Quality early childhood education can make a significant contribution to the physical, psychomotor, cognitive, social and emotional development of the child, including the acquisition of languages and early literacy.
The first eight years of a child’s life is a period of tremendous growth and development. Brain connections multiply exponentially in the first three years, and the potential for ensuring optimal development is very high up to age eight. It is imperative that this true ‘window of opportunity’ is fully used and strengthened to ensure long term benefits, not just for each individual child’s development but also for the larger community. A large proportion of human brain development takes place after birth as a result of interactions with the environment – the impact of early experience has a greater influence on development than heredity.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in the Indian context is generally defined as the care and education of children from birth to eight years. It includes:
The broad objectives of ECE programme, as described in the Report of the Education Commission (1964-66) are to:
The developmental research has provided us with a picture of the normal development of children. Although individual child develops at her own pace, yet all children pass through an identifiable sequence of developmental stages, i.e., physical, cognitive, and emotional growth and change. Within these stages, they often share characteristics common to many children of the same age. The teachers and parents need to know these characteristics in order to meet their needs adequately and appropriately.
The Early Child Development (ECD) fact is based on the proven fact that young children respond best when pre-school teachers, parents and other care-givers use specific techniques and provide appropriate activities and experiences to encourage and stimulate progress to the next level of development. Knowledge of developmental characteristics of young children helps pre-school teachers to plan age- and developmentally appropriate programmes that would improve children’s capacity to develop and learn.
There exists a normal pattern of development of motor skills, socio-emotional skills, cognitive skills and language skills in young children. Although skills are acquired in a predictable pattern, it is important to remember that they are not achieved at the same time by all children.
While looking at the characteristics of young children, the preschool teacher can plan for age- and developmentally appropriate activities and can make modifications for the individual differences, wherever required. The important thing to remember is that each child is unique. They cannot and should not be compared with one another. As said earlier, although there are set patterns of growth, yet each child develops at her own pace and in her own style. That is why we find differences among children in a class. The quality of the learning environment plays a significant role in early years as it affects young children’s feelings, behaviour and ability to accomplish tasks. The ECE programme’s schedule, routines and transitions also help create a comfortable atmosphere.