Early Childhood Education around the World
Public education in France is free, and 80 percent of children attend public schools. The remaining 20 percent largely attend private Catholic schools. Preschool is available to children two to six years old. Because preschool programs are free, nearly 100 percent of all three-year-olds attend école maternelle or preschool. These early childhood schools have a mission to help each child grow, develop independence and gain the skills necessary for future learning. The maternelle schools take advantage of the capacity of the child to imitate and invent through the pleasure of play. They instill in children a desire to learn and provide diverse experiences to enrich comprehension. The blossoming of each child happens by developing his/her strengths and talents and teaching him/her to think creatively.
Maternelle schools are sensitive to learning styles and the stages of child development. Children are divided into three sections; petite section for children starting at age two, moyenne section for children ages three and four, and grande section for children ages five and six. Although this is a multi-age program wherein some activities are conducted with the entire group, most activities are separate.
In Germany early childhood education is affordable and universally accessible to families while not encumbered by the bureaucracy of being part of the state education system.
Hyde Flippo summed up the German early childhood landscape in his book, The German Way. “Kindergarten (literally “children’s garden”) is both a German word and a German invention.” [Friedrich Froebel’s kindergarten pre-school educational philosophy has been widely adopted around the world. It is “…somewhat ironic to discover that kindergarten in Germany is not usually part of the state-supported school system (except in former East Germany), even though about 85 percent of German youngsters between the ages of three and six attend voluntary community and church-supported kindergartens.”
Italy is one of the top-ranking nations for early childhood education services. The scuola materne, a ten-month early childhood education program with eight-hour “school” days, is funded by the national government. The program serves children ages three to six and follows strict government-enforced guidelines.
Based on the philosophy of the Maternelle began in France, the Italian program strives to develop children’s knowledge, reduce child poverty, promote attention to children in accordance with the UN Convention on children’s rights, to increase the participation of children (and adolescents) in social life, to prevent the exploitation of children, and to promote the development of services for children.
“The system of early childhood education in Japan is quite extensive,” writes Susan D. Halloway in the Early Childhood Research & Practice journal. “Over 90 percent of Japanese children attend at least two years of a youchien (licensed preschool) or hoikuen (child care center). Public preschools are funded by state and local governments (with some tuition contributed by parents), but approximately 80 percent of children attend private preschools, some of which are affiliated with a religious organization.”
All preschools programs are evaluated by the national government, which dictates the size, facilities, and teacher qualifications. Many of these schools are deeply influenced by Japan’s rich religious beliefs: Christianity, Buddhism, and Shinto. These philosophies play large roles in how individual preschools are run.
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