Literature Review: Early Childhood Education
Literature Review: Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is an important pillar in the education system but is often ignored in terms of formulation of robust policies and curriculum to guide it. The formative years in early childhood education should provide a basis for more advanced study in primary school, high school, colleges and university level. To gain a better understanding of early childhood education, one must evaluate pertinent issues regarding curriculum and other aspects of this sector. In this essay, two articles are reviewed in light of early childhood education. This articles are drawn from the book, The Curriculum Studies Readers (3rd edition) by Flinders and Thornton. The articles reviewed are “A critical Consideration of the New Pedagogy in its Relation to Modern Science” by Maria Montessori, page 22 – 33 and “Dare the School Build a New Social Order?” By George S Counts, page 45 – 51 (Flinders and Thornton, 2009).
In the recent years, the education sector has followed other science divisions such as medicine to reduce speculation in instead base the practice on positive results from experiments. This new approach calls for a reevaluation of all aspects of early childhood education. However, the problem is more complex than just evaluating practices applied in early childhood education, discarding the ones that are not supported by scientific evidence and retaining the ones that are supported by scientific evidence. The first challenge is defining what scientific pedagogy is, before applying it in practice. These and other challenges coupled with benefits of the new pedagogy form the basis of the article by Maria Montessori. The major arguments advanced by Montessori are importance of the infancy stage on education, need for kindergarten teachers to embrace research and new approach to teaching kindergarten pupils.
Importance of the infancy Stage on education
Infancy is an important stage in human development. It is during infancy that the foundations of education and culture are laid (Flinders and Thornton, 2009). In order to enhance early childhood education, the new pedagogy advocates for a definite and direct knowledge of pupils by their teachers. This means that the kindergarten teachers must be ready to use new tools and to do more research rather than rely on anthropometry and psychometric findings. This is because the findings are obtained from research by practitioners in other fields such as psychology who unlike the kindergarten teachers are not interested in education. New tools will enable kindergarten teachers to understand their pupils individually before they teach them the curriculum they are employed to teach.
The Need for Research by Kindergarten Teachers
Implementing an evidence based practice in early childhood education requires the availability of credible evidence to base decisions on. Kindergarten teacher have not been involved largely in research. The new pedagogy seeks to change these and encourage kindergarten teachers to do more research on the methods that work rather than rely on data collected by scientists whose aim is to understand child development and not to enhance the teaching and learning process.
Research among kindergarten teachers will enhance teacher preparedness. The current curriculum for training kindergarten teachers is based on a series of test which teachers do in an almost mechanical manner. This misses the point of being initiative which is best trained through research. Montessori argue that a scientific approach to kindergarten teaching will enhance learning by making children more enthusiastic and making them “worshippers of the spirit of nature” (Flinders and Thornton, 2009 pp 26).
The New Approach to teaching Kindergarten children.
Montessori argues against existing structures in kindergarten classroom such as fixed desks. She asserts that poor classroom settings subject kindergarten children to an experience that makes it possible for them to deviate from their inbuilt potential (Flinders and Thornton, 2009). In their place, she advocates for more robust settings which can enhance different experiences on the kindergarten children rather than limiting the possible experiences. The call for suitable classroom settings in kindergarten schools is further supported by Gestwicki (2010). To support her point further, Montessori gives an analogy of a biological scientist. Although biologist often mount specimens of butterflies for preservation and close up anatomical studies, basic research in butterflies involve going out in the field and observing them as they respond to different aspects in nature. The mounted butterflies that only experience the lab conditions are like students in the old system that only sat in class and listened to the teacher and memorized as much as possible. The new pedagogy is analogous to studying butterflies in the wild where both the teacher and the children participate actively.
In addition to the classroom setting there is a need to evaluate the curriculum and include teaching methods such as plays which have been shown to be effective in enhancing learning and understanding among small children (Edwards, and Cutter-Mackenzie, 2011). These measures will make kindergartens more oriented towards children understanding what they learn rather than children memorizing what they learn.
The final change in the early childhood teaching practices that Montessori questions is the use of prizes to spur good grades and punishment to discourage bad behavior. Introducing simple plays and science principles spurs the interest of children to be scientists more than a promise of a shining trophy for the best students. On its part, punishment does not always discourage bad behavior else the penal code alone would be enough deterrence to crime. In their place, Montessori advocates for interest as the driving force that can better motivate kindergarten students and discourage bad behavior.
Dare the School Build a New Social Order?
