Good early education reaps benefits

Monday November 26, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/11/26/nation/12354042&sec=nation

Talented bunch: Children from the Peter and Jane Kindergarten performing a dance routine during the launch of the National Early Childhood Education Week 2012 at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.Talented bunch: Children from the Peter and Jane Kindergarten performing a dance routine during the launch of the National Early Childhood Education Week 2012 at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pre-school education needs to go beyond the pages of books to help children obtain a holistic education experience.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Council president Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng shares the sentiments.

“Psychologists have long noted the importance of early childhood education because the skills acquired by a child at a later stage are all built on this foundation.

“This is why psychologists call it the formative years’,” she said.

According to Dr Chiam, neuroscience findings have shown that stressful experiences in a child’s early years can harm the developing brain and affect the brain architecture.

She added that the benefits of high-quality early childhood education were manifold.

“This means the memory of the child, his learning ability, and even behaviour, for example, whether he’s able to regulate his emotions, will be affected if he’s not provided with the appropriate experiences,” said Dr Chiam, formerly Professor of Social Psychology at Universiti Malaya (UM) and an authority in child development and early childhood education.

Citing studies in the United States, such as the Perry Preschool which was conducted over a period of four decades, Dr Chiam said children who were provided with high-quality early education tended to stay longer in school as compared to those who were not given such a benefit.

The Perry Preschool study found that “more of the group who received high-quality early education, particularly females, graduated from high school than the non-programme group” and “the group who received high-quality early education had significantly fewer arrests than the non-programme group (36% vs 55% who were arrested five times or more)”.

Dr Zahari Ishak, UM’s Educational Psychology and Counselling Department head, said the way children were taught in the formative years would mould their view of learning as they grew older.

“From the ages of three to six, it’s their time to play.

“It’s not supposed to be a time for grading,” he added.

Recognising the need for quality pre-school education, the EducationNKRA under the Government Transformation Programme has set targets to increase the number of pre-school classes in the urban, rural and remote areas.

Under Budget 2013, an allocation of RM1.2bil has been set aside for various government agencies in an effort to provide quality pre-school education.

In addition, RM380mil will also be provided to the Education Ministry for placement of kindergarten teachers.

Also announced was a provision for a launching grant of RM10,000 to assist operators of ECCE private centres in setting up new high quality pre-schools.