Stepping Up Early Childhood Education
Earlier this month, Vicki Palmer – an early childhood teaching veteran and founder of TicTacTeach, an online community and resource center for early childhood educators – shared with us the Key Benefits of Early Childhood Education. For Palmer, the first few years of a child’s life are most important for teaching life skills: cooperation, resilience, enthusiasm for life-long learning, exposure to diversity and respect, concentration, patience, and self-esteem. Palmer notes, “When children are young, they are learning sponges. Every new experience, every word they learn, every behavior they adopt, is an investment in a more fruitful future” – and there are many who agree! One study found clear evidence that early experiences lay the foundation for intelligence, emotional health, and moral development – and that how young children feel is just as important as how they think with regard to school readiness. Other prominent studies found that adults who were enrolled in preschool and nursery programs as children were more likely to have graduated from high school, had committed fewer crimes, were more likely to hold a job, and had adopted a lifelong learner mindset.
All of these studies reach the same basic conclusion – that early childhood education (ECE) has a tremendous impact on life outcomes. Yet across the world ECE does not receive the support – from governments and at the community and family level – that it deserves. In the U.S. only 51% of three- and four- year-old students are enrolled in full-day ECE programs, a number that has remained stagnant for 15 years. Support for early childhood development is even scarcer in Palestine. Despite high enrollment in elementary and secondary education, enrollment rates for early childhood education are below 40% for a full year of preschool attendance, and only 5% for nursery attendance.
At TYO, we recognize the importance of starting early, and Palmer’s 13 benefits resonate highly with TYO’s approach. Our Core Child Program supports children ages 4-8 in building self-efficacy, resilience, a sense of community and responsibility, and the positive communication skills necessary to becoming active and healthy life-long contributors to their communities. Our ECE curriculum puts the development of social, emotional, and physical skills at the same level of importance as cognitive skills. We focus on exposing children to diversity and new experiences in the classroom that they do not experience at home: for example, mixing children from the Nablus city neighborhoods and refugee camps, or mixing boys and girls in the same class. And although our Core program starts at 4 years old, we recognize the need to start even earlier. Our Women’s Group empowers mothers in our community to provide the positive home environment essential for the education and development of their youngest children. Through working with young children, their mothers, and the youth to become tomorrow’s parents, TYO ensures bright futures for generations to come.