sectors by first introducing a common curriculum.

Weaknesses

  • Since early childhood education is not compulsory, there is a lack of strong zeal and commitment from the Government.
  • Inequity in early childhood provision does exist as most of these schools are concentrated in urban areas creating thus wide rural/urban disparities.
  • There are no policy guidelines on the different aspects of ECD (Early Childhood Development).
  • No provision of early childhood education for children with special education needs.
  • There is no earlier exposure to ICT.
  • There is a lack of coordination between child care providers and nursery school teachers.

Policy Statements

  • Early childhood education for children aged between 4 and 5 years shall be formalized and integrated into the formal education system and shall be a component of basic education.
  • Partnership with parents, communities, NGOs and other stakeholders shall be promoted and strengthened to improve child's health, nutrition, growth and development.
  • A comprehensive policy and guidelines to promote an integrated multisectoral approach to early childhood development shall be prepared.
  • Communities and NGOs shall be fully involved in all the operational activities of early childhood education and shall be encouraged to establish ECE centres especially in rural areas.
  • The curriculum of pre-primary education shall include Information Communication Technology (ICT).
  • Special affirmative actions shall be taken to make early childhood education/pre-primary education accessible to children with special needs.

Strategies

  • Merging the existing strengths reflected in the government infrastructure and teacher qualification with those strong good practices in community-based schools especially in modes of delivery and teacher-pupil interaction.
  • Determining the entry age into primary school.
  • Improving training facilities at this level.
  • Encouraging the establishment of satellite preschools.
  • Providing guidelines for ECD centres so as to cater for the total development needs of the child and to ensure quality control.
  • Conducting studies on the possibility of using Quranic schools.
  • Ensuring that the community fully participates in the management of the school with regard to both enhancement of curriculum content and management of resources.
  • Providing relevant and appropriate early childhood education with particular regard to vulnerable children and children with special educational needs.
  • Creating programmes to acquaint children with ICT as early as possible.
  • Ensuring gender parity is maintained in all districts.
  • Developing an effective partnership between the Ministry, health care providers, communities, NGOs and various government agencies in the provision of education, health, nutrition, and other early childhood needs especially for the 0 - 3 age group.