Early Childhood is the Foundation for Success in School and Beyond
During early childhood, the period from conception through age eight, children develop the cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. These skills develop in a simultaneous and inter-connected fashion, and the development in each stage builds on the capacities developed in the previous stage.
Rapid and extensive brain development occurs during the first years of life and this early brain development has been shown to predict performance and achievement in schooling. Children’s early experiences augment or inhibit cognitive development and the emergence of the varied skills that lay the foundations for children’s success in school and beyond.
These early experiences are determined largely by supportive family and community care practices, proper nutrition and health care, learning opportunities, access to quality basic services, and protection from risk, which in turn are dependent on enabling policies and investments for young children and families. When these enabling conditions are in place, children’s development is supported in every domain, laying the foundations for school readiness.
School readiness for ALL children
When children arrive at school ready to learn, they are less likely to repeat grades and dropout, and more likely to finish school. Ensuring this successful transition to school depends on:
Children’s Readiness for School implies much more than cognitive and academic preparation. Global research has shown that children’s success in school is predicted by a combination of physical well-being and motor development, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, language development, and cognition and general knowledge.
To ensure Families’ Readiness to Support Learning, families must have the information and resources they need to support their children’s early development, on-time entry to school, and enrolment and continuation in school.
Finally, School’s Readiness for Children occurs when schools are “Child-Friendly” and ready to support the needs of young learners. These “Child-Friendly Schools” are inclusive of all children; offer good quality teaching with child-centred instruction and a relevant curriculum; provide a safe, healthy and protective school environment; are gender-sensitive; and promote the participation of families and communities.
Helping to reduce disparitiesDisparities in early childhood development and school readiness mean that some children start primary school already behind their peers; these disparities persist and even widen during the school years, resulting in disparities in education completion; vulnerability to child labour, trafficking and other risks; and long-term social and economic exclusion.
Ensuring universal completion of basic education and long-term reduction of disparities begins in early childhood, through efforts to ensure that all children begin primary school ready for school.
Achieving a vision of school readiness for ALL childrenUNICEF’s vision for early childhood is that ALL young children in CEECIS will be developmentally ready for schooling, with a strong foundation for success in school and thereafter. To learn why many children in CEECIS do not receive the care, support and services in early childhood that they need to become developmentally ready for schooling, click here to read about the challenges.
Updated 30 June, 2011