Early Childhood Education (ECE) forms a firm foundation for a childs educational and health. However, in New Zealand, some children do not participate in these services especially those from the disadvantaged family background. The chapter two of this paper explores the reasons for the low attendance from the priority families, the benefits of participating in ECE services, the actions taken by the government and other activities that ensure increased enrollment of children in ECE services. The chapter also presents arguments from various scholars regarding the low attendance and participation in ECE services and suggestion that can strengthen the participation and attendance of the priority group children in Early Childhood Services.
2.2 Quality Early Childhood Education
New Zealand has a rich history in the development of quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) as it integrated all the ECE and care services as early as 1986. The integration of ECE and care services was a crucial step that demonstrated the understanding of the significance of the children education curriculum Te Whariki in the provision of holistic and unifying philosophy in New Zealand (Gambaro, Stewart & Waldfogel, 2014). The early recognition of the central role that ECE plays in children development impacted on the government policies that were modified and transformed to increase the recognition, status, and funding for the early childhood services.
2.3 Essential Components of Early Childhood Environment
Equality early childhood environments depend on the interactions between adults and the children. As argued by Gambaro, Ludovica; Stewart, Kitty; Waldfogel, Jane (2014), the process of enhancing childrens learning environment through the improved interactions between the adults and the children is referred to as the process quality, and it includes the following:
Responsive, reciprocal and warm relationships
Listening and engagement between children and adults
Engagement between adults and children that involves shared thinking
Adults who promote childrens learning, culture, identity, and language
According to the findings released by the Ministry of Education Statistics on prior ECE participation of children starting school, there are low rates of participation of children from the communities with deprived localities in New Zealand such as the Maori, which accounts for 96 % and the Pasifika children which accounts for 90%. Conversely, children originating from Pakeha/European records very high rate of participation which accounts for 98 % (Educationcounts.govt.nz, 2016).
Although the diagram above indicates an overall increased participation by 6.2% from 2003 to 2013, there is a significant difference in the level of participation among various ethnic groups (Educationcounts.govt.nz, 2016). Due to these differences, the ECE services offered in New Zealand can be said to be inequitable as some of the services are of low quality and surprisingly, most of the participating children from deprived background attend these services. These children do not enjoy the advantage of quality ECE systems as a result.
2.4 Universal Funding of ECE Services
There have been controversial debates on the issue of funding ECE services universally so that all the ECE systems will provide quality services to all the children. Human rights activists have argued that every child in New Zealand should be entitled to high-quality early childhood education so as to avoid discrepancies arising from the background of the childrens circumstances (Mitchell, Wylie & Carr, 2008). The human right activists base their argument on the fact that International bodies such as the United Nations support childrens rights hence taking the right-based approach to the matter. On the contrary, there have been arguments claiming that universally funding system will require extra resources and support through the Equity Funding Systems (State Services Commission, 2013). Their stand suggests that the globally funded early childhood education will increase additional costs to the isolated low-income communities so that they can afford ECE services that have a high number of children with special needs, English as an additional language and services that provide education in other languages other than English.
2.6 Reason Children do not participate in the ECE
Most of the children find it hard to engage in the ECE learning even though they desire to, or it is required for them to attend. The reason the children fail to take part in the ECE has brought forth different controversies with an aim of creating debates and ways to enhance and improve on the matter (OECD, 2013). The ministry that is concerned with the issue has identified barriers that prevent the children from acquiring skills that should be of use to them in the future.
2.6.1 Cost to culture preference
The New Zealand communities believe in seeking services that are within their cultural jurisdiction. These services require transport services costs and other expenses associated with the culture setting (Karoly, Kilburn & Cannon, 2005). Consequently, the childs attendance to the ECE depends on the time that has been set for the services and the location. Cost and cultural preferences, therefore, obstruct the presence of the children as they have to be accommodated by the other communities otherwise they fail to attend ECE services due to transportation costs.
2.6.2 Personal barriers
Some of the children are usually reluctant to attend to the Early Childhood Education since they are afraid, shy and cannot be able to engage in activities that are outside the community. The study has examined the fact that some children have got a negative education experience and anxiety due to health reasons. When a child has got health matters and skills, he or she will have that fear to attend full-time learning, and thus, it act as the barrier towards the participation of ECE education (Zwi & Henry, 2005).
