GPE, Introduce Sign Language in Early Childhood Education Programs That You Fund.
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The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines “early childhood” as occurring before the age of eight, in other words 0-7years and it is during this period that a child goes through the most rapid phase of growth and development. There has been a great movement in the development of early childhood programming by various stakeholders in the philanthropic and educational sector around the world, these efforts you and I will agree is very important for the future of children and holistic education.
Also according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on average across OECD countries, 32% of children aged 0-2 are enrolled in early childhood education and care, but this varies from lower than 1% in Turkey to as high as roughly 60% in Iceland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. In developing continents like Africa and Asia with a very low amount of investment in quality ECE programs, there is a not an accurate data on the number of children between 0-2years attending early childhood education, even though there are a handful of day cares providing early childhood education to most working families.
According to a statistical data from UNESCO’s , 2006 EFA Global Monitoring Report, the gross enrollments in ECE were: 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 22% in the Arab states, 31% in Central Asia, 36% in South and West Asia, 49% in East Asia, 49% in transitional countries and 59% in Latin America.
Considering that the future of early childhood education is growing and getting more innovative, coupled with the fact that we are at the beginning of a new decade, it is highly imperative and essential for us to create a new paradigm shift by implementing new approaches and interventions that will support and nurture the intellectual and cognitive abilities of all children in all early childhood education settings around the world.
Most children between the age 0-2years who start early childhood education cannot communicate to their teachers, parents and their immediate environment. In fact research has proven that most Infants fastest learning occurs from ages 2 to 5 years.
Speech and language milestones help tell whether a child is developing as expected. Milestones are certain skills, such as babbling, saying "mama" or "dada," or putting two words together. Usually, a child needs to master one milestone before reaching the next.
Babies usually start cooing at around 2 months and are babbling by about 6 months. A child usually speaks in gibberish, called jargon, by the first birthday. At 15 to 18 months, a typical toddler understands much more than he or she is able to put into words. Starting around 18 months, many children have a burst in talking. By 24 months, children tend to use at least 50 words and are also starting to use two-word phrases.
Keep in mind that the age at which children reach milestones varies from child to child. Some children, especially girls, are advanced. Others develop more slowly.
The above information simply outlines the fact that most children whether in developed or developing countries that receive or are receiving any form of early childhood education between the age 0-7years, would experience or have experienced some form of communication challenges because the age at which they start early childhood education is the very age where their speech and language skills are being developed.
When sign language is introduced in early childhood education, not only will the communication gap be bridged, but sign language will serve as an alternative method of communication for all children especially those with speech impairment disorders, delayed speech issues, whiles also creating educational opportunities for the millions of deaf children around the world who cannot access early childhood education because of the lack of inclusive classrooms and environments.
GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATION
In July 2019, the Global Partnership for Education released a knowledge and Innovation Exchange paper.
The purpose of this paper is to describe the current landscape in early childhood care and education and spark discussion and debate around potential areas for KIX investment.
This petition is a call on Global Partnership for Education and its partners, following the release of its Knowledge and Innovation Exchange paper in July 2019, to introduce sign language in all early childhood Education Programs that it funds and Implements.
Even though Global Partnership for Education works with Partners like Deaf Child Worldwide, to support and implement programs that targets deaf children, none of its innovations encourages sign language in all early childhood classrooms. How can deaf children attain inclusive education when the communication gap is not bridged in both early childhood and mainstream school systems worldwide?
Introducing sign language at the early childhood educational level means that by the time children get to primary, they will be already acquainted with sign language and teachers would have had enough time over the 5years period to receive training and enhance their skills in running an inclusive classroom, this paving way for an overall inclusive education by 2030.
In 2009, UNESCO published its Policy brief article on Early Childhood Education, highlighting the importance of early interventions in supporting children with disabilities and why doing this at the early childhood level will help ease the pressure on teachers by the time children advance to the primary level.
The conclusion on the paper as stated according to UNESCO’S Policy Brief on Early childhood education;
Conclusion: The Early Childhood imperative for the rights of children with disabilities is clear. With almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the growing adoption of the CRPD, duty bearers at all levels must be held accountable to ensure that all girls and boys with disabilities have access to life-long learning. If the Millennium Development Goals around universal primary education and eradication of poverty are to be met, EFA initiatives must urgently address the inclusion of children with disabilities from the early years, as they comprise one third of the 77 million out of school children. The 2008 UNESCO International Conference on Education sent a strong message to the international community, calling for greater investment in early assessment and intervention, inclusive ECE programs, and for equipping teachers with appropriate skills and materials to teach diverse student populations. In essence, promotion of comprehensive, inclusive ECE must become a priority for global development.
