In the modern world, with its ever-growing complexity, it is essential to learn about it as much as possible from the early years. Early childhood education has been rapidly evolving over the past two centuries. It is vital to comprehend the reasons that shaped the modern approach to early childhood development to enhance one’s understanding of the importance of education. This essay will discuss the historical events and legislative actions that shaped early childhood education.
What Shaped Early Childhood Education
Attempts to establish facilities that would promote infant development began centuries ago. The notion of kindergarten, which was introduced by Friedrich Froebel in the nineteenth century, stems from the idea that children must be in harmony with themselves and their environment during the teaching process (Morrison, 2018). Their interests were put at the center of this method and intertwined with intellectual and physical activities. With almost zero regulations during that period, kindergartens in the United States were run by non-profit organizations and did not have a single direction (Morrison, 2018). The next step was achieved by Maria Montessori, whose role in modern early childhood education cannot be left without attention. Her approach is further focused on making the learning process as attractive to children as possible and refers to their intrinsic motivation (Morrison, 2018). However, Montessori’s methods were not adequately appreciated before the end of World War I, as there was an abundance of opinions on how to teach children.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the situation began to shift toward unification. The first governmental regulations in this sphere were introduced in the 1910s, requiring caregivers to have special training, use relevant teaching materials, and limit the number of children per group (Morrison, 2018). Despite the attempt to standardize the teaching process, the ideas on how to approach early childhood education were not universal. The creation of the International Kindergarten Union (IKU) partially alleviated the issue via an official curriculum that helped facilities match the parents and the government’s expectations (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). Until the beginning of World War II, the role of an individual was in the spotlight. Nursery schools began to open for pre-kindergarteners to promote early enrollment in educational facilities (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). However, in the mid-twentieth century, the situation shifted due to external pressure on the United States.
The new paradigm of the value of education has been promoted to improve the innovative power of the United States. Political trends were aimed at linking people with their future careers as soon as possible (Morrison, 2018). The United States began seeking new ways of influencing the youth. Government childcare projects under the Lanham Act were established in over 3000 locations and demonstrated the need for expanding early childhood education (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). A growing number of childcare facilities reinvigorated research on the topic. The civil rights movement and Jonson’s War on Poverty legislation ensured that children must have equal access to such institutions (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). Organizations began to look into possibilities for bringing positive changes in society through early childhood education.
The promotion of kindergartens continued throughout the century as both parents and government officials realized the value of early enrollment in such facilities. In the past few decades, policies in the United States have been considering children’s education as an investment in the future of both individuals and the country (Morrison, 2018). Several legislative adjustments to early learning opportunities have been made based on this assumption, ensuring parents have access to such courses. Prekindergarten programs for children as young as three have been made available in 42 states, and almost all 5-year-olds attend kindergarten (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). The idea of infant schools has been reformed into daycare facilities where children’s productivity starts to take shape.
There were slowdowns in the implementation of new approaches to early childhood education. The recessions were detrimental to establishing a sufficient number of kindergartens and caused many such facilities to close during the early twentieth century (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). Moreover, politicians’ views on the topic caused disruptions as well. For example, out of fear of putting community above one’s family, Richard Nixon vetoed a child care bill in order to ensure that parental involvement would not be diminished (Prochner, & Nawrotzki, 2019). Eventually, the heated debates subsided, and the most comfortable option for both parents and children was established. Nowadays, government-backed programs, such as Head Start, seek to transfer knowledge to children while considering their needs (Prochner & Nawrotzki, 2019). It is apparent that the U.S. educational system will continue to explore how to provide the best possible outcome for students of any age.
In conclusion, early childhood education has been transforming in the past decades to accommodate the ever-growing knowledge base required to navigate the modern world. While infant schools have existed for centuries, kindergartens in the United States were primarily caring facilities. With the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the changes have brought up the importance of creating a nurturing environment in which a child can freely express themselves and gain valuable life experience. Since then, early childhood educational facilities have begun focusing on infants’ emotional development, social adaptation, and preparedness for school. Reforms in this field highlight the changes in societal values and improvements in understanding of infants’ psychology.
Morrison, G. S. (2018). Early childhood education today (14th ed.). Pearson.
Prochner, L., & Nawrotzki, K. (2019). The origins of the current era of early childhood care and education. In C. P. Brown, M. B. McMullen, & N. File (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of early childhood care and education (pp. 1-28). John Wiley & Sons.