Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2015 11:12 am Post subject: IMPORTANCE OF EARLY CHILDOOD EDUCATION
Beyond Education Wars
Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.
I say that for three reasons. First, there is mounting evidence that early childhood is a crucial period when the brain is most malleable, when interventions are most cost-effective for at-risk kids.
Researchers are finding that poverty can harm the brains of small children, perhaps because their brains are subjected to excessive cortisol (a stress hormone) and exposed less to conversation and reading. One study just published in Nature Neuroscience found that children in low-income families had a brain surface area on average 6 percent smaller than that of children in high-income families.
“Neuroscience tells us we’re missing a critical, time-sensitive opportunity to help the most disadvantaged kids,” notes Dr. Jack Shonkoff, an early childhood expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Growing evidence suggests what does work to break the poverty cycle: Start early in life, and coach parents to stimulate their children. Randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of evidence, have shown this with programs like Nurse-Family Partnership, Reach Out and Read, and high-quality preschool. These kinds of interventions typically produce cognitive gains that last a few years and then fade — but, more important, also produce better life outcomes, such as less crime, fewer teenage pregnancies, higher high school graduation rates, and higher incomes.
The second reason to focus on early interventions is that the low-hanging fruit has already been picked in the K-12 world. Charter schools like KIPP showed that even in high-poverty environments, students can excel. In New York City, which under Michael Bloomberg became a center for education reform, high school graduation rates rose to 66 percent in 2013 from 47 percent in 2005.
I support education reform. Yet the brawls have left everyone battered and bloodied, from reformers to teachers unions. I’m not advising surrender. Education inequity is America’s original sin. A majority of American children in public schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, and they often get second-rate teachers in second-rate schools — even as privileged kids get superb teachers. This perpetuates class and racial inequity and arises in part from a failed system of local school financing.
But fixing K-12 education will be a long slog, so let’s redirect some energy to children aged 0 to 5 (including prenatal interventions, such as discouraging alcohol and drug use among pregnant women).
That leads to my third reason: Early education is where we have the greatest chance of progress because it’s not politically polarized. New York City liberals have embraced preschool, but so have Oklahoma conservatives. Teacher unions will flinch at some of what I say, but they have been great advocates for early education. Congress can’t agree on much, but Republicans and Democrats just approved new funding for home visitation for low-income toddlers.
My perspective is shaped by what I’ve seen. Helping teenagers and adults is tough when they’ve dropped out of school, had babies, joined gangs, compiled arrest records or self-medicated.
But in Oklahoma, I once met two little girls, ages 3 and 4, whose great-grandmother had her first child at 13, whose grandmother had her first at 15, whose mom had her first at 13 and now has four children by three fathers. These two little girls will break that cycle, I’m betting, because they (along with the relative caring for them) are getting help from an outstanding early childhood program called Educare. Those two little girls have a shot at opportunity.
Even within early education, there will be battles. Some advocates emphasize the first three years of life, while others focus on 4-year-olds. Some seek to target the most at-risk children, while others emphasize universal programs.
But early childhood is not a toxic space, the way K-12 education is now. So let’s redeploy some of our education passions, on all sides, to an area where we just may be able to find common ground: providing a foundation for young children aged 0 to 5.
The article below illustrates how biases are ingrained in us from very early ages. Proper Early Childhood Education can redress this issue and hence prepare children for effective pluralistic outlook. As MHI has indicated, pluralsim is to be nurtured, it is not natural.
Our Biased Brains
To better understand the roots of racial division in America, think about this:
The human brain seems to be wired so that it categorizes people by race in the first one-fifth of a second after seeing a face. Brain scans show that even when people are told to sort people by gender, the brain still groups people by race.
Racial bias also begins astonishingly early: Even infants often show a preference for their own racial group. In one study, 3-month-old white infants were shown photos of faces of white adults and black adults; they preferred the faces of whites. For 3-month-old black infants living in Africa, it was the reverse.
This preference reflected what the child was accustomed to. Black infants living in overwhelmingly white Israel didn’t show a strong preference one way or the other, according to the study, published in Psychological Science.