There are strong arguments in favor of nature affecting the outcomes of bringing up children. This means children brought up in certain societies almost always acquire certain characters attributable to that society. Nature has been shown to have a strong influence on educational outcomes (Foster and Merideth, 2007). This finding is crucial in the formulation of early childhood educational policies because such policies should be aware of when the environmental imposition will occur. In his essay, Counts explores this topic further. Counts identify the challenges facing the world and how they can be fixed through proper education. The main problem is getting proper education as this will require a complete change of philosophy in the education sector. The title summarizes Counts article well because the articles main message is to challenge the education system to create the world people want to see.
The world is facing many challenges today. With all the development and technological advancement, men have achieved what seemed impossible. Today, man has landed on the moon, performed heart transplants, and done other incredible feats. Yet n the midst of all this developments and advancements, the world is facing challenges such as poverty, starvation and hunger, diseases, and poor leadership. Machines are replacing people at work threatening people with permanent unemployment. According to Counts these problems are as a result of a failing education system and can be fixed through implementing changes in the educational system (Flinders and Thornton, 2009 pp 26).
In the midst of all this challenges, there is a future and that future is full of possibilities. This generation has what it takes to take the world to the next level and address the challenges the world is facing at the moment. But to achieve that we need to fix the education system and also to produce leaders who have values. Teachers have long served as trainers but not leaders. Counts advocate for teachers to take up leadership roles. For this strategy to work there is a need for a strong basis and since the education system starts at the kindergarten level, teachers in early childhood education should lead in the changes. When teachers take up leadership positions, it will be possible to formulate new policies that are modern and in line with the contemporary society to guide the education sector. Kindergarten teachers in leadership positions can serve as good role models to their pupils to aspire for greater things. This will cultivate a culture of interest in good leadership from the time the children are very young.
The first change that is needed is a curriculum change. The problem with the educational system is not just intellectual, but also in the application of that knowledge. Counts assert that the current education system does not give children an opportunity to explore the different aspects of the contemporary society (Flinders and Thornton, 2009 pp 26). There is a need to shift from an education system in which students are graded by their ability to remember what they are taught but instead give merit to imitativeness and application of the gained knowledge in problem solving.
The new curriculum should emphasize on values that are central to the nation. For a long time, America has been a symbol of democracy, human rights and development. If the country is to loose these important values, it will no longer be America (Flinders and Thornton, 2009 pp 26).its thereof necessary to teach the national values to the very young children at kindergarten level. Promoting education among young children will make the coming generation better because the society will be harmonious. Education enables people to respect moral equality of men and on the long-term this creates harmony among citizens. In addition, a tranquil society promotes development and industrialization which will make services such as electricity, telephone, housing, and transportation available to all citizens. Counts article challenges the education system to reinvent a new economic foundation for democracy. This is because traditionally democracy has been based on small scale production on agriculture and industry (Flinders and Thornton, 2009 pp 26). Reinventing democracy and economic basis will be the driving force of tomorrow’s generation.
Early childhood education is an important part of any education system. This is because it provides the foundation and basis for the other levels of education to build upon. It is therefore important to have robust policies to guide the early childhood education sector. In her article, Montessori evaluates the benefits of applying new scientific pedagogy to early childhood education. The new pedagogy advocates for use of evidence in making decisions regarding early childhood. To explain the new pedagogy, it is important to appreciate the value of early childhood education. In addition, early childhood education teachers are encouraged to embrace research and new methods of teaching kindergarten children. On his article, Counts highlights the challenges such as poverty which have persisted in the world despite all the development and technological advances made by man. To address these challenges, there is a need to change the education system and integrate changes such as alternative economic basis for democracy. This is because the old basis of small scale agriculture and industrial production as an economic basis for democracy has failed to deliver on important goals such as worldwide food security. Counts advocates for a more robust education system in which pupils form the early childhood education level onwards are allowed to interact with the contemporary society in order to provide innovative solutions. These two articles highlight the importance of early childhood education and the need to have robust policies to guide the sector.
Edwards, S. and Cutter-Mackenzie, A. N. 2011. "Environmentalising early childhood education
curriculum through pedagogies of play." Australasian Journal of Early Childhood 36(1): pp 51-59.
Gestwicki, C. 2010. Developmentally appropriate practice: Curriculum and development in
early education. New York, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company; pp 13-89.
Flinders, D. and Thornton, S.,(eds). 2009. The Curriculum Studies Reader (3rd Edition). New
York, NY: Routledge Publishing; pp 22-33, 45-51.
Foster, W. A., and Merideth M. 2007. "Development of the literacy achievement gap: A
longitudinal study of kindergarten through third grade." Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 38(3): pp 173.