[EDLING:1533] FWD: Few trained in child care

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Few trained in child care

DR CHIAM Heng Keng used to observe students during their practical training in childcare centres. She was shocked to find young children being pressured to read, and scolded and shut in bathrooms as punishment for bad behaviour. The children showed signs of distress.

This article is from The Star Online (http://thestar.com.my)
URL: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/5/4/lifeparenting/20060503180358&sec=lifeparenting

Thursday May 4, 2006

Few trained in child care


DR CHIAM Heng Keng used to observe students during their practical training in childcare centres. She was shocked to find young children being pressured to read, and scolded and shut in bathrooms as punishment for bad behaviour. The children showed signs of distress.

Many parents pay a lot of money to child-minders, many of whom do not have the professional qualifications to care for children.

In another scenario, a three-year-old boy had to write five pages of ABCs. The child cried because his fingers were tired. While many preschool teachers think that such academic discipline would give the child a head start, it may actually kill the child’s interest for learning and increase the possibility of him dropping out of school, said Chiam, a former social psychology lecturer with Universiti Malaya. 

Faced with this concern, Chiam founded the Association of Professional Early Childhood Educators (MAPECE) last year to promote professionalism in childcare and preschool education. 

Currently, many do not have the proper qualifications needed to be child-minders or preschool teachers. While child centres are supposed to be regulated by the Women Affairs and Family Development Ministry and preschool centres by the Education Ministry, there is a lack of monitoring. 

Moreover, franchisees of early education set-ups go to the Entrepreneur Ministry to get their licences; most do not register with the Women Affairs and Family Development Ministry or the Education Ministry, thinking that approval by the Ministry of Entrepreneur & Co-operative Development is sufficient. If teachers are professionally trained, at least a certain level of quality is assured despite the lack of monitoring, she said.

Some untrained teachers, for instance, make three- or four-year-old children sit and write, when they are supposed to be running around and developing their motor skills. 

This puts a lot of stress on the children. 
“They may be able to read according to phonetics but they understand little and there is little enjoyment in it for them. 

Flash cards, too, are not appropriate tools because words are still abstract for them at that stage. Children learn by looking and touching at that age,” said Chiam.

The emphasis on academic learning at such a young age affects boys more than girls because the corpus callosum (which connects the left and the right hemispheres of the brain) of boys is generally smaller than that of girls and hence the information-connecting process is slower for boys and makes desk-bound learning more difficult for them. 

“Boys are more physical at this stage and they have difficulty paying attention if they are made to sit down to read and write.

 Instead of helping them, it increases their restlessness. For girls, their left hemisphere (which governs language learning and reasoning) are better developed than boys, hence they are better at learning languages and are more verbal,” she said.

Chiam believes that stifling learning methods in early childhood can create a gap in the girl-boy achievement ratio in later years. Boys tend to drop out of school earlier because the right foundation has not been laid to create interest in learning, and they feel that they cannot achieve. This possibly contributes to the trend of more girls than boys enrolling in university. 

People think that anyone who can teach ABCs to preschoolers is qualified to teach but that is not the case. Childcare providers should know how to enable children to develop physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually (by acquiring moral values and ethics). 

“For instance, a child may bite another child who angered him. It is best to help him manage his emotions and teach him to verbalise his anger rather than resort to violence. After all, as lifestyle becomes more stressful, it is important to help children manage their emotions,” said Chiam.

As such, childcare and preschool teaching is a profession and no untrained person should look after children in a childcare centre or teach in kindergarten, she said. 

It is not sufficient for graduates in other disciplines to start teaching in a preschool after merely attending a nine-month course even though they may be qualified to teach primary school pupils. 

“In developed countries, preschool children are taught by professionals and hence, the dropout rate in school in later years is low because they have the right foundation and children enjoy learning and have learned to cope with life well,” she said.

MAPECE membership is open to Malaysians as well as non-Malaysians who are working or studying in Malaysia. They must be an authority in early childhood care and/or education as evidenced by significant contribution to early childhood care/education or research in child development, have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate in early childhood education, or have a diploma in early childhood education (six-semester course) accredited by the National Accreditation Board or recognised by the Public Service Department.

<li> For more information on MAPECE, call 03-8060 9896.

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