Where does this ingrained propensity to racial bias come from?
Scholars suggest that in evolutionary times we became hard-wired to make instantaneous judgments about whether someone is in our “in group” or not — because that could be lifesaving. A child who didn’t prefer his or her own group might have been at risk of being clubbed to death.
Even if we humans have evolved to have a penchant for racial preferences from a very young age, this is not destiny.
“It’s a feature of evolution,” says Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard psychology professor who co-developed tests of unconscious biases. These suggest that people turn out to have subterranean racial and gender biases that they are unaware of and even disapprove of.
I’ve written about unconscious bias before, and I encourage you to test yourself at implicit.harvard.edu. It’s sobering to discover that whatever you believe intellectually, you’re biased about race, gender, age or disability.
What’s particularly dispiriting is that this unconscious bias among whites toward blacks seems just as great among preschoolers as among senior citizens.
Banaji’s research projects show that unconscious racial bias turns up in children as soon as they have the verbal skills to be tested for it, at about age 4. The degree of unconscious bias then seems pretty constant: In tests, this unconscious bias turns out to be roughly the same for a 4- or 6-year-old as for a senior citizen who grew up in more racially oppressive times.
In one set of experiments, children as young as about 4 were shown ambiguous photos of people who could be white or Asian. In some, the people in the photos were smiling; in others, they were frowning.
White American kids disproportionately judged that the people who were smiling were white and that those who were frowning were Asian. When the experiment was conducted in Taiwan with exactly the same photos, Taiwanese children thought that the faces when smiling were Asian, when frowning were white.
The American children were also shown faces that were ambiguous as to whether the person was white or black. In those cases, white kids disproportionately thought that the smiling people were white and the frowning ones were black.
Researchers find that in contrast to other groups, African-Americans do not have an unconscious bias toward their own. From young children to adults, they are essentially neutral and favor neither whites nor blacks.
Banaji and other scholars suggest that this is because even young African-American children somehow absorb the social construct that white skin is prestigious and that black skin isn’t. In one respect, that is unspeakably sad; in another, it’s a model of unconscious race neutrality. Yet even if we humans have evolved to have a penchant for racial preferences from a very young age, this is not destiny. We can resist the legacy that evolution has bequeathed us.
“We wouldn’t have survived if our ancestors hadn’t developed bodies that store sugar and fat,” Banaji says. “What made them survive is what kills us.” Yet we fight the battle of the bulge and sometimes win — and, likewise, we can resist a predisposition for bias against other groups.
One strategy that works is seeing images of heroic African-Americans; afterward, whites and Asians show less bias, a study found. Likewise, hearing a story in which a black person rescues someone from a white assailant reduces anti-black bias in subsequent testing. It’s not clear how long this effect lasts.
Deep friendships, especially romantic relationships with someone of another race, also seem to mute bias — and that, too, has implications for bringing young people together to forge powerful friendships.
“If you actually have friendships across race lines, you probably have fewer biases,” Banaji says. “These are learned, so they can be unlearned.”
Lisa Miller is a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. One day she entered a subway car and saw that half of it was crowded but the other half was empty, except for a homeless man who had some fast food on his lap and who was screaming at anybody who came close.
At one stop, a grandmother and granddaughter, about 8, entered the car. They were elegantly dressed, wearing pastel dresses and gloves with lace trim. The homeless man spotted them and screamed, “Hey! Do you want to sit with me?” They looked at each other, nodded and replied in unison, “Thank you” and, unlike everybody else, sat directly next to him.
The man offered them some chicken from his bag. They looked at each other and nodded and said, “No, thank you.” The homeless man offered several more times, and each time they nodded to each other and gave the same polite answer. Finally, the homeless man was calmed, and they all sat contentedly in their seats.
“Taken together,” Miller writes, “research supports the idea of a common physiology underlying depression and spirituality.” In other words, teenagers commonly suffer a loss of meaning, confidence and identity. Some of them try to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, gang activity and even pregnancy. But others are surrounded by people who have cultivated their spiritual instincts. According to Miller’s research, adolescents with a strong sense of connection to a transcendent realm are 70 percent to 80 percent less likely to engage in heavy substance abuse. Among teenage girls, having a strong spiritual sense was extremely protective against serious depression. Adults who consider themselves highly spiritual at age 26 are, according to her research, 75 percent protected against recurrence of depression.
