What is early learning? When and how does it begin?
In general, early learning refers to the time from birth through to the preschool age of a child. Whereas with education in general the education processes and concepts are meant, early childhood education implies further notions that are of key significance for teachers and pedagogues. In order to promote children as early on as possible, initial educational measures are anchored in both the upbringing and care. Hence, the German children and youth welfare civil code defines the sections, education, upbringing and care as the central task of elementary pedagogy, i.e. preschool education.
But what makes early childhood education so special?
In this form of child development, the focus is placed on the children, what they learn primarily results from their actions. The approach of early childhood education is more accurately defined as follows: every child displays certain competences from birth and further develops these itself to a certain extent. This particularly occurs when children explore their environment on their own and where the natural drive of curiosity is the main motivation. Children don’t learn as much in any other phase of life. What makes early education so essential particularly now? Early childhood education has especially taken on an important status in the agenda of the specialised staff over the past years. For example, all children are to be secured high-quality access to early education methods by 2030. This is due among others to the fact that nowadays significantly more children make use of a care offer in younger years as well. Hence, whereas in the past the family were responsible for the first phase of education, childcare centres have now become the important and first educational institutions. Thus, the pedagogic processes in childcare centres play an important role in the children’s development.
But what makes early childhood education so special?
If one assumes that early childhood education always takes place when children discover something that arouses their interest, childcare centres are an important place and the foundation for the ability for lifelong learning. According to UNESCO the goals include all measures of promotion from:
and emotional developments of a child from birth to the start of school.
These learned skills are however not only relevant in this time span, they also have an impact up until the respective child starts working. In this phase of life they learn how to enfold freely and independently, how to communicate better and at the same time their creativity is promoted sustainably. These skills facilitate among others the pending transitions to further areas of life such as starting school and they lay the foundation for further learning competences. Pedagogues especially pay an important role here. With the targeted implementation of concrete and age-appropriate learning material and concepts to promote skills, the specialised staff can support children in achieving the following targets more efficiently:
the promotion of writing and language through guided and moderated meetings. Reading together and the childlike fascination for fairytales and stories are examples of this. When reading together, exemplary grammatical structures, but also the vocabulary is successively understood and expanded.
the promotion of possible artistic competences through different offers such as special crafting lessons and musical offers.
the promotion of mathematical and logical knowledge through the offer of diversified learning material which comprises of exemplary listening exercises or special experiments.
the promotion of social competences through guided activities like concepts for group games or the promotion of physical exercise.
the promotion of understanding nature and the cultural environment through age-appropriate stimulation in books or through guided nature-related playing concepts.
the promotion of the physical perception and health through exemplary methods for enfolding the senses. Games, experiments and experiences involving all of the senses are suitable for allowing children to become familiar with their own bodies.
These are among others the educational areas that were laid down for all federal states at the Conference of the Ministers for Education and Cultural Affairs in 2004. If one considers the PISA survey carried out in 2001, its findings also underline a significant need for expanding the early education constructs and training of the specialised staff responsible. The constantly changing social and cultural infrastructure with regards to equal opportunities also requires further consideration. For example, children with language barriers also have to be guaranteed the same opportunities.
In order to do justice to the fast pace of early education, the further development of systems and networks is also one of the key tasks. This also implies the further qualitative expansion of childcare centres as the first and important educational institutions. Especially with regards to the current trend towards digitalisation and the general progressive changing times. Here important further training measures for teachers and pedagogues are on the development plan, as well as the appropriate and constantly further developing needs analyses within the establishments. Changing materials and concepts and at the same time the understanding of early education mustn’t be omitted.
didacta 2024 in Cologne offers themes and exchange possibilities as well as teaching materials to strengthen and further develop the role of the pedagogues. In general, it should be about presenting concepts that enable the specialised pedagogic staff to help children further develop in a targeted manner. These include new methods of a playful approach, educational areas such as logic, the effective and sustainable promotion of social competences and understanding. Early learning remains to be an important section that will be continue to be attributed significant attention.