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EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
1.1 Background of the Study
Early childhood education is the education given in an educational institution to children prior to their entering into the primary school (NPE, 2004). It is embraced by many parents because of its role in the educational and social development of the child. Besides, it affords parents the opportunity to attend to their business while the children are kept under the custody and guidance of trained personnel (care givers). Modern Nations, includingNigeria, show serious concern for the education of their young ones for obvious reasons. It is officially recognized and provided for in the National Policy on education (NPE, 2000), which has given rise to un-precedented expansion in the provision of pre-primary educational institution or nursery schools in the country.
Several years ago, pre-primary education inNigeria, however was provided by private pre-school proprietors. These individuals, organizations or religion bodies established and finance their various schools in order to make profit. These schools are seen mostly in urban areas in uncompleted or abandoned buildings. These proprietors employ and pay staff, plan the curriculum and allot classes, administer their schools, organize and execute school programmes. These chief executives carry out other managerial and administrative functions peculiar to their schools. They provide facilities and relevant materials for the mental, physical social, emotional and spiritual development of the children. Their leadership, however, can be well articulated in the educational and social development of the children in pre-educational system. It should be noted that pupils’ and pre- scholars’ social and educational development is an ongoing journey that every proprietor and administrator involved in education of children should strive to achieved with their transformed leadership style or skill (Aquilino 2001)
Imperatively, transformational leadership behaviour of proprietors can be demonstrated to foster the growth and social development of children in pre-primary educational system. Such leadership behaviour include; authoritative, laisser faire, democratic and permissive. A particular leadership behaviour is needful to bring the best out of the children. Perhaps, a more prudent use of the energy and time is to delve into the task of identifying conditions that impact the proprietor’s administrative performance and then to chart the basic leadership styles or behaviour as well as the basic leadership qualities. This implies that careful and proper selection of the leadership behaviour of proprietors in pre-primary educational system would set the pace for character formation, cognitive and social development of the children. As the proprietors grow in their perception and leadership skill development, they should bring their skills and professionalism to bear on the pre-scholars to promote and facilitate the social and educational development of the pupils, (Wesley, 2005).
According to Jaul, (2003), every child in pre-school education is unique and may have a different way of receiving and processing information. The dynamic manner in which this information and learning is presented to the child at pre-school level will determine whether the effective leadership has been applied, and can also be evident by the capacity of the child to acquire and recall information and equivalent transformation in their behavuiour. For example, permissive leadership behaviour raised unhappy children who lack self-control, especially in the give and take of peer relationships. Inadequate emotional regulations make them immature and impede friendships. They tend to live and remain close to where they grew up, still dependent, in early adulthood. They lack competent parents, proprietors and teachers to teach and impart educational knowledge, learning skills and morality to them. Such pupils will display poor leadership in future as they grow up.
Developmental psychologists have long been interested in how parents, teachers and proprietors guide, lead, direct and train children to recognize and develop their social and moral lives to match the acceptable standard of the society. Findings actually cause and effect links between specific actions, and styles of proprietors and teachers towards academic and character development of the children. Some children who are raised and groomed in a dramatically different environment and leadership behaviours expect the best from the children. For example authorian leadership behaviour is characterized by high expectations of conformity and compliance to teachers and proprietor’s rules and directions, as well as low proprietorship warmth. Authorian proprietors expect much from the pupil but do not explain the rules to them. Proprietors expect the children/pupils to comply with their demands, no questions asked. According to Godwin (2003), this kind of transformational leadership behaviour tends to involve much discipline and punishment for the pupils.
Building social and educational lives of the pupils is a complex process or activity: Most of the time, pupils are difficult to control, it is significant to note that careful combination of two or more leadership styles will bring the best out of the children socially, morally, cognitively and emotionally by the proprietors and may add sustainable values in them. Sometimes, the pupils might be allowed to act the way they want. For example, laissez-faire leadership does not provide any task direction to the children. The children are therefore given several degrees of freedom to act as they like. This seems to have similar characteristics with permissive leadership where the children are allowed to behave as they like. Though the children are allowed to act and behave the way that pleases them, does not give the children the sole right and platform to behave stupidly. They should be properly guided to grow to experience the right and wrong in a particular environment. With regard to this, one of the principal roles of the school proprietors is to ensure that effective teaching and leadership skills are used by teachers. Certainly, a good way of attaining this goal is by coordinating and practicing new skills and behaviour that are both healthy and help to challenge the pre-scholars or pupils (Stavin, 2003). This again, reinforces the idea that education is lifelong process that imparts learning continuously to every individual, young and old, socially, academically, morally and physically.