2.6.3 Lack of awareness
Some of the individuals do not know that the engagement in ECE has got a lot of advantages to the child. The society just ignores the potential that is long lasting to the child who applies the knowledge in the future. Ignorance of the individual towards the location of the service provision and the impact of the ECE also acts as a barrier towards the participation in New Zealand (Statistics New Zealand and Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, 2010). When the parent lacks the importance of education, he or she makes the child miss attending and hence unable to gain knowledge. Some parents are simply naive, and they have no idea on what ECE entails or how beneficial it can be to the children.
2.6.4 Demands on family income
Most of the families that live in New Zealand are from a low or middle-level income. Since there are a lot of demands that emanate from the cost of living, the income depreciates, and when this is so, poverty knocks at the door (Magnuson & Shager, 2010). Restrictive resources and time to do them act as a barrier as the parents cannot access the services without the resources. The demand for the money become high compared with the money itself. The situations, therefore, inhibit the parent from taking their children to the ECE.
2.6.5 Parental choice
There has been a different study that has indicated that some parents have got the knowledge about ECE, how it is important and its impact on the life of the children but instead, the parents choose to contain their children at home. The type of the parents that wishes to retain their children, they do so not because they have low income or cannot meet the culture requirement, but because they see it fit to make their children stay at home. By doing this, they deny their children the rights to access knowledge and education that can be of helpful to them in the future.
2.7 The Benefits of Participating in Early Childhood Services
Early childhood education is essential since it incorporate the outcomes that come along with the future. The engagement with the Early Childhood Education assists the children to develop a firm foundation that helps them to expand their capacities at higher academic levels. The benefits come with the achievement from low socio-economic backgrounds to the high level (Kesting & Fargher, 2008). ECE has not only increased the impact on literacy but also in the numeracy skills and problem-solving skills as well (Attendance, 2015). The skills are for the future use in teenage and adult years. The competency of the child depends highly on the quality of the education that is offered in the ECE thus leading to high achievement and better social outcomes.
Research has been done where several of them have identified the links between the participation in the ECE and better social and economic outcomes. The link is considered to be more sensitive and stronger when it comes to the children being brought up from the low socio-economic backgrounds (Statistics New Zealand, 2015). The benefits of attending and participating in early childhood services are very many, and different research projects carried out show that the benefits are long term. The benefits are as discussed below.
2.7.1 Reduces the gap between children from a disadvantaged family and those from well-off families
The early childhood services help to minimize the gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who come from well-off families (Graham & Power, 2004). ECE services help the children to improve their literacy levels. Also, ECE services improve childrens attitude towards life. As a result, children attains successful social and economical life in future the same as their counterparts from well-off backgrounds.
2.7.2 Improvement of problem-solving skills
It helps improve their problem-solving skills as a child from a young age till teenage years and also while they are adults. Since living in a place with a lot of people leads to the occurrence of a lot of disputes which is the same even for the little children who join the early childhood services children learn how to solve their issues in a good way under the guidance of their teachers. Even when faced with tough decisions to make they make the best decisions that become a behavior they adopt with time (Wylie, Hodgen, Hipkins & Vaughan, 2009). It also increases their level of literacy. In the preschools, children are taught some basic educational contents, and this prepares them for further education that they will have to acquire.
2.7.3 Increases the level of literacy
The higher the quality of the early childhood service the higher the level of literacy meaning that it affects the future of an individual and will contribute immensely to their success.
2.7.4 It helps in developing the attitude of a child
Early childhood services assist in developing the attitude of a child. In the preschools, all the children are treated equally. Once they proceed to join the school, children fit in so well as opposed to those who did not attend preschool. The preschool experience enhances the manner in which children view themselves (Magnuson & Shager, 2010).
2.7.5 It reduces risks faced by children from disadvantaged families
Early childhood services ensure children from disadvantaged families are safe from the life challenges faced by these families. Such risks include Poor health, poor cognitive development, underachievement in schools and adverse socio-behavioral outcomes. Once they are in the preschools, children are assured of a hygienic environment that is supervised by the qualified teachers (Grace, Bowes, & Elcomb...
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