Early Childhood Education In Cuba Education Essay

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This article provided a description of early childhood education in Cuba, focusing on the relationship between the home and the school and on the creative use of limited resources. It was prepared following a visit to Cuba by a delegation of early childhood educators from the United States of America in March 2001. The author described the educational programme provided for infants and toddlers, preschoolers, 5 year olds (in independent care programmes and in primary schools) and children in hospitals. The incorporation of parents and the extended family in the education process by teachers was discussed. It was interesting that although only about 30% of the children of preschool age attend early childhood centres (as their mothers do not work), trained teachers visit these families to demonstrate play and communication skills and hold discussions about child development issues. Additionally, teachers hold training sessions on environmental and cultural issues with small groups of parents. In the preschool facility, the facility for five year olds and the class for 5 year olds at the primary school, there was evidence of the involvement of parents and in some cases, members of the extended family. Parents, at all facilities, were encouraged to be involved in the operations of the facilities through visits and practical assistance. At the primary school, a Parents' Council further assisted the school by conducting home visits to assess needs or providing support to families. Hospitalised children were provided with education by a trained teacher to ensure that they did not slip academically. Parents supported this educational process by their presence and involvement.

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In addition to the focus on parental involvement, the author also stressed the creative and efficient manner in which teachers operated within a climate of limited material resources.

Makin, L., Hayden, J., & Diaz, C. (2000). High-quality literacy programs in early childhood classrooms: An Australian case study. Childhood Education, 76(6), 368-378.

Goal of study

The goal of the study was to document the literacy practices in early childhood classrooms in Australia and to understand the views and experiences of parents and staff in relation to literacy.

Methodology

All classrooms with students who were due to be promoted to primary school in the following year in identified regions of Australia were invited to participate in the study. A total of 79 classrooms agreed to participate. Semi-structured interviews concerning literacy were conducted with two members of staff from each classroom. Additionally, nine focus group discussions were conducted with family members of children in the classrooms. The Early Childhood Language and Literacy Scale (ECLLS) was used to assess the classrooms. The five highest ranking classrooms were compared with the five lowest ranking classrooms to assess the significant differences in relation to literacy in classrooms.

Findings

Although the physical classrooms were welcoming and staff-children relationships were positive, the measures implemented for early literacy learning were generally not strong.

There was incongruence between the views of teachers and those of family members about the promotion of literacy in the home and classroom. This incongruence was marked when the language of the family was different from that of the teachers. Family members tended to have a more inclusive view of literacy, incorporating television, videos and computers, while teachers tended to have a more traditional, book-based view of literacy.

When the highest-ranking classrooms were compared with the lowest-ranking classrooms, it was observed that the teachers of the highest-ranking classrooms were generally more experienced and the assistants generally had more post secondary training than those of the lowest-ranking classrooms.

Highest-ranking classrooms were able to create an environment that was conducive to communication and ranked high on the following areas: "Furniture for routine care, play and learning," "Furnishings for relaxation and comfort," "Room arrangement for play," "Child-related displays", "General supervision of children," "Staff-child interactions", "Interactions among children" and "Group time."

Although teachers of both the highest-ranking classrooms and the lowest-ranking classrooms had a similar knowledge base in relation to literacy, there were differences in their application of the knowledge to practice.

Teachers of the highest-ranking classrooms tended to view literacy as influencing the child's life in its entirety while those in the lowest-ranking classrooms tended to view it in relation to its role in preparing the child for school. The authors suggested that this might have influenced their teaching approaches.

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The knowledge and use of technology by staff did not appear to have an impact on the rating of classrooms.

Staff in high-ranking classrooms identified verbal interactions as a literacy strategy twice as often as staff in low-ranking classrooms. Staff in high-ranking classrooms also highlighted the importance of observation and encouragement as important strategies in developing literacy. More staff in low-ranking classrooms stated that they spent individual time with students identified as requiring help. The authors contrasted the "inclusive ecological approach" of the high-ranking classrooms with the "compensatory approach" of the low-ranking classrooms.

Staff in high-ranking classrooms tended to see the value of the child's home language (if other than English) to literacy while 15% of staff in low-ranking classrooms did not view languages other than English as contributing to the development of literacy.

Focus groups all displayed an appreciation of the role of technology and culture in early literacy development. The focus group which was made up of family members of children who were in a low-ranking classroom identified the school's failure to appreciate the children's bilingual/bicultural experiences as a significant issue.

Marti-Bucknall, W. (2002). Teaching and learning in early childhood in German-speaking Switzerland. Childhood Education, 78 (6).

