Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

Early Childhood Education and COVID-19 Pandemic


By Sadia Soleh


Attending courses on Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED)and studying different related theories had shaped my understanding of the ECD concept in many different ways. Later, while sitting in the real context of an ECD classroom, I was able to get many new insights and these learnings led to the formation of my perceptions.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged our pre-existing practices.

Being a student teacher, I want to draw your attention towards how we can support the learning process of children falling under the 0-8 age bracket, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early childhood education plays a pivotal role in child development as it lays the foundation for later stages. From conception to the age of eight years, a child goes through rapid growth and development. A child’s brain develops faster than at any other point in their lives. These early years of the child’s life constitute the most important phase of human development.

During these years, physical wellness, mental abilities, social competence and emotional security are established (Al-Hassan, 2018). Since a child’s brain development is at peak during this period, they need different learning opportunities to learn, especially a conducive environment in which they can feel safe and secure.

Beside, a child needs a rich learning environment where s/he can access resources, including concrete learning materials. Experience-based learning leads to develop the brain and enable children to plan and solve problems. Moreover, it also helps a child to attend and control their behavior.

Piaget’s Cognitive theory (1896-1980) shows that children learn through their sensory motor skill and learn best when provided with opportunities to engage in hands-on experience. Furthermore, students need a proper set-up to learn such as proper space and learn resources. Conversely, this COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for teachers, parents and caregivers to provide such learning opportunities and resources.

Today it is not too safe for a child to interact with materials, friends or other people but it does not mean that we have to separate the young learners from the society or limit their interaction of hands on experience. The pandemic situation demands more individual support for a child. To ensure individual support teachers and parents need to redesign the activities that can help to cater their educational and social needs. Moreover, it is very important to provide children opportunities to explore things by ensuring their safety first. Children are curious to explore things and learn best when given them opportunities to interact with learning resources. For example, parents can use low cost and no cost learning materials at home to teach their child. It will help students to explore new thing around them and become active learners. Active learning helps children to construct their own knowledge and understanding by “acting on objects and interacting with people, ideas and events…” (Hohmann & Weikart, 2002, p. 17). As the pandemic limited the face to face interaction of children and adults. However, parents can help their children at home by creating a safe place where they can interact with other adults like their grandparents or other extended family members who play a significant role in a child’s development.

In Early Childhood Education National Curriculum of Pakistan 2002 (revised in 2007), a shift in emphasis is evidence of promoting constructivist learning practices that involve active learning, problem solving, critical thinking, play as well as cooperative learning and independent discovery (Pardhan, 2012). However, due to the pandemic schools are not open for the children from a long time, which raise the question that how these schools are ensuring the implementation of curriculum. For instance, many schools are assigning different tasks for the children but do these tasks capture the students’ needs? Do these tasks help to enhance the creative and critical thinking skills of a child?  Do parents are able to support their children with these assign tasks? Therefore, teachers, parents and caregivers’ interaction is essential to support the children’s learning and it needs a careful planning. These can be possible for teachers to interact with parents through telephone calls, emails and parent teacher online conferences. Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory (1896-1934) which reports that children depend on adults to fill the learning gaps for them, to tell them about the rules of any social encounter and to fill in missing information. This pandemic brought new concern. Do our children receive the proper support and information from the adult? Especially, in the rural areas where the parents have less understanding regarding early childhood education and development? Are they able to give adequate support to their child?

On the other hand, play and early childhood have a strong connection but due to pandemic it also constrained children from participating in play. Play in the early years is essential as it severs all aspect of child development. Moreover, play creates motivation in a child and he/she do it for the sake of pleasure as it gives them opportunity to be self-oriented and actively involved (Hartley, Frank, &- Goldenson, 2013). In addition, play is a natural and powerful way to learn and improve the development but a child also needs support and facilitation from the adult. As the children are most of the time at home. Parents needs to create indoor and outdoor space and give them freedom of choices to play that a child’s learning should not impede due to the pandemic.

In sum, child development and nurturing care influences the early experiences on the progressive development of children’s holistically. In addition, it has a great impact on the child later stages of life. Parents, teachers and caregivers support and praise has a major role in to enhance child’s motivation, self-esteem, self- concept, curiosity and self-discipline (Pardhan & Juma, 2011).  Therefore, it is important to ensure the optimal learning of a child. Teachers, parents and care givers need to work collaboratively to support a child that their learning should not be compromised. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes in our lives so, as for the children. Now it is our responsibility to create conducive environment that support the young learners and teach children the necessary long life social skills.

References

Al-Hassan, O. M. (2018). Developments of early childhood education in Jordan. Early Years38(4), 351-362.

Hartley, R. E., Frank, L. K., & Goldenson, R. (2013). Understanding children’s play. Routledge.

Hohmann, M., & Weikart, D. P. (2002). Active Learning: The Way Children Construct Knowledge. Journal of At-Risk Issues8(1), 25-28.

Pardhan, A., & Juma, A. (2011). Early childhood education and development teacher guide.

Pardhan, A. (2012). Pakistani Teachers’ Perceptions of Kindergarten Children’s Learning: An Exploration of Understanding and Practice. Frontiers of Education in China7(1), 33-64.

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