The way in which the academic development of young children is approached in South Africa is changing, with the transition of early childhood development already underway and the new way of doing becoming effective from 2023 onward.
Here are some of the changes you need to be aware of and ways in which you as a parent can find the perfect school, early childhood development and learning programme for your child.
Grade 00 compulsory from 2023
Among the transitional changes parents will see being implemented is the obligation to send children to school from Grade 00.
In the past, school attendance was only compulsory from Grade 1.
An education expert says parents who now need to consider where they will send their young children from next year, need to do their research carefully to ensure that the school they choose approaches ECD from a child-led learning perspective.
This will ensure that your child’s academic journey kicks off successfully, with an age-appropriate curriculum that will build strong foundations and positive associations with attending school.
Do it the right way
According to Lynda Eagle, Academic Advisor at ADvTECH Schools, “schools have different programmes and approaches, and parents may be seduced by the idea of sending their child to a strictly academics focused ECD institution, which will turn their little one into a mini-Einstein before they even head to big school.
However, these good intentions are likely to fall flat, as this is not the correct and age-appropriate approach.”
She says that the early years are especially important and that leaning should be play-based as far as possible.
“One of the best approaches to this is contained in the Reggio Emilia philosophy of learning.”
According to her, it is entirely counter-productive to bombard young children with a curriculum more suitable for older pupils.
Parents should look for a learning environment that is not only aesthetically appealing but more importantly, one that allows for their child’s wellbeing to be placed front and centre.
“Young children learn best when provided with opportunities to play – where they can explore, discover, and experiment in order to make sense of the world around them,” says Eagle.
The school and its teachers should therefore be cognisant of this and facilitate the pupils’ learning journey through careful observations and by providing meaningful and relevant learning opportunities.
Other things to keep in mind when searching for the ideal ECD environment
- Look for teachers who are appropriately qualified to teach in an early learning environment.
- Identify teachers who have a caring and positive disposition, and who will view your child as competent and capable.
- Choose an environment where there is a strong sense of community.
- Find a school where teaching is engaging, relevant and interactive.
- Opt for a school that follows a positive discipline policy. Here, your child will be guided positively and supported as he or she develops social and self-regulation skills.
Uncertain about the transition?
If the right approach is followed, Eagle says parents can be reassured that the inclusion of the early childhood development years into school programmes is doable when it comes to the adaption of the new paradigm.
ECD teaching and learning approaches like the Reggio Emilia approach are well documented and provide schools with prime examples of best practice.
The emphasis is not on equipping schools with expensive resources, but rather connecting pupils with natural elements in meaningful ways, providing rich learning experiences, and helping them to reimagine and repurpose available materials.
This results in wonderful learning possibilities.