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The Jamaican Early Childhood Curriculum was recently crafted. The curriculum is built on the principle that children learn best when content from various disciplines along with skills from the developmental domains are integrated in line with the children’s holistic view and experience of the world. These principles are learning through play, sequenced learning, individual learning, the practitioners’ multiple roles, inclusion of all learners, integrated curriculum and the domains of development, the learning environment, assessment in early childhood, involving parents and community (Davies, 2008).
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While the curriculum address various objectives that need to be met in fostering Early Childhood learning and outlines the requisite instructions, there are challenges to the implementation of the curriculum. Broadly speaking, these factors are usually internal and external. These factors reduce the effectiveness of the curriculum and weaken the chance of effective learning at the Early Childhood Level. The factors occur as challenges when there is a mismatch between the situation that the curriculum was designed to target and the reality. This difference causes the actual learning outcome to deviate from the intended learning outcome. The curriculum is normally assume that the student is operating at a particular level, the students parent and environmental background offer a certain level of support, and the teacher operates at a certain level. The real problem occurs when the curriculum does not cater for “the majority case” of students.
Internal factors usually include teachers, students, school infrastructure and resources. Teachers are the driving force of implementing the curriculum effectively. A teacher’s creativity, capabilities and qualification enables him/her to transfer the content of the curriculum in a meaningful way that will connect with the diversity of learners. According to Jalongo and Isenberg (2012) a teacher’s knowledge of the children and the content of the curriculum will enable him/her the ability to provide for the children’s strengths and weakness, their interest and to develop the knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions they will need to become productive members of the society. Hence the teacher’s role in developing the curriculum is to shape what children should learn and how they should learn it. In doing so the teacher’s methodology is essential in brining the curriculum alive. Jalongo and Isenberg (2012) posit that the teacher strategies and plan for learning is the thread that weaves the curriculum. This they say is what of teaching and the how of teaching. It’s therefore, imperative that teachers plan for the students learning so as to cater for the diverse learning styles in their classroom.
The methodologies that the teacher employs should fit the student’s ability to gain knowledge and develop the necessary skills. Teachers should therefore choose content that are developmentally appropriate to achieve required learning outcome. On the other hand a teacher should also be competent and acquire keen insights on the capabilities that children posses in order to cater for holistic development. If this is not achieved then the implementation of the curriculum would have fails to cater for the children needs and development.
The key ingredient for any curriculum is always the learner (Jalongo and Isenberg, 2012). They posit that a curriculum should focus on what a child know and can do and what a child should know and can do. Hence the content of the curriculum should take into account the needs, interest, age and stage of development and the social and cultural context if the child. The child as the learner possesses the ultimate success of the curriculum. This takes into account the abilities, skills, background knowledge and exposure /experience that the child acquire before entering the learning environment. According to Puckett and Diffily (2004) being aware of the differences in children’s development, strengths and challenges will allow curriculum planners and teachers to plan effectively in order to meet each child’s developmental needs. Jalongo and Isenberg (2012) stated that a curriculum should consider the following, Child development and learning, Child needs, abilities and interest and Social and cultural context in which children live. The considerations of these will enable the teachers to perform effectively within the teaching and learning environment.
The school infrastructures and resources play a vital role in the delivery of the school’s curriculum.
External factors usually include parents, home and community. This is another driving force in the implementation of the curriculum. The importance of parental involvement is key in the success of academic achievement. This sets the foundation of the learning attitude that children carry to the learning environment. Support from parents increases the academic achievement in later years. Burke (2010) concurred children whose parents are actively involved in their education at an early age aids the nurturing of a child’s education and overall development and is one of the core indicators of later achievement. It is through this involvement that children understand and appreciate the importance of a solid education. The involvement of parents can break or build the implementation of any curriculum. Parents are unaware of the powerful effect that have on what and how the content of a curriculum is designed and implemented.
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I strongly believe that parents are the first line of support for all children. They are the primary source of socialization and set the foundation for formal learning to take place. The home is the initial environment for optimal nurturing and it ideally creates a sense of belonging. Acknowledging that meaningful parental involvement is need it’s not a “one-size fits all”. We have to take into consideration the socio economic status of these parents as well as their educational background. The background of these parents especially in urban environs allows for limitation on the input they can offer to the implementation of the curriculum. Hence, few or no involvement occurs and the inability to hold teachers accountable for poor curriculum implementation is poor. Burke (2010) states that when parents are involved in the educational process of their children and, as such, they will be able to include or add additional information and insight from their own personal experiences to teachers in order to support their child’s learning and development.
The community is seen as the secondary source of socialization.
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