Why early childhood education matters

WHY EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION MATTERS

If you happen to be pregnant at this very moment, look at your watch and start counting. Count to 60 seconds. And 60 seconds have just passed. It is astonishing that during that 60 seconds, your unborn child gains ¼ million of new brain cells. This has been studied and proved by Glenn Doman in his book “How to Give Your Child Encyclopedic Knowledge”. In this book, he stresses that “the structure and function of brain cells are very special; they are designed in a way that the more we use them the more they grow. The opposite is also true, if we do not use them, they will gradually lose their powers and their existing quick connectivity”.

According to many studies, the human brain is more powerful than any computer. Our brain is able to absorb all kinds of matters that are fed into it in a proper manner and at a proper time. As Bill O’Brien, a well-known psychologist, remarked, “The greatest unexplored territory in the world is the space between our ears”. Numerous studies also acknowledge this, especially those on the amazing development of the brain in little children.

Tony Buzan, a researcher once said, “At the moment a child is born it’s already really brilliant. Many studies have proved that it picks up language, much better than a doctor of philosophy in any subject, in only two years. And it is a master at it by three or four”. According to Gordon Dryden, research has proved beyond doubt that: One develops 50 percent of one’s ability to learn in the first 4 years of one’s life and the other 30 per cent of that ability within the next 3 years. In fact, the latest research shows that babies can actually hear in the last month of pregnancy. The sounds are often little muffled though, since it travels through the mother’s body to the baby’s ears.

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From the point of view of biology, the famous Russian biologist Pavlov commented: “If you wait until day three to start teaching a newborn, you’re already two days late”. This means, early education must start from year 0, right after the baby is born. We should not worry that early teaching might affect the immature brain of babies and wait until he is 2 or 3 years olds. At the very young age, the baby’s brain already possesses sufficient function and physiological characteristics to take in early learning.

The mass of a newborn human brain is about 390g and doubles to 780g at the age of one; and at 12, this mass is equal to that of the adult human brain of around 1400g. It can be seen that the period between 0 and 1 year old is when human brain develops and changes the most dramatically. In a developed brain there are 14 billions of brain cells as in a human brain, except that the furrows on the surface of cerebral cortex are more hollow than those of adult and the size of neurons are smaller. In an isolated state, brain cells have the ability to interact well with the ever-increasing connectivity of nerve cells, and the powers of the brain become more and more complete. If the brain is stimulated and aroused, there will be more and more emotions generated around each nerve cell. This forms better connection and communication between them. At this time, unusual stimuli will create positive influence on the brain such as language, music, perception of the environment…, which all become great impressions that help children grow and gain knowledge.

Newborns quickly develop ability to differentiate sounds and can copy the mother’s facial expressions or the sticking-out of her tongue. Even when he is just a newborn, he can take in learning naturally. Say whenever a newborn cries, you put on some classical music. When he’s a month old, he would stop crying whenever he hears the familiar piece of music. At 5 months old, he can perfectly remember this piece of music. He smiles and moves its arms and legs upon hearing it whereas he shows no reaction to other pieces of music. That is his inherent capacity to absorb education, allowing him to learn and adapt. This capacity of newborns is very powerful but it deteriorates as he grows older. That is the rationale of education for children.

Given these facts, it makes sense to start early learning for children especially and when the process of learning comes to them naturally through everyday exploration of their surroundings. Glenn Doman says, “Babies love to learn. In fact, they prefer it to eating food”. In an era of information technology, where we are constantly bombarded with something new every minute, it is impossible to know everything. Thus, it is necessary to foster their love of learning so that they can pro-actively seek out and absorb new and useful knowledge in their life later on. Glenn Doman stresses, “If you teach children to love to learn, then they can learn anything they want to”.

In his book “Frames of Mind”, Howard Gardner lists seven intelligence centres in our brain namely linguistic (reading, writing, speaking), logical (math, science, history, geography), kinaesthetic (music, sport, dance), spatial/virtual (art, skill needed in driving/flying), self-confidence, self-esteem, and interpersonal (relationships with others). Unfortunately, most schools concentrate on only the first i.e. the linguistic centre while overlooking the other 6 centres.

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Buckmister Fuller, a well-known educator, opines, “All children are born geniuses and we spend the first six years of their lives de-geniuzising 80% of that genius”. Obviously, we have gone wrong somewhere. Most schools have an emphasis of teaching that is placed on performance in tests rather than true learning of knowledge and skills per se. Testing differs from learning in that tests stress more on finding out what the child knows than what the child actually knows.

According to Jean Marzollo and Janice Lloyd, both experts on early childhood education, in their book, “Learning Through Play” say, “Play is learning and even more play is the most effective kind of learning.” Therefore, “the key is turning play into a learning experience, and making sure all learning is fun”. Your child is like an iceberg, 10% on the surface, i.e. the physical that you see every day and 90% under the water, in other words the intellectual, emotional and spiritual self. Parents should spend lots of time to nurture these unseen aspects of their child. So, if you are convinced that your children should have a head start in life, make sure they’re playing with a purpose.

Early education based on scientific findings not only allows children to develop normally, enhances brain development, builds their intellectual capacity but also plays a role in maximising their brain’s potential, giving them an enriched life. However, many parents have not understood its importance and thus often wait until the child is 2 years old and able to speak before they start paying attention to early education. Consequently, they have missed the ages when children can learn the most.

It should be well noted that parents should not confuse early childhood education with early teaching of knowledge. When early education is mentioned, many parents often think that once when their child starts to walk and speak, they should teach them numbers, colours…which is not the way to go… Early childhood education means encouraging children to explore the environment themselves, to interact directly with objects in nature, and through which they can express themselves, leading to the growth of the brain and stimulating their thinking. In this method, parents use language to communicate knowledge in a deliberate and well-planned way to foster the development of children’s hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch. These senses enable children to perceive the world and develop its intellectual capacity. This in turn fosters the growth of their brain and maximisation of their intelligence.

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