Innate spiritual capacities can wither unless cultivated — the way innate math faculties can go undeveloped without instruction. Loving families nurture these capacities, especially when parents speak explicitly about spiritual quests. The larger question, especially in this age of family disruption, is whether public schools and other institutions should do more to nurture spiritual faculties.
Public schools often give short shrift to spirituality for fear that they would be accused of proselytizing religion. But it should be possible to teach the range of spiritual disciplines, in order to familiarize students with the options, without endorsing any one.
In an era in which so many people slip off the rails during adolescence, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring a resource that, if cultivated, could see them through. Ignoring spiritual development in the public square is like ignoring intellectual, physical or social development. It is to amputate people in a fundamental way, leading to more depression, drug abuse, alienation and misery.
Early child development brings joy of learning through play to children and parents in Pakistan
Dr Almina Pardhan
Shaheena Sulaiman Lalani
23 June 2015
Parwaaz Early Child Development Programme is one of a number of early child development initiatives introduced in Pakistan. It is helping parents in the Jamat to to give their young children the best start in life.
It is Sunday morning, and 1½ year-old Iqra has just arrived at Noorabad Jamatkhana in Karachi, full of excitement. She looks forward to Sunday mornings when she can play, sing and enjoy with her mother, father and friends, as part of the Parwaaz Early Child Development Programme.
Just like every Sunday, the first thing Iqra does is to put the book and toy that she borrowed last week in a basket by the door. She sits on her mother’s lap in a circle with other young children and their parents. The session begins with recitations from the Holy Qur’an and other Ismaili Muslim devotional traditions, followed by the National Anthem.
Iqra bubbles with excitement when the facilitators sing her favorite song, Nana sah chooza. She bounces to the beat and tries to copy her parents hand actions. After a few more songs in different languages, Iqra eagerly listens to the story Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?
The facilitator narrates the story with expression and actions. Iqra, who is holding a prop of a red bird — one of the characters in the story — waits anxiously for the page with the red bird. Then it is time for all the children to engage in activities together with their parents.
Giving children the best start
Parwaaz is one of a growing number of early child development initiatives being introduced in Pakistan. Designed for children six months to three years old, it is the result of collaboration between the Ismaili Council for Pakistan, ITREB and select AKDN institutions, including the Aga Khan Education Service and the Aga Khan Health Service. It seeks to respond to guidance from Mawlana Hazar Imam that 100 per cent of children in the Jamat should have access to to early childhood programming.
New science about early human brain development shows that much of what parents and caregivers naturally do when they interact with babies is highly supportive of healthy brain development. In light of this evidence, Parwaaz supports parents in the Jamat to create the best start for their children by making the most of everyday learning opportunities — listening, talking, praying, playing, singing and sharing stories and books. Opportunities to spend time with parents and caregivers in these ways support children to become active learners and confident communicators.
In addition to engaging children and parents in activity, Parwaaz enhances parents’ understanding about why particular activities help children's later development. One of the key predictors of a child’s success when they enter school is the number of words they hear in their first two years of life. The more words and the richer the vocabulary, the greater a child’s vocabulary will be.
A richer vocabulary, in turn, provides a better foundation for literacy. As such, talking, sharing books, stories, songs, ginans and qasidas from birth helps children greatly. Play with blocks, sand and modelling clay is enjoyable, and also helps children develop finger control, which makes it easier to write with a pencil later on.
Parents who have taken part in Parwaaz appreciated the age appropriate songs, stories, activities and integration of faith-based content. Some also try the strategies and activities at home with their children, including using everyday household items, like plastic bowls and wooden spoons, to engage their children in stimulating activities.
“I learnt new strategies of storytelling and reading which will help in the language development of my child,” said one parent. Others commented on changes they have observed in their children’s behaviour. Some parents felt that their children have become more social now, include other family members in their play, and communicate with others more confidently.
