Social and emotional learning in early years – crucial for brain development

08 January 2019
Dr. Rebekah Granger-Ellis - expert in social and emotional development, speaking at the first training session in Skopje
UNICEF/2019/Dimishkovski

Skopje, 8 January 2019:  The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in partnership with UNICEF and with financial support from the British Government kicked off a series of training starting today with 30 high-performing pre-school teachers who will lead a national programme on the social and emotional development of pre-school aged children.

 “It is our responsibility as teachers and parents to understand that social and emotional development in early years plays a crucial role in helping children learn how to become effective and mature adults,” said Elspeth Erickson, UNICEF Deputy Representative. “All children deserve the best possible start in life. Research shows that children who have a supportive home environment, and who have the chance for organized pre-school, early learning programmes which support their holistic development have better long term performance at school and better prospects in life.” 

A growing body of scientific evidence highlights that emotional development early in life is critical for the development of overall brain architecture and has enormous consequences over the course of a lifetime. Research also indicates that pre-school children who have acquired a strong emotional foundation have the capacity to better manage everyday social interactions.

Based on this scientific evidence, the two-year programme aims to balance the focus of early childhood programmes in the country on cognition and literacy skills with significant attention to emotional and social development. Children need social and emotional capabilities just as much as they need the cognitive skills required to master the reading and math concepts taught in kindergarten. Social and emotional capabilities enhance child’s ability to learn, work with others, pay attention in a classroom  and develop other skills that are the foundation for formal learning and social interaction in school years and beyond.  

The programme was developed to respond to the key findings and recommendations from a diagnostic assessment of the pre-primary sector conducted in 2018 by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with UNICEF support. The key recommendations include: strengthening the professional capacities of pre-school teachers; introducing contemporary approaches to professional development; improving teacher–pupil ratio, and coming to a national consensus on how to monitor and evaluate the work of pre-school sector.

In the context of child emotional and social development UNICEF is also supporting positive parenting and nurturing caregiving as essential components of child early development. To bring attention to the need to support parents in raising confident, respectful and successful children UNICEF supported campaign “Parenting is also learned”, which opened discussion on child development including emotional attachment, character development, parenting styles and the impact of adversities and stress on child development. These same skill areas are the central focus of the training sessions for pre-school teachers.

The training series for teacher leaders is organized by UNICEF NGO partner ECD-COR and facilitated by Dr. Rebekah Granger-Ellis, international expert in social and emotional development.

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