Early age is crucial for the development of the human brain. If the childhood education of preschool is organized competently, the child’s essential personality traits are formed on time:
They allow the child to successfully study in primary school and in subsequent stages of development. What we receive in preschool-age influences our future life, which is why high-quality and diverse preschool programs are so important. Unfortunately, early childhood is one of the most neglected sectors of education in Ethiopia. Despite recognizing the importance of early learning around the world, too many children in Ethiopia still lack expanded access to quality early childhood education programs.
In the early childhood education sector in Ethiopia, many problems limit access to the transformation for individual generations and the nation as a whole. Difficulties in determining the content means and methods most suitable for children’s harmonious social and psychophysical development can be noted. Problems with creating conditions for enriching the experience of interaction between children of different ages and expanding their ideas about cultural and ethnic diversity are possible. The complexity of preschool programs should also be emphasized in all children’s join education and upbringing, including healthy children and special needs. Hence, the problem of developing and implementing methods aimed at restructuring the activities of preschool institutions to fully meet the needs of the family.
The problem of accessibility, in principle, to preschool education is widespread. Access to primary schools is limited to urban areas, primarily the private sector or faith-based organizations. Problems are also associated with the lack of appropriate teaching materials, space for games, and learning about the various processes necessary for socialization (Adam, 2020). In addition, most preschool institutions are located in places that are not particularly safe and suitable for early childhood education because the conditions do not meet sanitary standards and the needs of young children.
However, early childhood education is impossible without a particular place and people, teachers who have the necessary competencies, provide care and education to children. So the impossibility of introducing high-quality preschool programs can be associated with the learning environment. The necessary equipment and well-organized classes with a creative design will encourage the child to explore, experiment, and develop. Through the transformation of visual images into specific objects, children strive to understand the world. Therefore, the situation, in this case, plays a significant role. Educational materials, equipment, toys should be provided for use, contributing to more significant interaction of the child with the world and development.
Early childhood education is vital to the subject-play environment since the primary type of child’s activity is play. Its influence on the versatile development of the personality can hardly be overestimated. Creating a subject-play environment should ensure a wide variety of children’s games in a preschool institution. Space design problems can stem from the denial of funding for early childhood education programs in a particular area. Still, this situation needs to be changed for the benefit of the children. It has been proven that children with preschool experience have significantly higher cognitive indicators and results than children without preschool experience.
A special requirement should be made for the subject-play environment since the environment is the primary means of developing the child’s personality and the source of his knowledge and social experience. The nature of the game, the child’s actions, and his feelings and experiences largely depend on this. The necessary programs should contribute to the preschooler’s development, where the subject-play environment is filled with a good meaning, encouraging the child to take positive actions. However, the environment can display instruments of violence, cruelty, weapons that stimulate aggression, destructive behavior, the traumatic psyche of a preschooler. It can even form in children distorted ideas about the world and morality, undermining the humane beginning of the forming personality.
At present, the game is effectively used in many areas, even in adult life: in economics, politics, sociology, linguistics, psychotherapy. Parents and teachers face the task in full and with greater functionality to correctly include play activities in the modern educational space of families and schools. It has been proven that children with rich play experience are more flexible, prepared for creative activity and, at the same time, purposeful behavior than their peers with a deficit of play practice.
The effectiveness of the influence of the subject-play environment on the personality of a child in early childhood education largely depends on the ability of teachers to organize it expediently. Skill shortages are a significant challenge to expanding access to quality early childhood education programs in Ethiopia. The teacher must have the corresponding competencies, be aware of the responsibility, and know how to correctly build the educational process in variability conditions to realize the right to academic freedom. For a teacher, it is necessary to know teaching methods and understand medicine, defectology, deaf pedagogy, and other areas. Due to numerous duties, stressful situations, and daily responsibilities, pedagogical burnout can occur. This situation contributes to staff turnover, but other cases may impede the expansion of access to quality early childhood education programs in Ethiopia.
Some teachers do not accept innovative methods; unprepared for change; they are guided by methods of the past that are not suitable for today’s children. In innovative education programs, the subject content merges, shaping new forms of the pedagogical process with a focus on integrated forms of learning. Considering the individual characteristics of each, the new approach should focus on the partner relationship between the adult and the child.
A pedagogical worker who implements high-quality early childhood education programs must have formed basic competencies to consider the age characteristics of preschoolers, forming tasks and situations for development. The set of competencies enables the child to feel emotionally comfortable, to feel help, support, and assistance to the initiatives involved in the educational process. The subject-spatial environment is of decisive importance for implementing preschool education programs; therefore, it must be transformable, accessible, multifunctional, variable, and meaningful. This aspect takes into account the age characteristics, the child’s satisfaction with the development of sensory skills, taking into account the psychophysiological characteristics, and the satisfaction of the needs of proximal development. In the preschool education group, children should feel emotional well-being; the educator should translate this (Wolf et al., 2017). The described problem may be associated with the lack of an educational environment that would meet the relevant standards, which is possible due to minimal funding and government support for such programs and institutions. Poor funding is also relevant for teachers who need methodological and didactic literature to work with children, which does not contribute to acquiring the necessary knowledge and competencies.
Alarming trends in recent decades indicate that the number of children with health problems is growing steadily. The introduction of inclusive education programs is the leading solution to the problems of accessibility of upbringing and education of children with disabilities. The inclusive education model assumes the creation of a unique learning environment that is barrier-free, which contributes to the adaptation of children with special needs.
The number of children with disabilities in the country is increasing. Still, there is a lack of suitable forms of education that would meet children’s abilities in this category. Numerous problems of social integration, adaptation, and, consequently, “defective secondary socialization” can be traced (Tefera, 2018). This all makes it possible to conclude that Ethiopia’s educational and social policy in relation to children with any developmental disabilities is far from perfect. In order to achieve better results in preparing special children and subsequently successfully integrating them into society, it is necessary to introduce inclusive programs from early childhood education to institutions with healthy peers. Related to this are the problems of accessibility to education that exist in Ethiopia.
To conclude, the preschool education sector in Ethiopia has many challenges that impede the expansion of access to quality programs. The problem of access to education is related to the lack of competent teachers and necessary preschool institutions that meet the needs of children. On the part of the state, it is necessary to finance preschool institutions to create favorable conditions for development. The goal of teachers is to provide education and a comfortable environment conducive to emotional well-being and support for individuality competently. There is a crucial issue of accessibility, implying inclusiveness, where the adaptation of the educational environment to the needs of special children is required. There is a need for joint efforts of both the state and parents to settle the problems and change the future for the benefit of the growing generation.
Adam, F. (2020). Early childhood education in Ethiopia: A case study with implications for Ethiopian immigrants [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. School of Education Student Capstone Theses and Dissertations.
Tefera, B. (2018). Early childhood care and education (ECCE) in Ethiopia: Developments, research, and implications. Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review, 34(1), 171-206.
Wolf, S., Halpin, P., Yoshikawa, H., Dowd, A. J., Pisani, L., & Borisova, I. (2017). Measuring school readiness globally: Assessing the construct validity and measurement invariance of the International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) in Ethiopia. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 41, 21-36.