Home Education & Learning The critical role of quality early childhood development and education

The critical role of quality early childhood development and education

by Tania Griffin

In a world where investing in the future is paramount, no investment is more crucial than that in early childhood development (ECD). Research has shown that the first one thousand days in a child’s life could hold the key to unlocking their lifelong potential. By age 5, almost 90% of a child’s brain is developed, making these formative years pivotal in shaping their future.

South Africa’s alarming literacy statistic

“Like many nations, South Africa faces the challenge of ensuring quality early education for its youngest citizens. Shockingly, an international report reveals that 81% of Grade 4 learners in the country cannot read for meaning in any of the official languages. This stark statistic underscores the urgency of addressing early childhood development,” comments Ursula Assis, country director, Dibber International Preschools.

The impact of quality early education

“Early childhood programmes that are sustained and of high quality can have long-lasting impacts on children. These programmes prepare them for formal schooling and set them on a path to lifelong success.”

Benefits include:

  • Improved academic performance: Quality early education lays a solid academic foundation, allowing children to excel in reading, maths and language skills throughout their school years.
  • Enhanced social and emotional development: These programmes focus on building crucial social and emotional skills such as co-operation, communication and empathy, which are vital for positive relationships and emotional well-being.
  • Long-term educational attainment: Children who receive quality early education are more likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education, leading to better career opportunities and economic stability.
  • Reduced special education placements: Early childhood education identifies and addresses developmental delays or learning difficulties early on, reducing the need for special education services later in a child’s school years.
  • Economic and social benefits: Quality early childhood education programmes contribute to a more skilled and productive workforce, lower crime rates, and decreased reliance on social welfare programmes – benefiting society as a whole.

A unique approach to nurturing children’s potential

“Our approach goes beyond traditional education,” says Assis. “The Dibber Childhood places an emphasis on not only a child’s learning achievements but also their future health, happiness and growth. Through the Dibber Heart Culture and customised approaches to learning, children become keen explorers who love to learn and develop the competencies needed for everyday life. The emphasis is placed on developing all aspects of a child: from the cognitive and physical to the emotional and social.”

A warm and inclusive atmosphere fostering positive and supportive relationships is also vital in ECD. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, highlights the importance of these relationships, which are the roots that allow all children to thrive. Children need to feel valued, know how to form relationships, and understand their role in a greater community and the world.

Everyday moments are golden opportunities

“There is great importance in tiny everyday moments that leave lasting traces, influence relationships and shape culture, so we strive to make every everyday moments ‘golden’ by actively building trust with the children and nurturing their sense of self-worth.

“Investing in early childhood development not only sets children on a path to success but also contributes to the overall well-being of society,” Assis concludes.

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