There is significant diversity in the early childhood programmes in Switzerland due to the number of political states and languages in the country. This article provided a description of early childhood education in one region, Basel, Switzerland, focusing on the daily structure, materials used, teaching methods, evaluations and the approach to teaching children who do not speak German.

Kindergartens in Basel-Land provide two years of education for children and aim at the preparation of children for school. In the first year of kindergarten, children attend five mornings and one afternoon per week, while in the second year of kindergarten, children attend an additional afternoon each week. Children are placed in mixed-age groups. Although the skills of reading, writing and written numeracy are not the focus of the kindergarten, a 1998 study (Stamm 1998, cited in Zopfli, 2000) found that more than twenty percent of children entering primary school are already able to read and do mathematics. Children are required to learn to count to ten, identify and draw basic shapes, create and copy sequences and sort objects for mathematics. For language, children are required to demonstrate the ability to listen to their peers, respond to questions and to make and respond to requests in group settings. Additionally, for creative expression, children are required to recognise colours and to be able to use scissors, pens and paintbrushes.

On the day that the author observed the kindergarten, there were activities that were initiated by the teacher and by the children. The morning activities were singing; learning stations which included completion of puzzles, play dough modeling, colouring, picture sequencing, placing flat buttons on a picture shape; and story-telling. The afternoon session included free play, structured play activities and drawing.

The author noted that the use of mixed-age classes was beneficial in that it promoted peer teaching. She also commented on the benefits of oral language development and nonverbal communication during story telling time and the cognitive development and the development of fine motor skills that occurred during station time.

Children are evaluated through observation by the teacher. Additionally, a special education official evaluates children for any learning challenges. Special educators intervene with children experiencing learning challenges, as well as those for whom Swiss-German is their second language. (The article noted that the city of Basel has many multinational corporations and over the years, there has been an increase in the number of children in early childhood care and education settings who speak German as a second language). Children may also be referred for further intervention by specialists.

The author noted the benefits of oral language intervention for preschool children for whom Swiss-German is their second language. These children are able to learn the language before they are formally required to read and write.

Guild, D. (2000). The relationship between early childhood education and primary school academic achievement in the Solomon Islands. International Journal of Early Childhood, 32: (1).

This article examines the relationship between the use and quality of early childhood education and the academic achievement of children in Standard two in the Solomon Islands.

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Methodology

Thirty-four schools in the Solomon Islands were randomly selected. A total of six hundred and sixty-six Standard 2 children were included from these schools. A questionnaire was sent to teachers seeking demographic information about the students as well as information about their early childhood experiences (i.e. whether or not they had attended preschool). The children were given a test on literacy and mathematical skills. Based on the outcome of the tests, a qualitative study was conducted with the kindergartens and pre-schools from which the children had graduated. Classroom observations were conducted and interviews were conducted with parents and teachers.

Results

There was a positive relationship between attendance at early childhood institutions and primary school achievement in reading.

There was a positive relationship between early childhood education and performance in specific sections of reading comprehension and mathematics. These sections included understanding the main idea, recollection of details and making conclusions in reading comprehension and "counting, telling time, symmetry and less-than symbol" in mathematics.

Children who had attended early childhood institutions in which the teachers were trained and in which a significant variety of age-appropriate materials were available performed better in both reading and mathematics. Additionally, children who scored well in the tests came from schools in which the methods used by teachers were developmentally appropriate and encouraged learning through active exploration.

The number of years attended by children did not lead to an improvement in the performance of reading comprehension or mathematics.

Newport, S. (2000/1). Early Childhood Care, Work, and Family in Japan: Trends in a society of smaller families. Childhood Education, 78 (2), 68 - 75.

This article explores the arrangements for the provision of early childhood care and education in Japan, which has experienced social changes leading to greater demand for early childhood services. It also provides recommendations to address the need for care services for infants and toddlers.

The growth rate in Japan has been declining while the numbers of children in need of pre-school services has been increasing steadily. This is due to social changes that include the increase in the numbers of women who work outside of the family, the fact that women are getting married later or not at all and the decrease in three-generational families. The government has implemented changes with the aim of improving the birth rate. These changes include efforts to improve the availability and quality of the child care centers. The caregiver to infant ratio has been changed from 1:6 to 1:3 while the emphasis has shifted from a focus on the intellectual development to holistic development. Some policies have been relaxed to expand the availability of child care spaces. The limit on the number of child care centres providing care for infants was removed so that child care centres that meet government standards can accept infants. Laws requiring ownership of property to establish a child care centre and as well as laws stipulating the minimum number of children have been relaxed. The government has also taken steps to encourage fathers to play a more active role in the care of their children and employers to be more supportive of parents who need time off for the care of their children.

