"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Quality Early Education

It should be straightforward to see that the number of years one puts into basic education alone does not guarantee good learning outcomes. What goes into those years is what counts. This is especially true in the early years when children are just beginning to develop both social and academic skills. Here, the quality really matters because the chance that a child can succeed despite of poor resources is very small. Later in basic education when a child has already acquired basic skills, resourcefulness, grit, and determination, a student may be able to overcome a lack of quality in schools, but in elementary and preschool, it should be obvious that a child depends more on others.

Quality in early education can be measured. In the United States, the National Institute for Early Education Research has provided a list of standards for preschool:

Copied from NIEER

Four of the benchmarks above are clearly teacher factors. Preschool education benefits from a teacher who has a college degree. In fact, a teacher in preschool needs specialized training in early childhood education. Preschool classrooms also require an assistant teacher and these individuals must also have a degree, a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or equivalent. On top of these, teachers need to be given time to prepare lessons and reflect on their current work regularly, at least 15 hours per year. The size of the class is also important as young children require a lot more attention. 20 children per class is deemed as maximum and with an assistant teacher the ratio of staff to child in each classroom is 1:10 or better. Young children also require checkups and other support services to spot early on any physical impairment a child may have. Meals are provided at least once a day and the sites need to be inspected regularly. The curriculum is only one out of the ten benchmarks listed. What should be obvious then is that early childhood education is not a "fly by night" operation. The kindergarten program of the Philippines' DepEd K to 12 is a clear example of what not to do in early education. Back in 2012, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in the Philippines made the following demands:

This coming school year, it is expected that about 2 million young learners have enrolled in this program. The program should have prepared these young learners to the rigors of regular schooling. However, the present conditions of our public education system could not meet this expectation. There are basic concerns and problems that have to be addressed immediately to ensure a premium kindergarten education program. These include:
  • The hiring of 30,000 new regular kindergarten teachers who shall be paid in accordance with the Salary Standardization Law 3. This means that they should be paid as Salary Grade 11(with a monthly salary of P18,549) instead of volunteers who are given a monthly allowance of P3,000.00. And, of course, they should be given adequate training on early childhood education in order to be qualified as kindergarten teachers.
  • That there should be a teacher aide per class which shall be treated as “volunteers”. They will assist mostly in the technical aspect of the job of the kindergarten teachers.
  • Class size should be limited to 25 students per class.
  • Grade 1 teachers who are made to teach in kindergarten should be given additional compensation, that is, twenty-five percent of his or her regular remuneration.
  • Adequate number of classrooms and sanitary facilities like drinking facilities and toilets.
  • Provision of a meaningful curriculum that will truly benefit our learners. This should help the early learner in his or her preparation for her future – well-rounded citizens that should help in the development of our country. Furthermore, modules should be provided by DepEd. Our teachers should not be given the burden to reproduce these modules and pay them our of their own money.
Teachers in the Philippines are clearly aware of what quality early education entails. Unfortunately, DepEd and its policy makers do not have a clue.

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