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What Is The Most Important Factor In A Child’s Education?

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    Education is a key aspect of life, and each child should have the opportunity to receive at least a basic education. In Australia, many factors can affect how well a child does in school. They include family income, whether or not they attend preschool and what type of curriculum they learn from.   

    Family income is one factor that affects children's educational opportunities. In addition, low-income families may live in unsafe neighbourhoods or experience other struggles which could inhibit their ability to provide an enriching environment for their children. Some low-income parents also work multiple jobs, so they cannot spend as much time with their kids as higher wage earners might be able to do. 

    With the ever-changing world, children need to be aware of what they are learning so that they may continue to grow and learn. Australia's education system has many aspects which can help or hinder their future. Of course, the most important factor in a child's Australian education will always be parents, but other factors can play into how well they do academically as well. 

    Schooling is one of the first key factors in a child's education because it helps them develop skills necessary for success later on in life - not just at school but also with personal activities like cooking or playing sports. Therefore, parents should make sure their child attends school regularly, completes assignments on time, participates in class discussions and gets good grades. 

    Parents Most Influential Factor In A Child’s Education

    How is it that in a country as prosperous as Australia, one in five children are developmentally at risk by the time they start school?

    What’s more, the problem is twice as great for disadvantaged groups.

    Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have a greater risk of poor health, social, emotional, cognitive and language problems that affect their educational progress, literacy, numeracy, and long-term social skills, employment prospects, health, adjustment and criminality.

    This can have a lifelong impact – the 2012 OECD report reveals that 20% of Australians do not have good basic literacy skills.

    Two aspects of the child’s early environment can be changed and which shape a child’s long-term outcomes:

    • The extent to which families offer children a nurturing environment that provides learning opportunities.
    • The early childhood education and care that children may receive out of the home.

    What Parents Do Is More Important Than Who Parents Are

    Longitudinal studies have shown that getting learning help at home and going to preschool positively impacts literacy and numeracy development in early primary school.

    A study involving 4000 children in the UK found that parents who provided learning support at home positively impacted their child’s cognitive, language, and socio-emotional development, regardless of the parent’s class or educational background.

    This can be anything from reading to the child, library visits, singing songs, reading poems or nursery rhymes.

    The powerful influence of the early home learning environment was apparent in the preschool period and when children started school and continued right through to the end of school.

    Improving The Home Learning Environment

    When looking at children who performed well against the odds, case studies revealed that some disadvantaged families provided a very good early home learning environment, and this was a critical factor in their child’s later success.

    Closing the gap in educational attainment between children from affluent and disadvantaged homes is increasingly seen as a major societal goal.

    Improving the home learning environment of socially and financially disadvantaged children would be a worthwhile focus for policy to boost children’s development in the early years so as to support their later academic and social achievement through their lives.

    The UK longitudinal studies also found that two to three years of high-quality early years education can provide up to eight months of developmental advantage at the start of school in literacy compared to children who enter school with no preschool experience, with similar effects on other cognitive and social outcomes.

    Early childhood education and care quality was linked to staff training and qualifications, and higher quality was related to better outcomes for children.

    Where To Now?

    Australia currently provides 600 hours over the year – or around 15 hours a week – in early education provision for four-year-olds.

    It should be a policy priority to extend this to three-year-olds. This would bring Australia more in line with those countries, such as the UK, taking active policy steps to plan for long-term economic development by optimising their populations’ skills.

    Australia has a good early years quality framework, but this can be built on by improving the competence of the early years workforce through in-service professional development and further recruitment of more qualified staff.

    Australia could look to emulate the best in the world through enhanced provision for the 40% of most disadvantaged children and integrating all services, health, family support, childcare, and early education to optimise services’ efficiency for young children and their families.

    Such changes would bring immediate well-being and long-term economic benefits from a population fully equipped to deal with the challenges of a changing world.

    Making The Most Of Childhood: The Importance Of The Early Years

    All of us learn throughout our lives. It starts from the day we are born. It is now recognised that the early years of life are the most important for learning. That’s when the foundations for the future are laid and when we begin moving down the path that will take us through childhood, the teenage years and ultimately into adulthood. 

    What are the early years? 

    People use the term ‘the early years’ in slightly different ways. To some it means the years from birth to eight years; to others, it means the years before school; while others focus mainly on the first three years of life. Of course, all these periods are critical in every child’s life. The important thing is that we provide real opportunities for children to learn, develop and have fun during those years, regardless of what term we use. 

    What Affects Learning? 

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    Children are born ready to learn and interested in the world around them. It is natural for them to use all their abilities to learn. From birth, children learn about themselves, other people, and the world around them and play an active role in their own learning and development. There is no question about the amazing amount children are learning. All you have to do is spend time with any baby, toddler or child to witness the incredible leaps in skills, knowledge and understandings that happen in the first eight years of life. 

