We all know that formal education begins in school. In order to begin this formal education there are needs those form a base for this formal learning to begin. This base is expected to be built right from the child’s birth until he is admitted to school. There are studies, which have proved that right from conception a child can be groomed in various ways. But that is another subject that can be addressed separately.
The first three years are the crucial years of every child’s life where the child achieves his basic developmental benchmarks. These need to be understood and taken care of with utmost priority by the parents. The child needs to be prepared (pre-requisitions of entering school) to enter this new environment. He needs to be empowered and supported to develop the competency of various skills before he goes to school. The awareness of developmental milestones and child psychology play a very important role in this.
It is very interesting to see how these children and the parents change their focus and attention as well as expectations from the child, the school as well as the teacher, as they start attending school. The child is expected to bid goodbye to the parents with a smiley face on the very first day. Yes, this is possible only if the child is having the awareness of what is coming up for him, in a very positive manner. The re-assurance of the parents that they will be seeing him in a short time is very important emotional cue that the child needs to have couple of days prior to attending school. Reading books related to separation anxiety and a positive talk about school is highly helpful.
Typically parents with children who are self-centered complain that the child does not want to go to school or complains about his teacher if she tries to discipline him. School is the first place where the child is beginning his lessons of healthy socialization. The need to share, taking turns, empathy, love and care for peers and teachers is very important at this age. The teachers are doing this job diligently and parents need to understand this and co-operate. Sharing at school but being possessive with belongings at home is commonly seen in these small children. Consistency about applying the rule of sharing has to be applied each time the child comes across such situations. This will build in the quality of sharing in the child. The school is not wholly responsible for this.
Same is the case of independence. Parents usually feed their children and expect teachers to do so. In a class of 20 to 30 children this is totally impossible. The child sits down helpless, hoping someone to come feed him. The teacher tries to inculcate the habit of feeding himself independently but if this is not supported at home, the child will find it very difficult to develop this habit of independent eating.
Basically, Early Childhood Education has to focus on areas of development that help the child prepare for his formal education that begins in the Primary school. Academics have to be formally started only at the age of 6 years. This is because the child has to be fully prepared for the Primary education.
Skill sets such as a well-developed attention span, good eye-hand co-ordination, the pincer grip (pencil grip), age specific patience, empathy, sharing and caring, phonemic awareness, etc. Basically the shift from 3 R’s(Reading, Writing and Arithmatic) to 4 C’s to begin with( creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration) is the key to success for these 21st Century kids.
Parents and schools need to take a serious note of this.