According to World Bank Group research into early childhood development, children who are part of well-designed programs perform better socially, emotionally and cognitively compared with those who have not been as fortunate. According to statistics released in 2005, in South Africa, children from birth to four years old (4.45 million) represent ten percent of the total population (UNICEF). We have a very low pass rate in Grade 12 and a very high school dropout rate. The provision of a solid foundation will definitely enhance self – esteem and may significantly alter the percentage of the pass and school dropout rates.
(Excerpt from my book, Lanterns and Lunch Tins, 2010, p 1.)
There are some people who do not advocate a child being guided through a Pre-School program. They say that a child must learn from being with the mother in the home and doing household chores, such as sorting, washing, and sweeping etc. Whilst I agree that sorting and categorisation are skills that a child needs, and whilst I also agree that by sweeping the floor a child develops his gross-motor muscles, I have had 7 years experience in teaching children who did just that and have 41 years of experience with children who went through a Pre-School program. The difference was indisputable!
I have found that experience is such a wonderful teacher and, unless you have taught on both sides of the fence, you are not privy to this knowledge. I have been very blessed to have been in the teaching profession for 49 years, to have been a teacher, a principal, a lecturer and to have worked with children from birth to University. Throughout my career I have been in every grade from Pre-School – Grade 12 and have also worked with children who face different barriers to learning (dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, autism, etc.). From my experience I have concluded that if I could give parents one bit of advice, it would be to ensure that their child is thoroughly prepared in every area to start formal learning. In other words, to lay a good foundation on which a child can build. Remember always that knowledge can never be given – it has to be built – and the foundation on which it needs to be built should be a strong one.
Most parents confess that they are completely unaware of the training their child needs in order to be thoroughly prepared for the three R’s, and I can understand that. I would not be able to fit into any other profession as my calling lay in teaching and my specialisation is in the field of the Foundation Phase of education. I am a very strong believer that the initial six years of a child’s life are the most important because at no other time in his life will a child learn as much as he does in those first six years. I am also aware of the fact that in the early years (some cite the first four) the main learning pathways of the brain are formed (Dryden & Vos, 2005).
To quote from my book, Lanterns and Lunch Tins (2010, p 11): “For the first time in history children are more au fait with the new communication technologies than their parents or teachers. Hamel (in Dryden & Vos, 2005) states that “The future is not something that happens to you, but something you create”. True education in this new society, explain Dryden and Vos, enables you to “identify and develop your own unique talents, to create your own future, in any field you choose”. Should this not lead to new ways of teaching; new ways of dealing with children? If children, times and the workplace have changed so radically, why has our system of teaching and education remained the same, or very similar, as in the past?
Are we educating our pupils for the world we lived in, a world that no longer exists? Are we wasting their time and our own? Surely, as teachers and parents we need to keep our children abreast of the times? I find it alarming that teachers in the 21st century are trying to lead and teach the same way they were taught, which was the same as in the 18th century, and that parents expect the same from schools as they received when they were young. How can we pour old wine into new wineskins?
Please leave your questions and/or comments below. I love communicating with parents about this topic and others!
Yours in Learning,