Preschool paradigm

02 November 2012 | last updated at 11:20PM

Standard assessment will improve every facet of early education

DECEMBER is fast approaching; by which time, 20,000 trained early education teachers would have entered the job market. Holding diplomas in early education, they will bring a new approach to the nurturing of young minds. This should be a boon to an educational level thought, thus far, to be more play than learn and to ensure good physical care. In the past, school activities such as reading and writing at this stage was viewed more as a bonus than a need. Today, that perception is obsolete and intellectually children should be stimulated as early as is practicable. Towards this end, this educational sector will be restructured accordingly to secure the quality looked for.

Teachers are, of course, the main target if preschool education is to be improved. Those already in the system and those aspiring to join what is an admirable calling will be given a leg up by the government. They can now apply for financial assistance from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) to pursue relevant courses. Increasing the intellectual input alone will not, however, quite achieve the desired objective. What the government proposes to do, as announced by the deputy prime minister, is to better every facet of early education through a standard assessment by the Education Ministry. The aim is to provide a system of accreditation — not a means of persecution — so that preschoolers receive the kind of quality education that “encourages mental and holistic development”.

One aspect that was discussed through a lab exercise was the needs of disabled children so that the findings could be included in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 preliminary report. In this respect, caregivers and teachers are important in identifying the cases to enable early intervention. Consequently, improving the training curriculum of teachers becomes an imperative. While disabled children require special attention, all children in their care need early scrutiny, for these are the most formative years of a human being. It will shape their perceptions towards school and education, and in the long run, determine the future quality of Malaysia’s human capital. It is, therefore, essential that teachers are competent to assess whether their charges have had a typical or an atypical development from aspects such as cognitive, social and emotional, language, play and perceptual. Building and expanding the skills of teachers is a necessary follow-up to the paradigm shift in early education that is being officially put in motion. And, one academic discipline that will serve to enhance a preschool teacher’s skill would be child psychology, given the desire for early intervention. After all, handicaps come obvious and hidden.