I strongly believe that UNESCO’S Policy brief is a sweet message, however little progress has been made by UNESCO, in ensuring that all countries it funds/supports and interventions implemented in such countries are really fostering inclusive early childhood education, especially in the case of deaf children, considering that DEAFNESS IS NOT A LEARNING DISABILITY, but rather a communication disorder.
If we must include deaf children in early childhood education, sign language must be introduced.
In April 2019, UNICEF published a data analysis titled A WORLD READY TO LEARN, which highlights the following;
What does UNICEF do to advance per-primary education?
UNICEF works to give every child a fair start in education. We support pre-primary education in 143 countries around the globe by:
Building political commitment to quality pre-primary education through evidence generation, advocacy and communication
Strengthening policies and advocating for increased public financing for pre-primary education
Bolstering national capacity to plan and implement quality pre-primary education at scale
Enhancing the quality of pre-primary programmes by supporting the development of quality standards, curricular frameworks, teacher training packages and more
Collecting data and generating evidence for innovative approaches that deliver quality pre-primary education for vulnerable children
Delivering conflict-sensitive early childhood education and psycho social support to young children and their families in humanitarian situations.
What should governments do to ensure pre-primary education for all?
1. Scale up investment
Pre-primary education provides the highest return on investment of all education sub-sectors. Yet, it receives the smallest share of government expenditure compared to primary, secondary and tertiary education.
2. Progressively grow the pre-primary system, while improving quality
Efforts to scale up access to pre-primary education should not come at the expense of quality. Quality is the sum of many parts, including teachers, families, communities, resources, and curricula.
Without adequate safeguards for quality, expansion efforts can intensify education inequities. It is only by investing in quality as education systems grow – not after – that governments can expand access and maintain quality.
-9.3 million new teachers are needed to achieve universal pre-primary education
-Only 50% of pre-primary teachers in low-income countries are trained
-Only 5% of pre-primary teachers globally work in low-income countries
3. Ensure vulnerable populations are not the last to benefit
Access to early childhood education has been slow and inequitable, both across and within countries. Worldwide, vulnerable children are disproportionately excluded from quality pre-primary education – even though it can have the greatest impact on them.
To ensure no child is left behind, Governments should adopt policies that commit to universal pre-primary education and prioritize the poorest and hardest-to-reach children at the start of the road to universality, not the end.
What does UNICEF call for to achieve universal pre-primary education?
1. The prioritization of at least one year of pre-primary education in every country’s Education Sector Plan.
2. Dedicated and increased domestic finance, with Governments allocating at
least 10% of national education budgets to pre-primary education.3. Donors to allocate at least 10% of education aid to pre-primary education, including in humanitarian crises, to catalyze and complement public resources.
4. Commitment to robust quality standards that underpin Government expansion plans.
5. Urgent leadership by Ministries of Education and Finance to make pre-primary education a routine part of every child’s education.
6. A common vision among Governments, donors and partners to make funding and technical assistance available where and when it is most needed.
The above framework or guideline UNICEF is calling for all governments and civil society organizations to follow and implement does not identify the lack of an alternative method of communication in pre-primary education (ECE) as a risk factor in providing quality early childhood education programs, when about 85% of children receiving or supposed to receive pre-primary education are either having communication challenges or yet to develop their speech.
Recognizing that children can learn better with proper language alternatives such as receiving education in their mother tongue, or exploring other methods children unable to communicate verbally can be ready to learn. UNICEF must therefore call on all governments to introduce sign language in all early childhood classrooms, every country has its own kind of sign language, so encouraging Governments to introduce sign language will not only enrich the quality and delivery of quality early childhood programs for all children in both developed and developing countries UNICEF works in, but will also foster the progress of the SDG’S Goal 4 for promoting inclusive education for all children.
Please help sign and share your voice for an inclusive future for all children
#INCLUSIVE EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION NOW # SIGN LANGUAGE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE#DEAFNESS IS NOT A LEARNING DISABILITY.
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