Engaging parents and children together
Back in the classroom, song and story time is over. Iqra and her parents prepare to take part in an activity related to the session theme. Today’s theme is early science development, and the children and parents will be doing a water activity to explore the concept of sinking and floating.
Iqra puts different objects into the small bucket of water while her parents encourage her to guess whether they will float or sink. Facilitators provide the materials for this activity and guide parents in their interactions to support their children. Each family participates independently to encourage quality, focused time between parents and their children.
After 20-30 minutes of parent-child activity time, the children and parents tidy up and return to the circle for more songs and then prayers to end the session. The children then get a bit of free play time, while parents gather around the facilitators to review key messages from the session.
Iqra runs to the back of the room to play with the blocks for a little while. Then, after washing her hands she is served a delicious, nutritious snack. Before leaving, she borrows a new book, and wishes “Ya Ali Madad” to her friends and facilitators.
She’ll be sure to bring the book back next Sunday morning for another fun morning with her parents and friends at Parwaaz.
Dr Almina Pardhan is the Member for ECD at the Ismaili Council for Pakistan, and Assistant Professor in Early Childhood Education and Development at the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development.
Shaheena Sulaiman Lalani is member of the Parwaaz ECD Programme Curriculum Team and a Research Officer at the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development.
This story was adapted from an article published in The Ismaili Pakistan magazine Issue 63.
Grown men can learn from very little children
for the hearts of little children are pure.
Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them
many things which older people miss.
- Black Elk
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul
than the way in which it treats its children.
- Nelson Mandela
There are two lasting bequests we can give our children:
One is roots, the other is wings.
- Hodding Carter
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
- Dorothy Law Nolte
Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted.
- Garrison Keillor
Early Child Development opens new horizons for Ismaili children in Asia and Africa
2 July 2015
Throughout the world, education is regarded as one of the most consistent and reliable vehicles towards an improved standard of living. Establishing a successful foundation in early childhood development is a pivotal determinant of success in education.
“Early child nurture promotes learning ability, mental and physical health and responsible social behaviour, which extend over a lifetime,” says Dr Almina Pardhan, an Assistant Professor at the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development in Karachi.
» Early child development brings joy of learning through play to children and parents in Pakistan
» Unlocking children's potential in the early years through art and music
» Kabul school sparks new opportunities for young people and a brighter future for Afghanistan
The science behind early child development is vast and still largely unknown, but according to Dr Pardhan, estimates suggest that 700 new brain connections are made every second in the first years of life. Furthermore, citing a 2007 Harvard University study, she adds that each connection is built off the one before it — similar to the construction of a house that is erected from the ground up.
Noting that international standards define early childhood as “the period from prenatal development to eight years of age,” she emphasises the importance that quality of life plays for children, not only at home but also at school and within the community.
As the Member for Early Child Development (ECD) at the Ismaili Council for Pakistan, Dr Pardhan leads Parwaaz, a national Jamati ECD initiative that has seen great success. The programme is being replicated for the Jamat in Russia and there are hopes that it may be introduced in Syria as well.
“If a child’s brain development is healthy,” remarks Dr Pardhan, “the child will be more likely to be physically and mentally healthy, show responsible behaviour, and be ready to learn additional skills.”
Aneela Altaf Mukhi would agree with Dr Pardhan. The AKU graduate, who has a specialisation in Educational Leadership and Management, heads a Jamati ECD programme in Uganda. The programme teaches Ismaili children from birth to age 6, and will soon expand to include 7 and 8-year-olds. Early child education is offered at nursery schools in Uganda, but it was only when the programme was established that many parents in the Jamat began to realise its importance.
“The ECD Centre is a place where kids open up their minds and souls to reach their fullest potential,” says Shelina Pirani, a teacher with the programme who is also a parent. Classes are held two to three times a week in 90-minute sessions that include outdoor recreation, cultural participation and play-based group activities. Curriculum is built around the “five domains of development”: physical, cognitive, social and emotional, lingual and numeral, and spiritual.
Each year, new teachers at the ECD Centre take part in a rigorous six month training course and a six month internship, and all teachers take part in continuing professional development. Teachers have noted increased confidence, both personally and socially, as a result of their time serving at the centres.