The author notes that preschool centers in Japan provide opportunities for education and socialization of children ages three and over, especially in light of the small family sizes. It was noted, however, that these centers would not meet the mental and emotional needs of infants and toddlers whose needs are better met through individualized care. The author makes the following recommendations to address this challenge:

Focus on developing each child as opposed to focusing on demographics;

Train and supervise teenagers in the provision of babysitting services;

Encourage persons to establish closer ties with persons to whom they are not related by birth; and

Encourage employers to create a child-friendly environment, for example, the provision of part-time employment and support for parents who need to take time off to care for their children.

Kabiru, M., Njenga, A., & Swadener, B. (2003). Early childhood development in Kenya: Empowering young mothers, mobilizing a community. Childhood Education, 79 (6), 358-363.

This article describes the implementation and outcomes of Mwana Mwende project, which centred around the care of infants and the needs of teenage mothers. The context within which the Mwana Mwende project was conceptualized and implemented was the Kenyan experience of the development of early childhood care and education programmes. Kenya is primarily a rural, farming society, in which the provision of care for young children was traditionally the responsibility of the family. However, changes in the family structure have been influenced by globalization, urbanization and the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. There has been a decrease in the numbers of extended families, an increase in the numbers of working women, and by extension, an increase in the need for early childhood care facilities. The heavy emphasis on academic success in Kenya has also influenced the interest in ECD services, as preschools are viewed as providing not only custodial care but also an academic foundation. In Kenya, a large percentage of early childhood care centres are operated by community organizations.

The Mwana Mwende project arose out of an observation of the need for care services for children under three, who were often left unattended at home as this age group was not accepted by preschools, and out of concern for teen mothers, who had self-esteem issues and did not interact positively with their babies. The project fostered the creation of self-help groups for teen mothers. The authors reported that mothers were positively impacted by these groups.

The project evolved to meet the needs of the wider community and at the time of the preparation of the article, had expanded by empowering the community to better meet the needs of children and youth. Villages were encouraged to form Child and Youth Development Committees which strengthened the communities' ability to manage the project. Members of the Child and Youth Development Committees were trained about child-related issues as well as HIV/AIDS. The youth groups that are managed by the Child and Youth Development Committees encourage youth to lead productive lives and stimulate the creation of income generating programmes. The authors concluded with the view that early childhood development has moved beyond the provision of child care and education to community development in Kenya.

Talay-Ongan, A. (2001). Early Intervention: critical roles of early childhood service providers. International Journal of Early years Education, 9 (3), 221 - 228.

This article examines the role of early childhood caregivers and teachers in the provision of early intervention services to children with special needs. The author established a foundation for the article by noting that early intervention has a significant and positive impact on children with special needs. The benefits include the contribution to the children's development, the improvement of the quality of life of the children and their parents, the reduction in the level of stress in the family, the reduction in the need for special education services later in the child's life and the promotion of a more accepting social environment for children and their families.

Early intervention services are family-based and consider the role of the family as central in the decision-making process. Collaborative teams are made up of persons from various professions and include family members. These teams work together to assess, plan and share strategies to ensure that the child's needs are met. The early childhood teacher is an integral part of the team. The teams develop Individualised Family Service Plans or Education Plans to plan for the needs of the child and to evaluate the progress made in relation to these plans. Early childhood teachers play a central role in the development of the plans.

The author outlined several other reasons to highlight the important role played by early childhood service providers. She noted that the Early childhood educators (ECEs) are knowledgeable about Developmentally Appropriate Practice, as well as about disabilities and developmental differences. This knowledge guides them in their ability to assess and meet the needs of all children. ECEs are also sensitive to family and cultural diversity. Additionally, early childhood settings are naturalistic and are a suitable milieu within which to implement early intervention measures. These settings are often accessible and are therefore a useful point of contact for professionals involved in the intervention process.

Dockett, S., Perry, B. (2003). The transition to school: what's important? Educational Leadership, 60(7), 30-33.

Rationale

Children who make a positive transition from preschool to elementary school tend to display improved social capabilities and academic performances.

Methodology

Interviews and surveys were conducted of adults in New South Wales, Australia and interviews were conducted with children. The results of responses from teachers, parents and children were analysed to understand their perceptions of transitions from pre-school to elementary school.

