Building a strong foundation in the early years: Prevention is better than cure! Working across Australia in so many diverse communities and increasingly with our international connections, our team is constantly reminded of how important the early childhood years (particularly birth to age 8) are in relation to setting early patterns of attitudes, skills, beliefs and learning. So much discussion and deliberation, money and research is spent on adults; how to fix, educate, alter and improve conditions of health, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health, unemployment, speeding on roads, the list goes on! It is so much easier to learn and develop in the early years than to unlearn and then to re learn, as we get older!
Governments like to use measures and standards that emphasize results such as numbers in testing and scores, which tends to move societies to focus on children's education primarily into measuring success of schooling based on a literacy or numeracy score.
However, it is much harder to measure what may be deemed as equally, if not more important in the early years of an education.
What might be a measure of early education that builds a strong foundation for later life, where young adults may have some greater strength and capacity to withstand the pressures of drug, alcohol and other challenges that face all of us in life?
Here are some elements.
These skills and attributes are learned through experiences both at home and at school. They are not necessarily "naturally" acquired through temperament. The ability to self regulate, to learn to have a realistic sense of one's own identity and self esteem, to be able to express your opinion and needs, to think creativity, to explore yourself and your world, are constructs and opportunities that are far more complex than a worksheet on spelling or a Naplan test on numeracy.
The famous philosopher Thomas Moore in his text, The Education of the Heart states, "many are schooled, but few are educated".
As educators, parents, the community as a whole, it is worth reflecting upon the purpose of an education and the role of schooling, teaching and learning.
What is success we might ask ourselves?
Yes, to be literate and numerate is part of the answer.
But what else? And to what do we invest in at the beginning to avoid some of the hurts and challenges later in life?
What do we wish for our next society?
What role do we have as educators to assist with that?
Prevention is better than cure.