    Children’s development and learning are affected by: 

    • influences within themselves – their genetic inheritance, temperament, gender, and health 
    • influences within the family – family relationships, parenting styles and values, the family’s financial situation, parents’ level of education, parents’ occupation, and parents’ physical and mental health
    • influences within the community – children’s services (both availability and quality), support for parenting, housing (both quality and security of tenure), safety and crime in the neighbourhood, unemployment levels and the general feeling of trust among the residents 
    • influences within their culture – with different cultures marked by differences in parenting styles, beliefs and values, and different views on how children should be educated. 

    What Does The Research Show About The Importance Of The Early Years? 

    The importance of the early years is now well known throughout Australia and the rest of the world. These years are a time when the brain develops and much of its ‘wiring’ is laid down. The experiences and relationships a child has, plus nutrition and health, can actually affect this enormously. 

    Positive experiences help the brain to develop in healthy ways. Seriously negative experiences such as neglect and abuse, on the other hand, affect brain development in more harmful ways and contribute to emotional and behavioural problems later in life. So the experiences a child has in the early years can either support learning or interfere with it. 

    As the organisation Zero to Three says in its booklet titled Getting Ready for School Begins at Birth: “The brain is the only organ that is not fully formed at birth. However, during the first three years, trillions of connections between brain cells are being made. A child’s relationships and experiences during the early years greatly influence how their brain grows”.

    What Are Some Important Areas Of Learning? 

    Health and physical wellbeing are the basis for all learning and development. Such areas as eating habits, attitudes towards exercise and self-care routines build from the child’s earliest experiences. 

    However, one of the most important things children learn in the early years is about themselves – that is, they develop a picture of themselves that affects the way they approach any situation, task, or relationship with another person. In other words, they develop a self-concept

    An important part of that self-concept is the picture they have of themselves as learners: is it okay to be curious, to explore, to ask questions, to tackle problems, to try to figure things out, to experiment? Is it okay to try something and fail sometimes? Being a good learner means having a go, seeing yourself as capable, and taking reasonable risks. 

    There are many different ways to categorise learning in the early years, but whatever the categories, it is important for parents and others who work and live with children to keep in mind the broad range of kinds of learning that are important in the early years. 

    Some important areas of learning are listed below. 

    • use of the body, including hands 
    • respect for others 
    • how to relate to others, both adults and other children 
    • how to resolve conflict
    • problem-solving skills
    • communication 
    • getting used to the things that make people different from each other
    •  self-knowledge - understanding of feelings, a sense of your own strengths, talents and uniqueness 
    • confidence
    • a sense of belonging to family, community, culture 
    • how to look after and take care of yourself 
    • behaving in acceptable ways and controlling your own behaviour.

    What Do Children Need To Support Learning In The Early Years? 

    They need:

    • adults who help them to stay safe and healthy. 
    • Positive, caring relationships that are ongoing - the most important factor in supporting a child’s learning. All children need people, or at least one person who believes in them, cares for them and wants to support them as learners. Children do some of their most powerful learning from copying what people around them do, so they must be with adults who are learners themselves.
    • Adults who appreciate the uniqueness of each child and who respect the child’s feelings, needs and interests. 
    • help to learn to control their behaviour and patient teaching about what behaviour is acceptable.
    • materials and experiences to learn from, and time to get involved with them. 
    • opportunities to ‘be in the world doing things’. Children need to be actively involved in meaningful experiences. Learning happens best in context, that is when there is a real need to know. Going to the supermarket, working in the garden, cooking with an adult, helping to wash the car, as well as going to the park or the beach are some of the best kinds of learning experiences. Young children especially need chances to get actively involved. ‘Hands-on, minds-on’ is the expression sometimes used. TV, DVDS, computers and other forms of technology can be wonderful tools for learning if used in moderation and with the help of an adult. 
    • books to look at and read stories to listen to and people to have conversations with. Loving language and books makes a great and strong start to developing a wide vocabulary and literacy skills. Children can benefit from having stories read to them from the very beginning, even before they are able to understand what is being said.
    • time to really get involved and build relationships with other children and adults.
    • a group experience. This might be a playgroup, a childcare or occasional care centre, a family day care home, a kindergarten program, school or outside school hour’s care. In order for children to benefit, these experiences need to be of a high quality. The relationship between parents and professionals can also support parents in child-rearing, particularly if services are colocated and working in an integrated way. Children need encouragement, but they do not need to be ‘pushed’ and put under pressure to learn things earlier than they would if they were not pushed. Learning happens best when caring adults work with the child, have loving relationships, and explore the world together in interesting and fun ways.