Parents attend classes with the children and receive class announcements and parent education on ECD via a mobile messaging app. This encourages them to remain invested with their children’s progress. A recently-established parent association organises programmes on nutrition and other topics of interest.
Currently, slightly more than 80 per cent of the children in the Uganda Jamat are enrolled across nine ECD centres — figures that are expected to grow in the months ahead.
Similar to Uganda’s ECD programme, the Tanzania Jamat has an Ismaili Early Learning Centre that is linked with the Centre for Continuing Education and Life Long Learning (CELL) — a programme of the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development in East Africa, based in Dar es Salaam.
Early child development has been a priority for AKU in East Africa since it expanded into the African continent in 2000. Through the CELL programme, the university works directly to provide facilities and training for both students and teachers in the region.
In addition to delivering formative lessons on childhood development at the Ismaili Early Learning Centre, CELL promotes continuing education as a lifestyle choice.
“[CELL] addresses specifically the needs of place-bound individuals by taking the programme to them and working with individuals at the grassroots,” says Shelina Walli, the CELL academic coordinator and a lecturer at the AKU’s Institute of Educational Development in East Africa.
A fourth generation Tanzanian, Walli has seen the evolution of education in the region firsthand. She often emphasises pedagogy when speaking about the programme’s curriculum, with particular emphasis on integrating local knowledge into the teaching and learning process. As a member of ITREB Tanzania, she has also been able to add a spiritual dimension to the Ismaili Early Learning Centre.
“As an educator, and a proud alumnus of the AKU [Institute for Educational Development in East Africa] from the first cohort of the masters programme,” she says with pride, “it is very rewarding to get your hands dirty — in the right way.”
A little more than a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement saying that all pediatric primary care should include literacy promotion, starting at birth.
That means pediatricians taking care of infants and toddlers should routinely be advising parents about how important it is to read to even very young children. The policy statement, which I wrote with Dr. Pamela C. High, included a review of the extensive research on the links between growing up with books and reading aloud, and later language development and school success.
But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Two new studies examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.
This month, the journal Pediatrics published a study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity in 3-to 5-year-old children as they listened to age-appropriate stories. The researchers found differences in brain activation according to how much the children had been read to at home.
Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area is “a watershed region, all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” said the lead author, Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
This region of the brain is known to be very active when older children read to themselves, but Dr. Hutton notes that it also lights up when younger children are hearing stories. What was especially novel was that children who were exposed to more books and home reading showed significantly more activity in the areas of the brain that process visual association, even though the child was in the scanner just listening to a story and could not see any pictures.
“When kids are hearing stories, they’re imagining in their mind’s eye when they hear the story,” said Dr. Hutton. “For example, ‘The frog jumped over the log.’ I’ve seen a frog before, I’ve seen a log before, what does that look like?”
The different levels of brain activation, he said, suggest that children who have more practice in developing those visual images, as they look at picture books and listen to stories, may develop skills that will help them make images and stories out of words later on.
“It helps them understand what things look like, and may help them transition to books without pictures,” he said. “It will help them later be better readers because they’ve developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story.”
Dr. Hutton speculated that the book may also be stimulating creativity in a way that cartoons and other screen-related entertainments may not.
“When we show them a video of a story, do we short circuit that process a little?” he asked. “Are we taking that job away from them? They’re not having to imagine the story; it’s just being fed to them.”
We know that it is important that young children hear language, and that they need to hear it from people, not from screens. Unfortunately, there are serious disparities in how much language children hear — most famously demonstrated in a Kansas study that found poor children heard millions fewer words by age 3.
But it turns out that reading to — and with — young children may amplify the language they hear more than just talking. In August, Psychological Science reported on researchers who studied the language content of picture books. They put together a selection from teacher recommendations, Amazon best sellers, and other books that parents are likely to be reading at bedtime.
In comparing the language in books to the language used by parents talking to their children, the researchers found that the picture books contained more “unique word types.”
