Early years are crucial, say educators

Early years are crucial, say educators
Students playing building blocks at the What Works seminar at the Emirates Aviation University in Dubai on monday. - Photo by Dhes HandumonHaseeb

Dubai - KHDA and other education authorities in UAE to give special focus on foundation years study



By Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Mon 22 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Feb 2016, 1:28 PM

Authorities in education will now pay additional importance to Kindergarten teachers and pupils, according to authorities and experts in the field.
A previously neglected branch of schooling, early years has gained great momentum and importance in the last few years, according to educators at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) 'What Works' series on Monday.
Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General Dr Abdulla Al Karam revealed that the exponential growth in early education has been eye opening and the KHDA along with other education authorities in the UAE will be paying special focus to foundation years study. "Everyone will now have to work to incorporate change in early education," said Karam.
Research has also shown that students who have high quality early years schooling are more likely to graduate from university, be employed, earn higher salaries and make a more positive contribution to society.The event was hosted at the Emirates Aviation University in Academic City.
Moral education gets greater precedence
Heads of kindergarten schools said character building takes greater precedence in building a strong early education foundation over academic excellence.
Education experts also expressed the need to inspire early years educators to help build good character and develop empathy in young kids. Growing evidence illustrates that developing character virtues brings many benefits, including improved academic performance and better mental health.
Bogusia Matusiak Varley, an internationally renowned early years educator said: "It is in early years that we set the foundations for learning. There needs to be discipline in learning and more importantly early years educators have to build trust with the children in their classroom."
More than 90 per cent of age appropriate children in Dubai are enrolled in kindergarten across private schools, according to KHDA.
"Teaching children how to start something and finish it is a pre-requisite for innovation. We need educators who can look at where the children are and where we need to get them to," she added.
Matthew Custance, Head of School at Floreat Wandsworth, UK said his school focuses on four character virtues - curiosity, honesty, perseverance and service to others. "Outstanding behaviour starts with dignity and if we see any children struggling, we restore their dignity and give them a positive direction. If we want outstanding teachers, we have to display outstanding leadership," he said.
Mouza Al Suwaidi, Chief of engagement at KHDA noted the first few years of a child's life are vital to their development.
"Supporting positive education from the early years can lead to positive effects in adult life. A holistic early years education is needed to help children develop to their full potential and sharing positive early experiences can have a life-long impact," said Al Suwaidi.
She added: "Parental awareness is an important factor affecting the development of a child during their early years."
Importance of early years
In Dubai, 55,034 students receive early years education, accounting for 22 per cent of the total student population. Earlier reports by KHDA have stressed the importance of raising public awareness on the importance of early years education, especially among parents.
Mouza added: "Early childhood is a critical period in the human development cycle marked by rapid transformations in physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development. Most parents clearly realise the importance of early education and its link with success in life."
Research shows that the development of important skills takes place early in life.
These foundational skills are not only important for a successful transition to higher classes in school, but also for later academic achievement and social adjustment.
Ludger Bar, Head of Kindergarten at the German International School in Dubai said: "Situation-oriented approach is very important at the kindergarten level."
Bar added that the formative years are extremely important and parental involvement is very important. "Parents must find time for children at this time," said Bar.
Some of the school-led sessions focused on enhancing pre-handwriting skills in foundation years, teaching maths through stories, encouraging children to become confident, teaching Arabic through arts and child-led learning among other talks.
Matthew Custance's top 5 ways to approach early years education
Leaders need to start teaching
Custance suggested that school leaders - principals and headmasters - need to enter the classroom and set an example for teachers, instead of instructing them on how to teach. "Most principals become administrators, that can change," he said.
Increased parental involvement
Foundation years are the most important years for pupils. Parental involvement at this stage is extremely important. "There is no such thing as a busy parent," added Custance.
Teacher training
Teachers need to be given mandatory training annually for three weeks. This must also be made mandatory
Character building
By the time the child is 10, he must have certain virtues and lessons that are deeply ingrained in him. Tolerance, humility, service and other virtues and very important for the overall development of the child.
Strict no-moaning policy
Teachers and staff must try and maintain a positive atmosphere in the classroom. Avoid moaning in the school about your problems.
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

By the time a child is 10, he must have certain virtues deeply ingrained in him — tolerance, humility and service — all of which are important for his overall development.
By the time a child is 10, he must have certain virtues deeply ingrained in him — tolerance, humility and service — all of which are important for his overall development.
Students read a comic at a mini library set up at the 'What Works Early Years' event in Dubai on Monday. A previously neglected branch of schooling, early years has gained great momentum and importance in the last few years, educators stressed at the event. - Photos by Dhes Handumon
Students read a comic at a mini library set up at the 'What Works Early Years' event in Dubai on Monday. A previously neglected branch of schooling, early years has gained great momentum and importance in the last few years, educators stressed at the event. - Photos by Dhes Handumon

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