Why Early Childhood?

Every dollar invested in quality early childhood education produces a 7-10% per annum return in better education, health, social, and economic outcomes. –Professor James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics

Enrollment in early childhood programs in the Middle East remains low despite substantiated scientific evidence underlining its social, intellectual, and emotional benefits. The US Department of Education notes that the years before a child enters primary school are critical to the child’s educational and cognitive development. The National Education Association highlights that children who enrolled in early childhood education programs went on to earn more monthly and were more likely to graduate from high school and have healthier, more financially stable lives. TYO is committed to early childhood education and creates structured environments for active learning, self-discovery, and play to help mitigate the difficult circumstances children face.

While Palestinian education has achieved over 83 percent enrollment for boys and girls in primary schools with attendance rates consistently over 90 percent, children still lack opportunities for early childhood education programs and access to quality education remains elusive (UNICEF May 2011). The children that TYO serves require extra psychological support and often struggle to excel. In the latter half of the 2010 school session, only 67 and 43 percent of fourth graders passed their Arabic and mathematics exams, respectively (UNICEF May 2011). This presents a unique set of challenges for typically rigid school systems that stress rote learning and are ill equipped to provide additional support outside the classroom. According to UNICEF, teachers opted for lecturing over facilitation skills, leaving the kids without the opportunity to explore and reflect on their studies. Students became passive, instead of active, learners in response to the teachers’ traditional methods.

In response to this need, TYO offers non-formal activities focusing on learning through play. Classes hold structured games that teach children how to follow rules, cooperate with fellow students, and lose themselves in laughter. Non-formal education gives students the opportunity to discover and express themselves. By encouraging children to express their emotions, think critically, and be creative, TYO empowers children who lack much-needed support elsewhere.