New early child development standards have been developed in Georgia
TBILISI. 10 April, 2008. The new standards for Early Learning and Development of Children have been developed by the National Alliance on Early Childhood Development within the Parliament Committee on Health and Social Issues in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science and UNICEF. The standards have been elaborated by the national experts and have been reviewed by Ms Lynn Kagan, the Doctor of Education Sciences and professor of Columbia and Yale Universities.
“In line with the international practices, the Parliament Health and Social Affairs Committee in 2006 placed strong emphasis on developing national early child development policy with the mission of extending and enhancing human life by providing good start in life. Over the last two years we have built the unified vision for exploring innovative ways to ensure that the survival, health and development of young children are improved through encompassing diverse approaches in health and education, from parenting programs to formal preschool education to informal community centers. We strongly believe that efforts to improve early child development are an investment, not a cost. This is particularly important in this turbulent political and economic situation when we are seeking shorter, faster, and more cost-effective ways of eliminating poverty and ensuring quality life for our population”, George Tsereteli, Chairman of the Health and Social Affairs Committee said.
The early learning and development standards for teachers and pre-school institutions are to ensure that adults, caregivers and parents know what children should know, and what children should be able to do, in the 0-6 age range. These standards will be a resource tool for caregivers both in informal and formal settings, such as day care centers, kindergartens, homes, etc.
“The early years matter and they matter a great deal to children, to families, and to society.” Says Dr Lynn Kagan, “The early years are the formative period of development, with the human brain growing to 80 per cent of adult size by age three, and 90 per cent by age five. Because children develop in the environment of relationships, early parental interactions with children and high quality early childhood programmes stimulate brain development and are essential for proper physical and intellectual development and school readiness.” - adds Kagan.
The research demonstrates that children in high-quality early childhood programmes form closer and more secure attachments with teachers, show more positive interactions with peers, have larger vocabularies and show better pre-reading and pre-math skills. Moreover, young children who have attended the quality preschool programmes are more prepared for school entry and have better high school graduation rates.
The research also proves that young children who have attended high quality preschool programmes save society money because they have lower rates of crime and incarceration and higher rates of employment and higher lifetime earnings. High quality early childhood programmes are a very good financial investment and for every $1 invested in high-quality early childhood education, $7-8 are returned to society.
The newly developed standards will ensure that children in their early years will enjoy high-quality early childhood care and development. The standards will also allow parents to understand developmental issues of children in the domains of cognition, literacy skills, physical and motor development, skills of personal hygiene and safety, esthetic appreciation and social emotional skills.
There are different kinds of standards: teacher standards, standards for society, Programme/School Standards, and Family Competence standards.
The process of developing standards for Georgia involved group of specialists from the early child development and medical field. The group used standards of different countries as well as existing standards in Georgia. Once the Early Learning and Development standards incorporate the comments of national and international standards, then the standards will be shared among larger public, such as preschool teachers and administrators, parent groups, academia and will become operational.
“The early learning and development standards are the heart of the overall pre-school reform” says Kendra Gregson, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Georgia “UNICEF is actively supporting the Government of Georgia in implementing the reform at different levels: setting the standards of child care and that of the pre-school institutions, development of the new policies as well as improving services provided to children in existing pre-school institutions, rehabilitating kindergartens, designing new curriculum and teaching programmes for children, enhancing skills of child care personnel in these institutions.” adds Gregson.
“I do believe that this comprehensive reform ongoing at the policy level as well as at the level of concrete pre-school institutions will have a huge impact on children of the pre-school age and will result in improving their learning capacity that they will become better prepared for school.” says Kendra Gregson from UNICEF.
UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science conducted a School Readiness Study in 2007. The study surveyed 1 134 pre-school institutions throughout the country to learn whether they can fully prepare a child for school, and whether they provide adequate opportunities for a child’s development.
The study revealed that only 44 per cent of children attend pre-school institutions in Georgia. The study also looked at current practices within pre-school institutions and identified that 20 percent of children seem to be falling significantly behind in school readiness. The results highlight that the quality of most kindergartens is below international standards.