Results

Teachers and parents mainly focused on the children's social adaptation to the new school environment while the children focused on rules and disposition, particularly the issue of having friends in their new school. Teachers tended to focus on children's needs to learn to work in a group and to be able to take guidance from adults other than family members. Parents tended to focus on their child's relationship with their new teacher and their adaptation to a new group. Parents also expressed concern about the safety of the school environment.

The authors noted that it was striking that neither parents nor teachers focused on knowledge and skills as significant factors in readiness for school. Children tended to focus more on knowledge than either parents or teachers.

The authors identified a list of guidelines for effective transition programmes. These included:

Develop long-term transition programmes as opposed to orientation programmes;

Access adequate funding;

Stimulate the child's growth as a learner;

Create positive relationships among parents, teachers and children; and

Develop effective communication among parents, teachers and children.

The authors shared examples of the development and implementation of transition programmes in two communities and highlighted the need to tailor such programmes for the communities in which they are being established.

Corsaro, W., Molinari, L. (2000). Priming events and Italian children's transition from Preschool to Elementary School: Representations and action. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63 (1), 16 - 33.

Rationale

This article posits that the transition from preschool to elementary is a significant experience and may impact on the child's future education. The concept of "priming events" is used as a central concept in the analysis of the experience of transition. Priming events are defined as "activities in which children, by their very participation, attend prospectively to ongoing or anticipated changes in their lives." Priming events are often part of family and preschool activities that prepare the children for elementary school.

Methodology

An ethnographic, comparative and longitudinal study was conducted on preschools in the United States of America and Italy. This article was based on the work that had been conducted in Italy, as the part of the study based in the USA was not yet completed. Researchers participated daily in the children's lives at preschool over a five month period at the end of their attendance at preschool. They then attended first grade with them for the first four months and then returned for a week at the end of first grade. Interviews were conducted with preschool teachers and elementary teachers. Additionally, interviews were conducted with a subsample of parents.

Results

The authors noted that priming events were grounded in the routines of the preschool. The central routine was identified as a morning meeting during which projects, activities and events were discussed.

Priming events included field trips to a nearby elementary school and follow-up discussions about the children's observations. Additionally, the children were occasionally assigned homework; which introduced them to the concept of homework, which they would regularly receive at elementary school. At school, the children were given a literacy activity which they had to do independently. This also helped to prepare them for the future, as they would be required to work independently in elementary school.

Priming events in the routines of peer culture included discussions about older siblings who were attending elementary school, writing in the author's notebook and discussions about the peers who would be attending a different elementary school.

Pre-school teachers were concerned about how the children would adjust to the need to sit for extended periods of time and to the greater structure of elementary school. Parents, however, were concerned about the children's literacy competency and about their adjustment to new classmates.

When the children started elementary school, homework was not initially given and rules were not strictly enforced during the first three weeks. Over time the rules (such as those about walking around the class) were enforced more strictly. An example of the relationship between a priming event in preschool and the actual event in elementary school was provided. Art and prose were blended in both preschool and elementary school; however, in preschool, art was the main focus while prose described and supported the art while in elementary school, art became supplementary to the prose. The priming event of art supported continuity between the two educational settings.

The authors commented that the children's adjustment to elementary school was generally school and were of the opinion that the children's experiences of priming events influenced the transition. Some children who had assumed positions of leadership in preschool experienced adjustment problems, as they were not given the attention from the teacher to which they had grown accustomed in preschool. There were some problems in acting out but these abated over time. The authors noted that both parents and children found the transition from preschool to elementary school to be more challenging than they had anticipated. Children were primarily concerned about the limitations in play time. At the final interview, parents expressed concern that they were not permitted to enter the school (as they had to drop off and pick up the children in the courtyard) and felt that the elementary school was not as open to parental involvement as the preschool had been.

Morrison, J. (2000). Under colonialism to democratization: Early childhood development in Ghana. International Journal of Early Childhood, 32 (2), 24 - 30.

This article provided a historical overview of the development of the early childhood care and education programme in Ghana, showing the involvement of the missionaries as well as the involvement of the government. It then summarised the programme at the time of the preparation of the report, indicating that there were insufficient facilities for the number of children requiring early childhood education and care. It also noted that many early childhood centres lack trained teachers, materials, equipment and adequate accommodation.

The article closed by looking into four areas of focus for the future. It cited the need for early childhood education and care to be promoted in the country. (1) In addition to the benefits of early childhood care for the children themselves, the authors indicate that older female children would benefit, as they are currently kept from school to care for younger siblings. (2) There is need for a national policy on early childhood care and development to be formulated. (3) There is need for collaboration among the many organizations that contribute to the development of young children. (4) There is need for incorporation of early childhood training in the programmes of teacher training colleges and at universities.