Published: 21 April 2016
Welcome to the Early Childhood Education Program by courtesy of the National Department of Education (NDOE) website!
Early Childhood Education (ECE) generally represents the early years or foundational years of a child’s life, beginning at birth to age 8. A period of time where scientifically-based research findings prompts us or even challenges us, educators, parents, and stakeholders to heed to the call to pay a closer attention to the tremendous effects a child’s development has on later successes in life. These successes are not only realized in the child’s academic success, but in health, nutrition, physical, and cognitive development.
Within the acronym ECE used in the FSM, many countries as with neighboring countries in the Pacific region have chosen to highlight the caring and nurturing aspects of it; therefore, ECE by definition is a term broaden to be more comprehensive of a child’s holistic being and development.
Under the Division of Basic Education Services and Accreditation, the Early Childhood Education Program as stipulated in FSM code title 40 is tasked with the responsibility to develop early child education policy, curriculum, national standards, and benchmarks for the four FSM States. Hence, the Early Childhood Education Program's has played vitally important role in addressing the needs of each of the FSM States’ role while balancing it with available human and financial resources to serve preschoolers or young children.
The ECE Program as in the past, in the Trust Territory days, are modeled after the former Head Start Program which was originally formulated to provide provisions in health, dental, mental, and parent involvement in support of formal education for preschool age children from the age of 3 to 5, a practice still held today. Furthermore, the ECE program is there to serve the needs of young children who may be at a disadvantage at a social, political, and economic stand point. In doing so, more questions are raised concerning the impact of ECE program on marginalized groups like a low income households and single mothers who are often unemployed because they lack the necessary knowledge and set of skills to enter the job market.
When faced with the challenge of educating and nurturing the young children in the FSM , often times the efforts of promoting and ensuring the quality services in early childhood programs and services appear as though these are the only two major objectives behind the definitive role of the Early Childhood Education Program. But, there are more to ECE than one would think. Children and families from the lower rungs of the social, political, and economic strata are given consideration in the provisions of ECE program and services. However, the true extent of ECE program benefits goes beyond the endless task of preparing our children early for a successful future later, whereby the health, economy, and mind of the nation are revitalized at intervening points in our education system.
The National Department of Education works in close collaboration with the States on issues and challenges in education for early childhood education to secondary education to ensure that relevant training and minimum standards on program criteria and operatives are securely in place.
At the state level, a major challenge that remains within the ECE as a division, in its ability to allocate much of the ECE program’s human and financial resources to consistently maintain quality and diversify services without federal or addition funding source. This feat proves to be more difficult in light of the step down of Compact funds as the nation moves towards the end of the financial provision in fiscal year 2023.
From the national perspective, priorities have to be made towards the procurement of program services supportive of monitoring and technical assistance. As it is in the past to the present, the capacity of NDOE providing effective technical support and intervention strategies have been drastically affected with the elimination of the sector grant. For instance, the lunch program has been reduced or eliminated altogether. In extreme case, teachers and support staff have been laid off as it is when the program was reformed to take another name. The ECE program has a much more limited reach because of a major reduction in government funding from Compact fund. The elimination of sector grant has impaired the capability of program services at best.
In the FSM National Department of Education, the Early Childhood Education Program (ECE) is one of 9 other education programs which operates under the auspice of the Division of Basic Education and Accreditation system. The program model emulates the much renowned Head Start Program model that has been prevalent in the Pacific region and the FSM States since the early 60s. In the Pacific, the program was better known as the Head Start Program which was federally funded by the U.S government to cater to preschool age children from ages 3 to 5. The provisions of nutrition, health, and education were the main focal points of the Head Start Program.
The Head Start model is quite comprehensive in the way that it tries to approach early childhood care and education needs from a profoundly holistic approach. Moreover, since the early days of the Head Start Program, the program services were originally intended to alleviate the burdens of poverty on children and family who come from socially and economically disadvantage backgrounds.
Thus, the rationale behind the allocation of Head Start Program services and resources are sensible to the challenge of empowering displaced families and women to become active and productive contributors to society at large.
Head Start Program also encourages parental involvement to foster stable family relationships and child development initiatives such as physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development.
Another component of the Program is school readiness. This program prepares the child to better transition from preschool to primary school. As of 2015, A JEMCO mandate required the FSM States to move the former Head Start Program or present ECE Program under the Public Services School System. Two FSM States, Pohnpei and Kosrae have partly complied with exception of the Yap and Chuuk State. Although, the FSM States have issues on moving all of the ECE centers under the management of their respective Departments of Education, each State have their own.
Although, most of the four FSM States have yet to meet full compliance on moving the physical ECE sites or centers to the primary schools to where principals are expected to oversee the daily activities of the ECE Program; however, as such, each of the States may exercise at their discretion to choose how to delegate the administration and management of the ECE program to their program coordinators. This contributes to the fragmentation in so far as having clear roles and responsibilities defined between the principals at school sites with ECE centers incorporated into primary school schools and the ECE program coordinators who are in most cases ultimately accountable to their State Department of Education.
Early Childhood Education Goals:
Goal 1: Early Childhood Education system provides families and children with high quality services that promote positive developmental and learning outcomes.
Goal 2: Early Childhood Education Programs are to implement school readiness programs before the opening of the new school calendar year. School readiness consists of three essential components: 1.family readiness, 2. school child readiness, and 3.school readiness.
Goal 3: The early childhood system has the capacity to provide quality education for all children; children with special needs and development delays are to receive adequate and appropriate services.
Parent and Family involvement
Goal 4: Parents and families are an integral part of student learning and development. As primary teachers of children, they must be fully involved in their children’s early learning and beyond.
Professional Development and Credentials
Goal 5: Training for early childhood professionals continually increases the quality of early education for children. Teachers are to receive training to improve the effective implementation of teaching and and learning services as well as improving the health, nutrition, cognitive, emotional, and physical development of preschool children. Research based pedagogies, methodologies, and best practices are the major sources for guidance and decision making.
Public awareness, advocacy, and engagement
Goal 6: In the FSM, the public should be made aware of the importance of Early Childhood Education as a determinant for success in later years. Additionally, promotion and campaign initiatives are required to encourage government, organizations, agencies, and stakeholders to invest in early childhood education programs to curb juvenile delinquency, crime, unemployment, and other social and economic overtures that result when we fail to invest early in our children’s education. Investments in FSM’s early educational system will result in school readiness for future achievement for all preschool children ages 3 to5. In the long term, strong evidence in many research findings points out the positive benefits of ECE programs on social ills like crime and high yield returns to capital investment in ECE programs.
Goal 7: Accountability needs to be made on the formalization of ECE programs into the public school system at each of the States’ DOE. The States are responsible for the administration and management of their ECE programs on school sites. National Department of Education (NDOE) continues to work in partnership with FSM States to ensure accountability of program support and delivery services through technical assistance such as consultation, training, etc.