Changing needs of society and families and new research provide new directions in early childhood education. As a result, the field of early childhood education is constantly changing. These are some important changes occurring in early childhood education today that will influence how you and others practice the profession of early childhood education:
- Full-day, full-year services. Parents want full-day, full-year services for their children for a number of reasons.
- Such a schedule fits in with their work schedules and lifestyles. Working parents, in particular, find it difficult to patch together child care and other arrangements when their children are not in school.
- Parents believe that full-day, full-year services support and enhance their children’s learning. Parents want their children to do well academically. As a result, we will see more full-day, full-year early childhood programs of all kinds.
- Readiness for learning school readiness. There is and will be an increase in programs designed to provide families, grandparents, and others with child development information, parenting skills, and learning activities that will help them get their children ready for school. Working with parents to help them get their children ready for learning and school is an important and growing part of early childhood services.
For example, the Child Care Executive Partnership Program (CCEP) in Florida is designed to help employers meet the child care needs of their workforce. The Child Care Executive Partnership Act was established by the 1996 legislature, to expand child care subsidies for low-income working families by utilizing state and federal funds as incentives for matching local funds from local governments, employers, charitable foundations, and other sources.50
- Wrap-around services. Collaborative efforts in the form of wrap-around services (also referred to as an ecological approach) with professionals from other agencies and disciplines better use resources and avoid duplication of efforts. For example, many school districts work with social workers to help children and families meet their needs regarding nutrition, clothing, counseling services, and other means of support. Collaboration is all about working together to help make life better for children and families.
- Support for whole child education. Early childhood profesionals have always acknowledged that they must educate the whole child—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects. However, another aspect, the spiritual aspect, has not received enough attention. A recent trend is a greater emphasis on supporting children’s spiritual development through moral and character education.
- Early literacy learning. Brain research has created interest in the importance of early literacy development. There is a growing awareness of the critical role literacy plays in school and life success. Consequently, there are now more programs designed specifically to help young children get ready for learning to read. This emphasis on early literacy and learning to read will be evident in chapters throughout this book.
- Increased use of technology. More early childhood programs are seeking ways to enhance their effectiveness by helping children gain the cognitive and literacy skills they need to be successful in school and life. Many are turning to technology as a means of achieving these goals. The accompanying Technology Tie-In feature discusses technology’s use in early childhood education programs.
- Increased emphasis on subject matter.
- The politicalization of early childhood education. There has been a dramatic increase in state and federal involvement in the education of young children. For example, the federal government is using Head Start as a means and model for reforming all of early childhood education. This federalization will likely continue and expand.
- The increasing use of tests to measure achievement and school performance in the early years. Increasing numbers of parents, professionals, and early childhood critics are advocating for less emphasis on high-stakes testing in the early years.
Changes in society constantly cause changes in the field of early childhood education. One of your major challenges as an early childhood professional is to keep current in terms of new changes and directions in your field. In this way you will be able to judge what is best for young children and implement the best practices that will enable young children to succeed in school and life.
This is a great time for early childhood education and a wonderful time to be a teacher of young children. Early childhood education has changed more in the last five years than in the previous fifty. These changes and the issues that accompany them provide many opportunities for you to become more professional, and they enable all children to learn the knowledge and skills necessary for success in school and life.
50. State of Florida, Agency for Workforce Innovation, School Readiness Programs, 2005, http://www.floridajobs.org/earlylearning/sr_programs.html#CCEP.
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