Several Developmental Tends in Early Childhood Education
The rapid development in the economy and in technology, as well as increasing integration into the world, has caused tremendous socio-cultural changes in
Developing Integrated Birth-to- 6 Care and Education
In recent years, there has been an increasing effort to integrate nurseries and kindergartens and form continuous care and education for children from birth to age 6. Historically, nurseries and kindergartens are separated and overseen by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, respectively. Nurseries focus on health and care, and their personnel are trained as “nurses” rather than educators. With the increasing consensus on the importance of education for infants and toddlers, the educational administration is gradually taking over responsibility for managing nurseries. The state advocates the establishment of a development index system to help parents and caregivers to “improve scientific care and education for young children” (Zhu,
To achieve unified provision of care and education for children from birth to 6, the government established an ambitious goal for a system which is planned as a whole by government leaders, administered by state educational departments, and coordinated by other related departments; and which relies on the community and involves parents and various educational institutes. However, there are many barriers to these integration efforts. Two main issues are the separate administration and the lack of resources. The community, parents, and the administration at different levels will need to work together to achieve this goal. This integration effort, however, also provides new challenges for early childhood researchers. The long-standing focus on kindergarten children from ages has resulted in a scarcity of studies of younger children’s development and care. The early childhood community needs to take on the challenge and devote more resources and effort to exploring models for the successful care and education of children from birth to 3 years of age.
Pay more attention to early childhood education in rural and remote areas
Early childhood education in backward areas has also received great attention. Due to the limited resources in these areas, the state and local governments concentrate on establishing pre-primary classes in local elementary schools. Built on the existing elementary education infrastructure, pre-primary classes are set up to provide full-day or half-day early education program for children in the year prior to first grade. This approach greatly expands much-needed early education in rural or remote areas. However, because the programs are put in elementary schools, the pedagogy and curriculum are often simply a lighter version of first grade. Although it helps prepare young children for elementary education, the practices of elementary education –long class sessions, rigid discipline requirements -- are often risky for young children’s development. These areas are in urgent need of teacher training, pedagogy, and curriculum that are tailored to pre-primary classes.
Positive promotion of teachers’ professional development
It is acknowledged that teacher training is crucial to the success of curriculum reform. The current reform aims to modify curricula to enable them to be diversified and flexible enough to suit local and individual programs’ needs. However, many directors and many teachers of kindergartens who are used to the traditional subject-based curriculum and teacher-centered pedagogy have great difficulties in implementing the new curriculum and pedagogies.
There are some fundamental problems in teacher training. First, students in early childhood education have relatively low academic qualifications. Although new programs require two-year or four-year college degrees, many in-service teachers have only the equivalent of a secondary education. Low academic training hinders teachers’ understanding and adoption of the new curriculum and pedagogies. Second, too much emphasis still tends to be placed on skills rather than on pedagogy in many early childhood teacher programs. Traditionally, students in early childhood normal schools spend most of their time improving or perfecting their art skills - drawing, singing, and dancing, which are deemed important skills for successful kindergarten teachers. Much less attention and effort have been put into pedagogy training. Although more and more programs are correcting this unbalanced focus, the continuing influence of the traditional view still affects teacher training. Third, there is too little classroom practice in teacher training, especially in four-year university programs. For example, some universities require only 8 to 10 weeks of student teaching in their four-year programs. A lack of experience in the classroom means that these future teachers are ill-prepared. In addition, many faculty members in early childhood teacher programs do not have solid teaching experience in kindergarten. This greatly limits their ability to help their students to apply theories to their teaching practice. Finally, there is a severe lack of programs for training teachers for rural areas, which usually have a low quality of teacher to begin with due to scarce resources for local preschool teacher education, low pay and a harsh environment. In those areas, most kindergarten teachers have only high school diplomas or lower education. They hardly have a chance to obtain specialized professional training. The lack of support and professional development even causes an already distressing situation to deteriorate. All of these problems need to be dealt with urgently in order to improve the quality of teachers and eventually to improve early childhood education in
Government is beginning to pay more attention to teachers’ professional development. More money has been invested in teacher training and, the training programs put more emphasis on teachers’ practice such as teachers’ daily interaction with children rather than on theories.
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