“Books contain a more diverse set of words than child-directed speech,” said the lead author, Jessica Montag, an assistant research psychologist at the University of California, Riverside. “This would suggest that children who are being read to by caregivers are hearing vocabulary words that kids who are not being read to are probably not hearing.”
So reading picture books with young children may mean that they hear more words, while at the same time, their brains practice creating the images associated with those words — and with the more complex sentences and rhymes that make up even simple stories.
I have spent a great deal of my career working with Reach Out and Read, which works through medical providers to encourage parents to enjoy books with their infants, toddlers and preschoolers. This year, our 5,600 program sites will give away 6.8 million books (including many to children in poverty), along with guidance to more than 4.5 million children and their parents. (The group also provided some support to Dr. Hutton’s research.)
Studies of Reach Out and Read show that participating parents read more and children’s preschool vocabularies improve when parents read more. But even as someone who is already one of the choir, I am fascinated by the ways that new research is teasing out the complexity and the underlying mechanisms of something which can seem easy, natural and, well, simple. When we bring books and reading into checkups, we help parents interact with their children and help children learn.
“I think that we’ve learned that early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids,” Dr. Hutton said. “It really does have a very important role to play in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading.”
And as every parent who has read a bedtime story knows, this is all happening in the context of face-time, of skin-to-skin contact, of the hard-to-quantify but essential mix of security and comfort and ritual. It’s what makes toddlers demand the same story over and over again, and it’s the reason parents tear up (especially those of us with adult children) when we occasionally happen across a long-ago bedtime book.
27 August 2015
Uganda: Aga Khan, NGO Open Schools in West Nile
By Clement Aluma
The Aga Khan Foundation in partnership with a Canadian NGO, the Institute for Rural Education and Development (IREAD), have commissioned three newly-built Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD) in Arua and Koboko districts.
The ROEL centre in Wani, Arua, the Hajee ECD Resource Centre in Deku, Koboko, and Mary's Shining Stars centre in Padrombu, Koboko, are three of the 40 ECD centres in Uganda with caregivers trained by the Madrasa Early Childhood Programme, Uganda (MECPU), an arm of the Aga Khan Foundation.
The project was initiated by IREAD, with the aim of supporting disadvantaged communities in Uganda.
The organisation was approached by MECPU for assistance in identifying ECD centres with poor infrastructure in communities.
After visiting a number of ECD centres in Arua, Koboko and Yumbe districts, the IREAD chairman and CEO, Mr Noor Jaffer, selected three centres for construction.
Three Canadian families, via IREAD, fully financed the construction of three buildings to replace the old ones.
All three families were closely linked to Uganda as many were born here but left in the 1970s. Among those that had returned is Dr Hajee Safir, the CEO of Graphic Systems, a leading graphics agency in Uganda.
Mr Hajee donated the funds necessary for the construction of the Hajee ECD Resource Centre in Deku, Koboko District.
The project director of Madrasa Early Child Development program under the Aga Khan Foundation, Mr Shafiq Ssekalala, urged the communities to maintain the buildings and pay teachers well.
The three Early Childhood Development centres cost a total of $ 24,000 to construct and locals contributed local materials.
The State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr James Baba, urged the people of Koboko to open up their societies and welcome foreigners to encourage development in those regions.
I, think in Uganda and Africa there will be many Ismailis population in near future, may be more than they were ever before!! thank MHI for the tremendous job he is doing in dift. category and work with different governments for the benefits for not only Ismailis but for all Ummah. show me any leaders in entire world ; who is doing many things from health, housing, food, and many more for betterment for entire Ummah not only for Ismailis!!!!!?
The Aga Khan Foundation East Africa plans to train more than 200 Early Childhood Development and Education teachers in Mombasa county.
On Tuesday, the foundation signed a five-year agreement with the county government to support the programme. Under the agreement, AKF will provide specialised training on ECDE practices in 100 government schools and other public and private institutions.
The Mombasa government will allocate funds to facilitate the training and provide mentorship during and after training.
DOES preschool work? Although early education has been widely praised as the magic bullet that can transport poor kids into the education mainstream, a major new study raises serious doubts.