Early childhood education is the term commonly used to describe the formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family or in settings outside of their homes. According to the U.S.National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), (2010), the developmental definition of early childhood education spans the human life from birth to age eight. However, typically early childhood education covers the period from birth to when a child starts school and this can be as early as five years of age as in New Zealan, where early childhood has been defined as a period of life between 0 to 8 years of age. This is the period of greatest growth and development, when the brain develops most rapidly, almost at its fullest. It is a period when walking, talking, self-esteem, vision of the world and moral foundations are established. According to Härkönen, (2002), Child development is the basis of human development. It is connected with living with dignity and achieving quality of life. The early years of life are critical to the development of intelligence, personality and social behaviour. Research on brain development attests to the importance of key mental, physical and social capabilities. If these fundamental capabilities are not well established from the start, and especially if neurological damage occurs, the learning potential is adversely affected.
For programming purposes, it has been decided to extend the concept of early childhood to about 8 years of age. This age range provides the opportunity to reinforce the view of the development as a continuum. It will facilitate the interaction between the pre and initial school years. The concept of basic education calls for the inclusion of early childhood and the key "survival" grades, that is, the first two or three grades of primary education. Early childhood education often focuses on children learning through play. According to UNESCO ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) Unit,(2003) Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to 8 years old. A time of remarkable brain development, these years lay the foundation for subsequent learning.
Researchers in the field and early childhood educators view the parents as an integral part of the early childhood education process. Often educators refer to parents as the child's first and best teacher. Early childhood education takes many forms depending on the beliefs of the educator or parent. There are many other reformers of education that have contributed to what early childhood education means today. Although Piaget had a great impact on early childhood education, people like John Locke, Horace Mann and Jane Addams contributed a lifetime of work to reform education and learning in this country.
InFinland, one of the earliest references to the definition of early childhood education was evidently made by our first early childhood education Professor Mikko Ojala (1978) in his article ´Early Childhood Education as a Science´. The article focuses on early childhood education as a science and practical activity. According to Ojala (1978), inFinland, at the end of the 1970s, the theory of early childhood education was just emerging. He asked, whether it was possible to design one single theory or was there a need for several ones. Ojala concluded that one theory will suffice, but he pointed out that this theory should be constantly assessed and developed further. This theory should first of all be a pedagogical theory. In his book (1978b) Ojala writes that early childhood education as a science studies the process of education before the school age. Ojala (1978) maintained that early childhood education is also a practice, it is a form the concept of early childhood education is best of all known. Early childhood education is an activity that takes place before the school age. In this case preschool is a part of early childhood education. The aim of early childhood education is a versatile development of child´s personality. Besides education and teaching, early childhood education also includes a basic care. Early childhood education should help a child to be ready and mature for a smooth transfer to school. Ojala (1978a) underlines that in education the theory should serve the practice and practice should serve the theory. On the basis of the aforementioned definitions of early childhood education. (Härkönen, 2002a) a two dimensional model of the concept of early childhood education and a two dimensional model of the concept of preschool.
Many scholars believe that a good early-childhood education is vital for the health of civilization. For example, Aristotle believed that children should be taught virtue by the use of repetitive exercises. In that way, he said, we can cultivate a child's habits, nature and reason. Aristotle thought that instilling virtues in children was central to creating adult citizens who are a benefit to their society.
B.F. Skinner's novel "Walden Two" criticized the rigidity of the education system of his day by pointing out that individuals can learn differently--there is no one standard theory of education that will work in every case. He proposed a type of education philosophy that had a strong emphasis on creating an environment that was conducive to learning.
Within the larger framework of philosophy of education there are many sub-disciplines that focus on specific aspects of early-childhood education. For example, anti-oppressive education attempts to push back against the social constructs that oppress some groups. This is accomplished by examining how traditional educational techniques might perpetuate social problems. A theory called educational essentialism focuses on teaching children core subjects such as reading, writing, math and history. Proponents believe a rigorous curriculum that steadily increases the complexity of learning tasks is the best way to educate a child.
Critics of the field of philosophy of education can be divided into two groups. The first group says that the field fails to meet the rigorous standards found in other philosophical disciplines. The second group feels that the field of philosophy of education is too theoretical and thereby fails to achieve practical results. One counter-argument to these criticisms points to the importance of the goals of the field, as evidenced by the close attention noted scholars from Plato have given to early-childhood education.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The National Policy on Education prescribes that children in pre-primary schools should be involved in active learning. But the document on the provision and management of pre-primary scholars is absent. This weakness sometimes makes the teachers and proprietors to lack appropriate leadership skill to use on pre-primary scholars.