Can today’s EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION handle the POST MILLENIUM child?

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Early childhood education fortunately is getting a better position in our overall educational system, mainly because of one thing. The creatures we are dealing with, under the age of 5 years old, are the first community of learners who may never know boredom, and teachers are starting to know this. But are they doing enough to capitalise on this phenomenon?

We all thought that television would kill the curiosity of the young learner 30 years ago, but no one foresaw the magnitude of channels available to them. But unless you had 6 different televisions in your home in 6 different rooms, your six kids still had to agree on what programme to watch together. Or maybe Mum decided. The social interaction amongst the group often led to arguments, but healthy ones where everyone learned compromise. Next came the computer, where there seriously were 6 computers in the different rooms, and everyone could watch what they wanted to watch, and most importantly, play whatever games they wanted to play, and learn at the same time.

But now comes the next new batch. The ones who may consider voice and VR the most common vehicles for engagement, and the good old fashion i-phone will be considered something laughable for old fogeys.

But it is these younger learners who need more training here, more than ever. These are the ones who will have been given an ipad at 6 months old so that as soon as that Babinsky Reflex kicks in, they will be able quickly learn how to not only grab, but touch and swipe. These are the ones who have known nothing else but digital media, even the meaning of the word ‘library’ will only be based on their Spotify listening list. These are the ones who really need to teach us the new rules of the game for learning, as they are the ones who are at the forefront of the digesting information in a whole new way. 

Educational researchers need to focus almost exclusively on early childhood learning to understand the future that is ahead of us all, not just for this reason but also it is at this stage that we as humans are the most curious, the most willing to try something out, the most willing to fall and fail and get up again. This is the area of learning that needs the most new insight.

In today’s world the older employers are getting frustrated with the millennium approach to things. Which in a nutshell consists of:

  • Unwilling to commit to anything serious
  • Being willing to fail but not fatally, (easy if you don’t have much at stake)
  • See their future possibilities as endless and eternal
  • Not as concerned about financial stability as their previous generation

So what’s the next phase after this for our young leaners?  Will long term commitment totally go underground, will failing and being constantly real be the only realm to live in, will these people live in a world of endless opportunities of which will only yield enough money financially to live on and never enough to make serious purchases. And if this is the case, what will happen to the world in front of us? Will it be back in the hands of the ‘mature’ ones who are going to still carry the burden of all the financial debt? Will we be building an adult society of immature losers who only want to have it all and not work for it?

Well – there are plenty of people complaining about the new generation, but to me there really isn’t anything new other than perhaps a new delay of 5 years when it comes to commitment. And even then it is all relative to social, religious and cultural norms. I do believe that this new generation coming through from the early years right now are the ones to watch in terms of the new world we will be living in.

The law of nature demands that we are born and we will die, perhaps at a later date, but we will and continue to have an expiry date. Our concept of mortality is usually the very thing that brings us back from the immature world of fun and laughs to the real world of responsibilities and financial security. Money will still continue to be the thing that forces us to measure ourselves up, as well as of course our moral and social responsibilities.

The new early childhood education drive shows some promise with mandatory use of technology in the classroom, but there needs to be more than that. This is now, but our world is moving very fast and these young learners are going to be tackling education in more ways than just technology based programmes. There still needs to be the impact of extension technology, meaning, not directly computer based programmes, but that technology that will be embedded in almost everything we use or plan to do. These embedded technologies will be where the new young learner will focus. Holding an ipad in their hand may soon become cumbersome for them when a simple use of a word or voice or squeal(!) will get them anything they want.

Matthew Lynch in his article My Vision for the Future of Early Education, https://www.theedadvocate.org/vision-future-early-childhood-education/ , emphasises the building of maturity (physically and emotionally) and leadership skills, in those as young as 2-3 years old, as key contributors to a new kind of child at Primary and Secondary school. Enhanced programmes in what he describes as ‘Outside the Desk learning’, will balance the child in all ways in order to handle the onslaught of new forms of technology in their lives, as well as being valuable contributors in society socially as well as mentally.

Today we often feel our future to be totally technology driven, but it is still how and in which way we utilise this technology to advance our ‘humanness’ which will be of the most benefit to us. With not only innovative Early Childhood programmes, but extensive research on this area of learning, we will be able to navigate our way ahead.

Boredom is something that may become a marketable asset if only to ignite creative thinking, creative childhood leadership may overwhelm the adult generations with incredible insight and innovation that adults would find difficult to digest, and most importantly bringing us all back to who we really are, a big bag of flesh, blood, reasoning and morality….also known as ‘human’.  And the way in which technology presents itself amongst all this needs will be starting from when the child is born.

My quest is to see even more research in this area than before, and for Early Education to be considered of higher importance than even Tertiary Education.

Tough call but anything is possible now.

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