Since 2004, Tennessee has offered state-subsidized prekindergarten, enrolling more than 18,000 of the state’s neediest 4-year-olds. An early evaluation showed that, as you’d expect, youngsters who attended pre-K made substantial gains in math, language and reading. But, startlingly, the gains had evaporated by the end of kindergarten.
Those first results were alarming, and worse was yet to come.
A just-released study tracks the same kids to third grade. There’s still no evidence that the children benefited cognitively from preschool. They may be better socialized to school life — a skill, emphasized in preschool, that may well bring long-term benefits — but many of them haven’t mastered the three Rs. That’s terrible news, since being a proficient reader by third grade is widely regarded as the best predictor of high school graduation.
Pre-K critics will again pounce on the results. “Devastating for advocates of the expansion of state pre-K programs,” wrote Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, commenting on the first-round evaluation. It’s an “I told you so” moment for Tennessee State Representative Bill Dunn, who slammed his state’s prekindergarten as “like paying $1,000 for a McDonald’s hamburger.”
When a nationwide evaluation of Head Start, the federal government’s preschool program, reported similarly disappointing outcomes three years ago, Mr. Whitehurst delivered a blistering critique. “The best available evidence raises serious doubts that a large public investment in the expansion of pre-K for 4-year-olds will have the long-term effects that advocates tout.” Pre-K was generally thought to be better than Head Start, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Tennessee.
Have the claims made for early education been overblown? Not necessarily. Consider what’s happening in Boston. A randomized study showed that prekindergartners there gained between four and seven months’ progress in reading and math, and those gains persisted: 27 percent more of Boston’s preschool children scored “proficient” or better on the state’s rigorous third-grade exams.
What’s the difference between Boston and Tennessee? In a word, quality. “Tennessee doesn’t have a coherent vision,” Dale Farran, a Vanderbilt professor and the Tennessee study’s co-author, told me. “Left to their own devices, each teacher is inventing pre-K on her own.”
Boston’s teachers are taught to understand the complexities of child development, and receive abundant coaching from knowledgeable veterans. The curriculum is calculated to get children’s minds in gear. “Too often, children sit in a circle and the adult does all the talking,” says Jason Sachs, who runs Boston’s public preschools. “Here, children take much more of an active role. They learn about the concept of length by comparing the shadows they cast when lying on the ground. They learn about measurement by producing a guide to making light blue. They collaborate in figuring out how to make their city a better place — an assignment merging reading, math, art and science — and get to present their work at City Hall.”
Boston isn’t the only pre-K success story. In New Jersey, poor children who went to prekindergarten and are now in fifth grade have closed 20 to 30 percent of the achievement gap between poor students and the nationwide average. Lasting achievement gains have also been recorded in North Carolina, Michigan and Tulsa, Okla. A long-term study of youngsters who attended Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers showed that they had a 29 percent higher high school graduation rate and a 42 percent lower arrest rate for a violent offense than their peers. Economists calculate that every dollar invested in those centers generated $7.10 in benefits.
Recent evidence from Head Start is also positive. That program has been revamped — almost every teacher has a B.A., the curriculum is more hands-on, and more coaching is being provided. Centers with weak results are shuttered. Consequently, test scores are improving. “The newest standards incorporate the latest research to make the program more effective,” says Linda Smith, who runs Head Start.
Money doesn’t guarantee good outcomes, but it helps. It pays for well-educated, experienced teachers, small classes and one-on-one coaching. “There are no easy routes to preschool success,” says W. Steven Barnett, a Rutgers economist and the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. “It takes time, money and a relentless focus on quality — but it has been done.”
Even as more 4-year-olds attend pre-K, many states are delivering it on the cheap. While Boston spends $10,000 for each preschooler, in 2014 the average expenditure, nationwide, was $4,125. That’s $1,000 less (adjusted for inflation) than the 2002 average — and a third of what’s spent for each K-12 student. In education, as in much of life, you get what you pay for.
David L. Kirp, a contributing writer, is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Learning Policy Institute.
Education: Investment in early childhood development has far-reaching lifelong returns
By Shafique Sekalala
Investments in nursery schools can improve children’s academic performance in later life and contribute to the overall quality of life in a country.
