Early childhood care and education programmes should emphasise the child’s holistic development and extend beyond assisting the child’s transition to formal schooling. High quality childcare, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, promotes motivation, confidence, good cognitive and linguistic development and school readiness.
There are no universally agreed criteria for quantifying ECCE quality but useful factors to consider include pedagogy materials, personnel training, service setting and parental education and involvement. Learning materials should be quantitatively, culturally and developmentally adequate and focus on child-centred interaction. Where appropriate curricula exist, there can be problems with implementation with the emphasis remaining on early primary education and preparation for formal schooling due to pressure from parents and the fact that it is easier for teachers than child-centred learning.
The ECCE workforce is often made up of a diverse group of pre-school teachers, care workers, informal carers and other professionals. Adequate training and work conditions are essential so they can integrate the content and practice of early childhood care and education and address the transition to formal schooling. The service setting and physical infrastructure may vary greatly within countries. Regular inspection and follow-up of the service setting as well as adequate health and nutrition components are also crucial for meaningful learning to take place.
Where government resources are limited, the last year of pre-primary education is frequently placed in a formal school setting or there may be efforts to lower the entry age. Such trends dilute the importance of holistic development by placing too much emphasis on preparing children for formal schooling. However, when pre-primary education cannot be afforded as part of early childhood, it is more strategic to consider ways of improving the pedagogy of pre-primary education placed in the formal school setting.
Active involvement from parents and communities and relevant play and learning materials ensure that early childhood services remain relevant to the needs of the children and all other stakeholders and increases sustainability.