    The Importance Of Play In Children’s Learning And Development

    Learning through play is one of the most important ways children learn and develop.

    Friedrich Froebel, a German educator who created the concept of the ‘kindergarten’, believed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”

    Educators at your child’s early childhood education and care service might have told you that they use a ‘play based’ approach for children’s learning and development.

    Play is an activity where children show their remarkable ability for exploration, imagination and decision making. While the play is often described as ‘children’s work’, it is intensely enjoyable for them. The type of play children engage in, and its purposes change over the course of childhood from infancy to adolescence.

    You may have realised that you don’t generally have to make children play or provide incentives to play as a parent. This is because children seem to have a natural urge to play and playing brings a level of pleasure and interest which means it can be maintained without external rewards.

    How Does Play Support Your Child’s Development And Learning?

    Physical development - active play using large and small muscles such as climbing, running, ball games, digging, jumping, and dancing. This supports children’s overall health and sense of wellbeing, physical growth, appreciation for the benefits of active lifestyles and skills for independence in self-help such as dressing or feeding.

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    Social and emotional development - dramatic and imaginative play, which includes dressing up and role play, can develop positive social and emotional skills and values. This provides opportunities for children to:

    • practise how to work with other children, negotiate ideas, and make choices and decisions
    • develop self-confidence by experiencing success and challenges
    • learn to control their emotions, reduce impulsive behaviour, or reduce stress as they act out feelings and events that might be worrying them
    •  develop empathy and fairness as they learn to play alongside and with other children.

    Cognitive development - when your child plays individually and with others, their cognitive skills, such as thinking, remembering, learning and paying attention, are all being developed. Children develop the following cognitive skills through play:

    • problem-solving
    • the power of imagination and creativity
    • concepts such as shapes, colours, measurement, counting and letter recognition
    • strengths such as concentration, persistence and resilience.

    Literacy and numeracy development - play requires thinking, language, interactions, curiosity and exploration. Through play, children develop skills and understandings including:

    • an increased understanding of words and their use
    • listening and speaking skills
    • writing skills through scribbling, painting and drawing
    • learning how stories work (plot, characters, structure, purpose and format of words on a page)
    • learning that objects can stand for something else (a block can be a symbol for a telephone) which is foundation learning for formal reading, spelling and numeracy because letters, words or numerals are part of symbol systems
    • learning that letters, words, symbols, numerals and signs have a purpose and are meaningful to others.

    What does a play-based approach to learning look like?

    Educators at early childhood education and care services use a wide range of play-based experiences for children’s learning and development rather than using structured ‘lessons’ or formal teaching experiences. They set up games indoors and outdoors that are age-appropriate, which can be played safely and enjoyably by every child.

    Educators encourage children’s learning through play by:

    • providing resources that reflect children’s ages, interests, knowledge, strengths, abilities and culture to stimulate and support play. Resources which allow open-ended use of items like blocks or cardboard boxes foster creativity and the ability to manipulate concepts mentally as children. For example, turn a box into a car.
    • Planning play experiences based on the assessment of children’s individual differences, interests, developmental needs and ability. For example, as a child learns to hold a pencil to draw and write, educators will give children different sized objects to grasp and to build strength in the child’s fingers.
    • observing children as they play so that they can understand how they play with other children, what skills and understanding they demonstrate in play and what activities can strengthen their skills in play.
    • joining in children’s play to extend the child’s learning and to model skills such as reasoning, appropriate language, and positive behaviours.
    • providing large blocks of unhurried and uninterrupted time for play for children’s ideas and games to develop.

    How Can You Contribute To Your Child’s Learning Through Play?

    Children’s success as learners depends on strong foundations developed from infancy. Play-based learning fosters critical skills, understanding, and dispositions essential for your child’s lifelong learning and well-being. You can encourage your child’s learning through by:

    • sharing information about your child’s interests and abilities with their educators so that they can plan play experiences for your child based on their interests and abilities
    • playing with your child
    •  discussing your child’s program with the educators at your child’s service and the activities your child enjoys playing and taking part in
    • advocating for safe and interesting play spaces in your local community.
    What are some factors that affect early learning?
    • Parents' education.
    • Family income.
    • The number of parents in the home.
    • Access to books and play materials.
    • Stability of home life.
    • Going to preschool.
    • Quality of child care.
    • Stress levels and exposure to stress (in the womb, as an infant, and as a child)

    Family is almost certainly the most important factor in child development. In early childhood especially, parents are the ones who spend the most time with their children and we (sometimes unwittingly) influence the way they act and think and behave.

    Children who take part in early childhood education programs have improved social skills and do better in school. They also learn essential life skills that stay with them forever. Most importantly, preschool is a place where children have fun in a safe and loving environment.

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