The structure and content of early childhood care and education (ECCE) in Malaysia has evolved in light of several neuroscientific findings that recognise the impact of experiences on the developing brain in the first five years of life.
Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng, President of National Early Childhood Care and Education Council, was presenting on “Early Childhood Care and Education: An Evolution” to over 140 people at the public talk on ECCE organised by WOU’s School of Education, Languages and Communications at the main campus today. The audience comprised mainly ECCE providers and preschool teachers.
She said ECCE has evolved structurally from two separate units comprising childcare and preschool under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, and the Ministry of Education respectively to an integrated entity to provide a smooth progression from childcare to preschool. She shared that both Ministries have formed a committee co-chaired by the respective Ministers to systematise the regulations and operations of early childhood education.
Dr Chiam highlighted the evolution in the content of ECCE as well, as reflected in the Programme Standards on what a child in preschool today needs. She stated that the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) has set up Programme Standards for all ECE programmes, ranging from Certificate to PhD in ECE, adding that the Programme Standards were enforced in May 2015. “The programme standards has been planned that it contains all the knowledge and competencies needed by every preschool teacher to become a professional early childhood educator.”
She said the teacher does not merely teach the child to read, write and draw but must provide the right kind of environment and experience to give them the right start in life and have a strong foundation. She added that the teacher must therefore be ethical and moral and enable the child in terms of safety, health, nutrition and mental health. As such, the curriculum should teach the teachers how to develop good mental health, how to guide the young child with appropriate discipline, and how to assess.
She said the Malaysian Ministry of Education has therefore invested in quality ECCE, through measures like instituting Programme Standards for all early childhood programmes to ensure trainees of ECCE receive the necessary knowledge and competencies and lecturers have appropriate qualifications. The Ministry has also enforced Diploma in ECE as the minimum qualification of preschool teachers and set up the National ECCE Council to professionalise and assure quality control of the ECCE industry.
Dr Chiam elaborated that neuroscientific findings show that at birth, the child has 100 billion neurons that need interactions with human beings, right experiences and the right environment to allow for the brain to develop, while negative influences like abuse, neglect, etc generate the stress hormones that adversely affect the child’s development.
She said the findings of both economists and neuroscientists confirm the importance of quality ECCE from birth to at least 6 years of age, in the reduction in dropout and crime rates as well as in the reduction of expenses for justice administration, healthcare, security and welfare.
She also said the National ECCC Council is working on an enactment to change the image of early childhood educators as professionals.