While early education is widely regarded as a necessary service during the early childhood stage, the extent of its effectiveness depends largely on the standard of the programme itself. If the quality of early education is high, then the advantages of the programme will, most likely, be long-term. Inversely, if the content of the programme is of a lesser quality, then the positive effects of such early education will probably only last for the period of time in which the education is being received, or for a short time after that.

Unfortunately, the quality of early education is often fairly low. The higher the quality of early education, the more expensive it tends to be. Since infants who are from low-income households are most in need of early education programmes, it is ironic that they are the ones who do not have access to better quality early education – because of fees.

What makes early education programmes effective?

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the overall quality of early education. Firstly, the programmes require professionals, competent and engaging teachers in order to operate well. They should be experienced in providing early education skills, and should be role-models to their young students. Furthermore, they should be constantly tracking the progress of the children.

The next key feature of effective education for  young children is a suitable environment. Infants should have access to a secure, caring and stimulating setting that is mediated by appropriate staff. In addition, the programme should make available healthy foods and snacks.

Another area that determines the quality of education for young children programmes is that there is good organisation and regular scheduling in the form of lesson or activity plans. Ideally, activities should be organised in such a way that infants are not hurried along and they do not become too tired. The activities should focus on developing the use of language, early mathematical ability and early reading skills. In addition, the overall objective of the programme should focus on child development in a multifaceted manner – that is, it should teach a variety of different skills. Moreover, activities should involve a lot of play (a key part of childhood learning).

Parents should be involved

Other important elements of early education programmes include high levels of parental involvement and good grouping methods. Teachers should communicate with parents regarding the progress of their child, the infant’s strengths and weaknesses, and what parents can do at home to complement the benefits being received from the programme. In terms of grouping, there should be activities that vary in group size: individual, small-group and big-group activities are all important.

Topics covered in effective education for young children

If the quality of ]education is sound, programmes will expose children to: learning the letters of the alphabet; coming into contact with new vocabulary; understanding the phonetic aspect of the alphabet; learning the basics of writing; coming into contact with written words by interacting with books and by listening to stories being read; and encountering maths and science for the first time.

Indeed, the quality of education for young children has a powerful influence on the continued success of the infants receiving such education.