Early childhood education : perceptions, problems and possibilities
This thesis attempts to provide evidence, based in historical and contemporary research, of the importance of early years education, not only in terms of academic achievement, but of social outcomes as well; to examine the perceptions of teachers in relationship to societal influences and the effects of such on the changing educational needs of the child; and to suggest possible elements for high quality programme development in the early years. Section I attempts to set in context certain apparent key influences on the growth and development of early childhood education. Whilst the main focus of the thesis is a comparison of Britain and Canada, Section I also provides an international context by examining early years programmes in several other countries. Section II addresses the critical nature of familial and community environments with respect to parents' initial involvement as their children's first teachers and their continued involvement in a partnership with schools. This section also discusses the importance of early intervention for children 'at risk' in the context of its broad benefits to society. Section III deals with the methodology and data analysis of a survey of teachers in Britain and Canada. The survey, complemented by interviews with several of the respondents, was designed to gather perceptions and reflections from teachers. Section IV identifies features of successful early childhood programs in terms of what appears to work according to current research and the perceptions of teachers. In addition, it provides illustrations of selected programmes in Canada and Britain that have incorporated many of these features. Since societal changes identified in the thesis are urging educators and policy makers to re-examine their approach to early years provision, the last section suggests elements necessary for high quality early education programmes that will provide opportunities to maximise the individual potential of all children.