By Anthony M. Wanjohi:
Despite the growing importance of Early Childhood Education, there are number of challenges that have continued to pull down its effective implementation. These include inadequate teaching and learning resources, socio-economic factor, High Teacher /Child Ratio with Poor Remunerations, financial constraint.
Inadequate teaching and learning resources
Many ECDE centers lack adequate teaching and learning resource and facilities suitable for ECDE in their learning environment. These include lack of properly ventilated classrooms, furniture suitable for children, kitchen, safe clean water, play ground, toilets and play material (International Association for the Education of Young Children, 1991). This implies that teachers do not have adequate teaching and learning resources to enable them to implement ECDE Curriculum effectively. This affects implementation of ECDE Curriculum negatively as creation of a sustainable learning environment helps deprived children to improve their academic performance (Offenheiser & Holcombe, 2003).
Malnutrition and ill-health are factors associated with the socio-economic factor. These factors can significantly damage the cognitive processing ability of children. Children whose processing capacity is impacted by ill-health and malnutrition may require more hours of instruction to learn various skills. As such, implementation of early childhood education may prove critical especially low income countries (van de Linde, 2005).
Socio-economic differences affecting effective implementation of ECDE also cut across regions, with some being labeled ‘marginalized’ or Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL). Regional disparities have significant role in facilitating access to early childhood care and education, where enrollment levels in rural and marginalized areas are low in comparison to those in the urban areas. Children from the marginalized communities in rural Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) suffer from lack of access to early childhood education. One typical example is nomadic Maasai community, which is one of the communities experiencing the least access to early childhood education and care because of way of life and regional disparities.
Financial constraints can lead to ineffective implementation of early childhood education. At macro level, Kenya has suffered from the heavy debt burden following its pursuit on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund fiscal policies such as the Structural Adjustment Programs. It is reported that these debt-servicing programs is partly responsible for significant reduction in government funding for subsidized education, health care and school related expenses. The result has been that families bear more responsibilities in implementation of early childhood education programmes (Kilbride & Kilbride, 1990).
High Teacher-Child Ratio with Poor Remunerations
Teacher child ratio has been a subject of much attention among researchers in relation to the factors facing teaching and learning process. Early childhood development education has not been left out. Research shows that teacher child ratio has continued to grow. On average, teacher child ratio for both 3-5 years old children and 6-8 years olds still remains critical. Teachers are not comfortable with the increasing number of children in their classes they handle (Dodge & Colker, 1992). Still with this high ratios, ECDE teachers are poorly remunerated and under the mercy of parents (most of whom have little or nothing to give).
This article has briefly highlighted the key challenges facing Early Childhood Education in Kenya. However, there are various other underlying issues like lack of proper government policy framework on ECDE which continue to hinder every good gain that could be realized in through effective development of early childhood program. Thus, there is need to build more realistic policy provisions in order to safeguard the integral development of the Early Childhood Education in Kenya.
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