Early Years Childhood Education is currently a widely researched subject in the UAE and around the world. Because of its significance in child development and the establishment of the foundation of lifelong learning, Early Years Childhood Education has been scrutinized against a stringent quality standards framework formulated by the Ministry of Education through their knowledge of worldwide expectations and standards in Early Years Education.
Increased attention has evidently been given on best practice and required changes have been instigated where governing bodies are consistently working on making early childhood education at par with international standards and their current trends.
Therefore, UAE and Early Years Education together are going through a rapid transformation period where new trends are incipient and changes are being brought about creating an overall surge of development in best practice through reflection on current trends.
Early Childhood educators have recognized several emerging trends and changes in areas of the Early Education System. These are as follows: Curriculum, Pedagogy and Engagement Approaches.
The curriculums guiding Early Years Education are many. Though they all have differing elements their main philosophies are the same – holistic learning and development of children within a safe and stimulating environment.
In previous years early years departments would focus on ‘school readiness’ when referring to the curriculum outcomes. Repetitive exposure to numbers, colours, shapes, and phonics would traditionally shape the nursery day. Early Years Childhood Education at Early learning centers and nurseries today have steered their focus away from ‘school readiness approach’, now putting children and their individualized interests first.
The pedagogy has evolved into a more hands on approach. The classroom is organized and set up to allow children to explore, investigate and learn using their independence, creativity and imagination. Children are able to play as learning through play has now been more deeply understood. During play children are able to learn about their surroundings, and stronger brain connections are built. Play allows children to elongate their attention spans and focus on specific tasks. When at play, children are able to strengthen their motor skills, visual tracking and hand-eye coordination. Cooperative and independent play helps develop creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, language, and communication skills.
Early Years Education centers have also widely become aware of the role of nature in the process of child development. Research has proven that children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, learning and creativity. Children use their imagination and are able to explore widely when in and among nature. Nature has also made its’ way into the classroom – giving opportunity for play and learning through open-ended natural resources. Grass, wood and jute are among resources in classrooms today as opposed to worksheets and plastic toys as was previously seen. A stick in play can become anything once in the hands of a child if you allow their creativity to flourish independently and with no boundaries.
Often teachers were seen as being the prime and only educators in the classroom. Over the years this understanding and way of teaching has been replaced by a balanced approach where alongside teachers’ guidance the system is allowing for children and their environments to be their own teachers too.
Loris Malaguzzi, founder of Reggio Emilia Approach stresses in his teachings that, “There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment,”
Teachers are there to guide and facilitate learning. Planning is often based around what the children express interests in and children’s input into the daily and weekly classroom planning is appreciated and valued. Parents are also becoming more involved and engaged in their children’s Early Years experiences. Partnerships are developing through coffee mornings, parent workshops and event invitations. Involving parents has shown that children are more excited to share their daily experiences and are more confident explorers as they are aware that their parents are supporters of all that they are experiencing.
Overall, Early Years Education is an ever evolving system and it is important for all centers to keep up to date with the current trends and changes.