Research has shown that nursery schools, also known as Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes, can foster critical skills, boost the economy and bolster the workforce. Given the prevalence of poverty in Africa generally, and Uganda in particular, investing in nursery schools for disadvantaged children would, therefore, have a long-lasting positive impact on Uganda’s socio-economic status.
Lack of quality ECD programmes has resulted in poor performance for many students as many of them are unable to catch up fast enough in primary schools. This can be seen in the poor education results in Uganda over the years. In 2011, the Uwezo Annual Learning Assessment Report showed that 9 out 10 of Primary Three pupils could not read a Primary Two level text.
Understandably, this trend has caused considerable concern among the rank and file of senior education officials. Early this year, Dr Mukasa Lusambu, Assistant Commissioner in the Basic Education Department said, “Results indicate that pupils who go through nursery perform better at primary than those who go straight to primary. Government loses a lot of resources if children do not go through the system as planned...”
Therefore, believing that investment in ECD will lead to better results in the future, the Ministry of Education has opened up discussions to consider implementing a policy of having a nursery school in every primary school.
Opening an ECD centre in every primary school is a step in the right direction, but there are several challenges that will need to be addressed for a successful rollout.
The greatest challenge is the shortage of adequate teachers and classrooms for ECD services. There are approximately 20,000 primary schools in Uganda, meaning that at least 20,000 ECD centres will need to be established. If each ECD centre on average hires two ECD caregivers, the question to ask is: Do we have approximately 40,000 caregivers – the bare minimum of ECD professionals needed – to meet the increasing demand?
Studies show that the ideal student to teacher ratio is one teacher for every 17 children. Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world. And, with an average population growth rate of 3.2 per cent per annum, such a teacher-pupil ratio seems difficult to attain given the constrained resource envelope.
However, it is not all gloom and doom. Cognisant of this challenge, the Aga Khan Foundation, through its early childhood development programme, the Madrasa ECD Programme (MECP), has over the last two years established and obtained licensing for a fully-fledged independent ECD Teacher Training Institute.
The Madrasa ECD Institute (MECDI) aims at mitigating this huge skills gap that the country currently faces, and that will only grow worse going forward once the government rolls-out its new ECD policy.
MECDI has trained over 350 ECD teachers – some of whom will be graduating on October 2, 2015 – but it is not possible for it to expand access to the much-needed ECD teacher training services without additional support from the government or other development partners.
Through effective government intervention, numerous children will have access to ECD services particularly in the relatively poor rural areas. Without the necessary human, organisational and financial resources, this policy cannot be effectively implemented. Now is the time for all of stakeholders to guarantee its success.
Why What You Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at Work
"Preschool classrooms, Mr. Deming said, look a lot like the modern work world. Children move from art projects to science experiments to the playground in small groups, and their most important skills are sharing and negotiating with others. But that soon ends, replaced by lecture-style teaching of hard skills, with less peer interaction."
The list of what a child needs in order to flourish is short but nonnegotiable.
Food. Shelter. Play. Love.
Something else, too, and it’s meted out in even less equal measure.
Words. A child needs a forest of words to wander through, a sea of words to splash in. A child needs to be read to, and a child needs to read.
Reading fuels the fires of intelligence and imagination, and if they don’t blaze well before elementary school, a child’s education — a child’s life — may be an endless game of catch-up.
That’s a truth at the core of the indispensable organization Reading Is Fundamental, a nonprofit group that provides hundreds of thousands of free books annually to children age 8 or younger, in particular those from economically disadvantaged homes, where books are a greater luxury and in shorter supply.
I shine a light on Reading Is Fundamental, or R.I.F., for several reasons.
We’re in the midst of giving thanks, and this group deserves plenty. It has distributed more than 410 million books to more than 40 million American children.
We’re on the cusp of the year-end holiday season, during which many people turn their attention to charity, making the most generous of their yearly donations. I urge everyone to think about literacy, books, early childhood education and organizations, like R.I.F., that support them.
And we’re a texting, tweeting, distracted country in which too many children don’t read at grade level, too many forces conspire against any improvement in that and too heavy a price is paid.
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