The Education Of Young Children

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The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NCAA) regards education in early childhood, oftentimes dubbed as early childhood education; as one of the most vulnerable stages in life. It spans the human life from birth to age eight, oftentimes focusing on children's learning through play. According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, the term is frequently used to describe preschool or baby/child care programs. Preschool education is the provision of education for children before the commencement of statutory education, usually between the ages of three and five, dependent on the jurisdiction. It is also known as nursery school, day care or kindergarten. For purposes of this study, the terms early childhood education and its other nomenclatures e.g. preschool, nursery, kindergarten, etc., are used interchangeably.

Contemporary brain research has dramatically influenced the understanding of how and when young children develop and learn, especially in the first three years of life. As a result of this new information, early childhood education providers, and those who train and accredit them, have had to adjust their models of service delivery and evaluation to reflect these new perspectives (NCAA, 2007).

Although there is some debate about the range of children's ages that encompass preschool education or what is called early childhood education (Cartright and Peters,1982), current educators and researchers regard birth to six years of age as early childhood (Peters, et. al, 1985). From programmatic, human service and developmental perspectives, early childhood education typically contains several smaller age-related area e.g. infancy (birth to two years), preschool (two to four years), kindergarten (five years and primary grades (six to eight years). As recently as 2004, it was consensus thinking that preschool was the domain of five year olds. Over time that view changed to include four year olds and ultimately three to five year olds (NCAA,2007).

The Department of Education, Culture and Sports (now Department of Education or DepEd) in recognizing the importance of preschool or early childhood education, issued a policy document in 1971 encouraging school divisions to establish public preschools whenever possible. DepEd believe that preschools provide the early childhood stimulation needed if "we are to catch the preschool children during their formative years." (DECS Order No. 107, s. 1989). The DepEd philosophy and goals for preschool education are as follows:

"Preschool education considers the child, the school and the teacher with the support of the family in maximizing the child's potential…based on the knowledge that each child is a unique individual with his own biological make-up, interests, capabilities and ways of viewing the world….…has the tremendous capacity for learning… is active and understands the world differently from that of an adult….… The preschool child is always in the process of becoming and therefore, if properly developed, can become a critical thinker and a socially sensitive, self-directed, creative responsible, caring individual."

A child's ability to learn and to function as a contributing member of society rests heavily on the development of social competency and emotional health that begins at birth and is greatly influenced during the preschool years. Preschool programs that pursue the highest standards of quality will contribute substantially to this development (Boyd et.al, 1995). In early childhood education, children are systematically assisted to develop the social and emotional competencies they need to fully immerse themselves in the preschool days. These competencies evolve around the expectations of children being able to demonstrate self-confidence , self-direction, identify and express feeling, exhibit positive interactions with other children and adults, pro-social behaviors, attending and focusing skills and participation in group routines.

In every society, children will inherit social roles now occupied by adults. Our schools have the job of preparing children for this eventual responsibility. Achieving however a kind of balance that encourages all children to learn, work and contribute to their fullest potential has been a continuing challenge as our world has grown more complex and our communities more fragmented (Elias and Arnold, 2006). Learning in school is a progressive, planned activity cast in the light of the firmly held belief that children today are increasingly subjected to a whole range of emotions (McCluskey, 2000) hence, the importance of good instructional design and classroom management practices that give emphasis to the development of positive attitude and perceptions to learning.

Parents have traditionally worked in the fields, home and businesses downstairs beneath the family living quarters or a nearby place. A major difference today is that parents work where the children cannot see or are having a hard time contacting them. Today's parents are dealing with temporary and frequent or regular periods of separation from their children that much of the daily socialization that was formerly a natural part of family life is now provided by others. Continuing inflation and the women's liberation movement are strong factors that have encouraged gainful employment and career aspirations for mothers, whether single or married (Leeper, Skipper & Witherspoon, 1979), thus leaving the day to day ministrations of their children to caregivers who, most of the time, are not well-trained to holistically look after the welfare of these children.

A frequent change of caregivers give children inconsistency of experience that robs them of the building blocks of self-esteem, personal security as well as long-range attitudes, values and orientation to others and to life in general (Leeper, Skipper & Witherspoon, 1979). In today's fast-paced society, preschool children are faced with more stressors than ever before. They must cope with child neglect and/or abuse, parental difficulties, negative community environmental conditions, and frightening images of war and violence in the media (Elder and Trotter, 2006). Denise Scala (2006), the guidance counselor at the Stillman Elementary School in Plainfield, NJ stated that : "The effects of a changing and sometimes struggling society produces children entering school doors saddled with issues ranging from shorter attention spans, needs for instant gratification, anger problems, difficulty relating to structure, problems maintaining relationships with peers and adults and pent-up negative emotions."

The situations mentioned created an environment inimical to the growth and development of young children and their emotional maturity. Therefore there is a need for the development of flexible, adaptive ways of regulating emotion as essential to the emergence of children's emotional literacy and their everyday adaptive functioning.

Visionary leaders in the 21st century see schools that are focused not on preparing students for a life of tests, but rather preparing young people for the tests of life (Elias, 2001). Visionary educational leaders must look beyond school success and embrace the goal of life success, of helping children become active and committed citizens of their classrooms, schools, families, communities, and workplaces.

Despite the high relevance of emotions in basic research and in daily school life, the focus in instructional design and related research was on considering learners' above all, cognitive, and to some degree motivational processes (Reigeluth, 1999). Many teachers believe that emotional goals are so long range and intangible that regular classroom time restrictions prohibit development of desired emotional outcomes. Others think that the emotional education of students is the task of parents or peers and not of teachers who are not educated well enough to be successful in this intimate area of human life. Another reason for neglecting emotions is that instructional designers were not interested in introducing emotions into instruction because they expected them to disturb the achievement of important cognitive learning objectives (McCluskey, 2000).

This research was undertaken to address the abovementioned concerns by assessing classroom management approaches in early childhood education that an instructional design could be created; to help teachers understand more the emotional needs of their students and enable them to undertake a holistic approach in their choices of instructional techniques and strategies; and facilitate the attainment of an emotionally intelligent classroom as one of the expectations in the DepEd's philosophy of goals for preschool education. It is also hoped that the end result of this research would be able to present to educators the importance of taking into consideration the emotional make-up of their students, that the educational process should not be centered solely on the cognitive aspect but also the affective; that students would leave the portals of the educational institutions as learned citizens and can translate these learning into concrete acts with a heart.

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