Sun | Aug 25, 2019

A proposed solution to early childhood education (Part 2)

Published:Monday | August 12, 2019 | 12:26 AMDavid Salmon/Contributor
Shernette Rose Raynor, Sagicor team member and Sagicor Foundation volunteer, gets a big high-five from little Karsey Kelly in front of a newly installed mural at the Chantilly Gardens Early Childhood Institution in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
Trisha Williams-Singh, chair, Early Childhood Commission, chats with students.
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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a road map for a nation’s development, especially in critical areas such as education. An extract from this year’s Sustainable Development Goals Report reads as follows: “Evidence shows that good-quality early childhood education is one of the best investments a society can make for its children – one that builds a strong foundation for learning in later years.”

The first 1,000 days of life is the period when a child’s brain develops the fastest. Intervening in this period provides the best opportunity to achieve lifelong impact on the development of children. Therefore, my proposal is DREAM, which stands for Develop, Resources, Expertise, Access to Education, and Management.

n Develop focuses on the creation of a standardised curriculum that helps our children compete in a global society. This curriculum would introduce students to subjects such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

n Resources entails allocating more money in the national budget to be invested in school-feeding programmes, administered through PATH, as well as providing school supplies such as textbooks, stationery, and equipment.

n Expertise covers training and employing more teachers, remedial specialists, and school nurses that will improve the quality of staff at early childhood institutions. Early childhood, like tertiary education, should also benefit from an allocation for teacher training and development.

n Access to Education would include renovating schools to accommodate disabled children and embarking on a school-building programme for rural or impoverished communities while upgrading existing facilities such as bathrooms.

n Management requires fast-tracking the registration and standardisation of ECIs and increasing the budgetary allocation to the Early Childhood Commission (ECC). Essentially, the aim is for the ECC to operate at 100 per cent capacity.

A potential source of funding for DREAM could be the consistent fiscal surplus the Government has achieved over the previous months. With the proportion of debt to GDP decreasing, investing in early childhood education is a MUST.

ECONOMIC DEPRIVATION

Duncan and Magnuson (2003) concluded that economic deprivation during the preschool years is very harmful to children’s development. Therefore, they posit that early childhood provides the best opportunity for investment in educational programmes if the wider community environment fails to ensure that children are prepared for school.

This occurs as students who enrol in quality ECIs had fewer disciplinary referrals, were more emotionally mature and better in social interactions after their childhood had ended. Without a significant investment in this stage, other levels of education would not be as productive.

After DREAM’s implementation, less money would need to be spent on remedial programmes as we would have reduced the disparity in our education system.

Picture our students with better interpersonal skills and empathy. This will lead to better PEP performances, a reduction in crime, higher tertiary enrolment ,and even more competent and qualified graduates. Everyone benefits. We cannot develop a viable future without a solid foundation. That foundation begins with a DREAM for early childhood education.

David Salmon is the outgoing Deputy Head Boy of Wolmer’s and founder of the New Jamaica Foundation, a think tank and outreach organisation.To send feedback, he may be contacted at davidsalmon@live.com.