Despite the growing importance of Early Childhood Education (ECE), there are a number of challenges that have continued to pull down its effective implementation. In this article, a number of major challenges have been briefly discussed. These include lack of adequate teaching and learning resources, socio-economic factors, high teacher-child ratio with poor remunerations, and financial constraints.
Malnutrition and ill-health are an example of the factors associated with the socio-economic factors. 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 ECE 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 and marginalized in developing countries suffer from lack of access to early childhood education. They are left at the mercy of the community.
Financial constraints can lead to ineffective implementation of early childhood education. At macro level, a good number of developing countries have suffered from the heavy debt burden following their 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 are 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 the implementation of early childhood education programmes.
Inadequate teaching and learning resources
Many ECE centers lack adequate teaching and learning resources and facilities suitable for ECE 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. This implies that teachers do not have adequate teaching and learning resources to enable them to implement effectively the ECDE Curriculum. This affects the implementation of ECE Curriculum negatively as creation of a sustainable learning environment helps deprived children to improve their academic performance (Offenheiser and Holcombe, 2003).
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 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 the classes they handle (Dodge and Colker, 1992). With high ratios, ECE teachers are poorly remunerated and under the mercy of parents (most of whom have little or nothing to give)
The major factors that have continued to affect effective implementation of Early Childhood Education in developing countries go beyond social-economic, financial, teaching and learning resources and teacher-pupil ratio. There is also gap in Policy framework. As such, to address the challenges facing ECE, right policies must be pu implemented.
UNESCO (2007) Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, Strong foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education, UNESCO.
Offenheiser, R. and Holcombe, S. (2003) Challenges and Opportunities in Implementing a Rights-based Approach to Development: An Oxfam America Perspective. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 32(2): 268.
Dodge, D.T. and Colker, L.J. (1992) The Creative Curriculum for Early Childhood,Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies Inc.