Address concerns in preschool education

Learners in kindergarten attending class recently .  PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

The issue:  Education
Our view:  We urge the Education Policy Review Commission to mull over what the experts on early children development made known last week. 

Last week, the Education Policy Review Commission heard that children are missing out on structured learning and development opportunities in the first few years due to poor regulation and much more. Experts in early children development told the commission that children will as a result struggle to recover from this blow not least because their experiences from conception through their first five years invariably shape their next 50.
It is deeply disturbing that the action and inaction of nursery owners in Uganda are destined to unwittingly ensure that brains of children in their care remain severely stunted. The weight of evidence indicates that starving children of play-based learning will disintegrate with catastrophic results.

Since the nursery sector has been targeted by private equity, most of the private-equity owners have perpetuated a dangerous and pervasive preschool curriculum. The commission, for instance, heard last week that nurseries are bogging down preschoolers with “calculations and arithmetic.” The sheer size of schoolwork taken home serves to only aggravate the situation.
Experts in their pure relentlessness of perfectionism much prefer the right mix of teaching fine motor skills, listening skills, social needs, unstructured play and basic needs.

The current system is also stacked in favour of imprinting reading skills on preschoolers through the narrow prism of phonics. Experts, however, insist that early years settings should make it their business to teach children how to read and to make sense of texts. This, the experts insist, ultimately proves crucial to improving the life chances of the aforesaid children.
There has been a mushrooming of nurseries under the stewardship of private-equity owners with little or no training in early childhood development. 

Such nurseries tend to use poorly paid, undervalued and low-qualified staff. We believe this is a recipe for disaster, and share the existential panic that the experts that met the commission last week were caught in. 
It is our fervent hope that the commission captures the scale and gravity of this growing concern. They shouldn’t stop at this. To compound matters, private-equity owners of nurseries have contrived to ensure that childcare costs remain prohibitively high. This has crippled many parents who cannot with blanket certainty guarantee that the brains of their children aren’t stunted during what is—at any rate—a make-or-break stage.

We urge the Education Policy Review Commission to mull over what the experts on early children development made known last week. Strong recommendations will be of the essence to ensure that things get back on the rails. The commission should cover all the bases and make certain that not even a smidgen of blaming creeps in when this pertinent issue is put to bed. We owe it to our children because—as an old adage states—they are the future.