By Ayesha AlJanaji (@_AyeshaAlJanahi)
“Young children soak up knowledge about their world with the eagerness of thirsty sponges”. Although they may not be able to make sense of a lot of the information due to their cognitive complexities, all information is taken in and registered in their subconscious. Therefore, teachers who choose to work with young children must be prepared for a career with lifelong learning to be able to support children to reach their fullest potential.
Children in the early years are very interesting and appealing but they are also very sensitive and vulnerable. Every experience the child has and every word we say counts because it affects their growth and well-being. It is true that parents are the child’s first teachers but a teacher of young children has enormous impact because the growth of the child in the classroom is often concrete and more visible.
We need more qualified Emirati and foreigner teachers and coaches in our childcare centres to help create strategic approaches that foster children’s development. “Surprisingly, 85% of childcare center teaching staffs that are in direct communication with children are not qualified.
A qualified early childhood teacher can be described as someone with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a yearly minimum of 30 hours of professional development training, or a teaching assistant”
To cover the outstanding practice, teachers need to be committed to students and their learning, treating them equitably while recognizing their individual differences. Teachers can observe them working and playing, interacting socially, engaging themselves physically and gaining cognitive knowledge.
Commonly, children can be moody or calm, enthusiastic or disinterested, happily obedient or strongly independent and sometimes very sweet. Sometimes young children seem to be unable to understand adults’ point of view and this may add to our frustration. They are in constant motion but they get tired quickly. It takes a multi-tasking genius to be able to understand children and be flexible enough to adapt and provide the best learning experiences to the child.
Children need to have a variety of experiences in order to reach their full potential and this is sometimes difficult to achieve especially for inefficient teachers who lack child development knowledge. “According to recent figures quoted by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in a report titled Early Childhood Education and Care in Dubai, fewer than 5 per cent of Emirati children under the age of 4 are enrolled in nurseries”.
Some of the Emirati parents want their children to go to a nursery where both social and English skills are strengthened. They do not have any problem with multicultural nurseries. However, they worry that both culture and Arabic language will be an alien subject to their children when they grow. They stressed on the importance of introducing Arabic as the main language and give it priority.
Besides, they highlighted the need to get them exposed to our cultural values. Research shows that if we want our children to have a strong foundation for language, culture and heritage, we must start in their earliest years of life.
The goal of putting emphasis on bilingual education can be fulfilled by introducing both Emirati and foreigner qualified teachers. Children need to grow around consistent positive relationships and creative environments that will support them through their life development.
Although university students participate in practical work experience in childcare centres, many Emirati graduates do not work in childcare centres. We need to prepare both Emirati and foreigner early childhood workforce by increasing their understanding on early childhood education.
They must have knowledge of physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. They also need to take into account the culture, history and community values in children’s development and learning which will help them to plan programs to engage children in meaningful learning and assess their progress.
Teachers can prepare children to be fluent in both Arabic and English without losing out on one or the other since both of them are essentially needed. As Amjad Ezat, Principal of Dubai National School, said “The real balance right now is not between English and Arabic, but between having students fluent enough in English to enable their success at universities and in future careers, and fluent enough in Arabic to help preserve the language and culture”.
Written by Ayesha Al Janahi and supported by Arabian Child organization. Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.
23rd Issue – February 2012
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Beyond Inspiration
First Years Last Forever – Scenes from Our Lives – Society of Tomorrow
The Mind’s Eye – To The Point – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.