Early childhood education encompasses all subject areas that are important to the learning of children between the ages of zero and five (0-5years). It comprises teaching young children beginning at age zero in order to prepare them for elementary school (Caldwell, 1999). There is no universally applicable definition of early childhood education. Early childhood education is more of a social intervention that teaches kids how to interact with and pick up knowledge from their classmates. Therefore, it makes sense that each community has different objectives for bringing up and educating its young. In essence, most societies value early childhood education.
Every culture has its own own laws governing early childhood development and education, which are often influenced by cultural, historical, and other factors. In light of this, the term educare was developed in order to widen its reach. By fusing the best elements of daycare, preschool, and family supports, the high-quality early childhood education program Educare assists low-income children from birth to age five in becoming passionate learners who are ready for school (Bowman, Donor and Burn, 2001). In order to bring the most fruitful early childhood research from the lab to the classroom, it aims to establish a network of excellence. Kindergartens, nurseries, and child care facilities for infants are presently part of the expansion of early childhood education. Daycares, childcare facilities, nurseries, and kindergartens may provide education or childcare in a group setting in other nations.
Early infancy is a period of rapid growth known as the “foundation stage of life” by Obiweluozo (2012) and is essential for a child’s optimal development. Thus, early childhood development forms the cornerstone of a promising future. Toddlers participate in a range of activities throughout their early years of education, such as playing with toys, running, jumping, walking, catching, and kicking. Children learn via play rather fast since they are inherently curious and explorative (Maduike, Maduike and Ekeh, 2013). Similar to this, Papalia and Feldman (2011) found that newborns often ask questions such, “Who filled the river with water?” Do I have smalls on the inside of my nose? Why are there so many eyes on humans? a few more Early childhood education is essential to provide kids the attention and guidance they need, as well as to respond to their reasonable inquiries and give them the freedom to explore their environment and pick up new skills on their own. According to Nigeria’s National Policy on Education (NPE), early childhood education is the teaching given to children in a learning environment prior to their entry into primary school (FRN, 2004).
Early childhood education includes the kindergarten, nursery school, and creche. The National Policy on Education (NPE) outlines the objectives of early childhood education, which include facilitating a seamless transition from the home to the school, preparing the child for the primary level of education, providing adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work, instilling social norms, and fostering the child’s spirit of inquiry and creativity through exploration of nature, the environment, art, music, and toy play (FRN, 2004: 3). The objectives of early childhood education are in line with the notion that contends that the early childcare environment has a substantial influence on children’s development. Ibiam (2011) says that in order to successfully teach young children, well-organized programs must be energetically pursued. According to Ibiam, this is because a child’s education throughout the first five years of life has a big influence on both their overall development and chances in the future (2011). A child’s care and support in the areas of good health, nutrition, and psychological care and protection have a substantial impact on the formation and development of personality and social conduct, claims Maduewesi (2005).
In addition, as these young people are more likely to profit from subsequent education and other social services, emphasis is focused on providing children with high-quality care during their formative years (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund UNICEF, 1999). To achieve the objectives of childhood education as described in the N.P.E, there must be a sufficient supply of qualified childhood educators in schools. It is important to look at the amount and quality of instructors that are available in different states of Nigeria’s early childhood education programs. In terms of number and quality, it would seem from a first look that there is a conspicuous dearth of teaching people. According to the National Policy on Education, early childhood schools should follow a suitable curriculum.
The term “curriculum” refers to the whole educational environment, which includes the student, the instructors, the content, the methods, and the physical and psychological context (Anwuka, 2005). In addition, it may relate to any experience a student has when engaging in a learning activity, such as solitary outdoor activities, written and verbal tasks, physical and mental exercises, and more (Maduewesi, 2003). The curriculum is a documented blueprint or plan for the educational tools used in teaching and learning to influence students’ behavior in positive and desirable ways (Offorma, 2009). The whole educational program for young children who have not yet entered primary school is included in the early childhood education curriculum. It lists the educational activities that should be emphasized as well as the benefits of the child’s learning process. Programs for early childhood education need teachers who are adept at using instructional strategies based on a thorough understanding of child development, psychology, and international information and communication technologies (Anwuka, 2005). The implementation of the UBE program, according to Universal Basic Education UBE (2004), is predicted to integrate the ECCE in public primary schools, which is congruent with the ECCE’s stated goal. Due to non-fee-paying institutions that are provided with resources and facilities, preschool is more affordable and available to more children.
ECCE is an essential foundation for future education and a key element of lifelong learning. It serves as the starting point for education at the fundamental level. Despite all the noble goals and the presence of NPE, UBE, and Integrated Early Childhood Development in Nigeria (IECD), Ibiam (2012) observed that the country’s early education of children leaves more to be desired than is really the case. As a consequence, a sizable percentage of Nigerian children still do not have access to or participate in ECCE programs, particularly in Enugu State. Ugwu (2012) recognized the efforts made by the Nigerian government to make it easier for the ECCE program’s goals to be met, but said that this was ineffective and that instead, the government should have allowed for private initiatives to deliver ECCE. The report went on to say that several public ECCE schools had not yet put the crucial clause into practice. In light of this problem, the challenges confronting the ECCE program in Nigeria seem significant. This calls for a review of the extent of the ECCE program’s implementation in the state of Enugu’s public schools. In order to assess the degree of progress made by individuals or an organization, as well as any issues that have been identified, assessment is the process of acquiring, evaluating, and interpreting data collected via measures of various educational objectives (Joshua, 2005). Assessment is the measurement of a child’s cognitive, emotional, and psychomotor skills using formal and informal techniques (Eme, 2012).
Assessment in this study refers to the capability of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data on the ECCE program’s implementation in Enugu State’s public schools. Implementation is the process of beginning to carry out or make use of a formal decision. It involves using or putting into effect the choices made by the government or an entity. Thus, it is the ability to put laws or policies into action. This relates to the extent to which the ECCE policies have been applied in the public schools and ECCE facilities in Enugu State. To achieve the goals of the ECCE program, it is crucial to examine the ECCE minimum standard, which the government designed to act as a manual for the management of the ECCE centers in Nigeria. The Nigeria Education Research and Development Council (NERDC), in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and other development partners, declared that it was essential to establish a national minimum standard to oversee the ECCE program in Nigeria in order to close the gap in the ECCE program.
The required minimum standard takes into account factors such as the kind of ECCE centers, their location, ownership, the availability of qualified and experienced teachers, the provision of infrastructure and equipment, the availability of a standard curriculum, and monitoring and supervision of the ECCE program in Nigeria. So long as this basic level is maintained, the ECCE program’s learning results will be improved and advanced. Based on observations and feedback from teachers and parents whose children attend the schools, there doesn’t seem to be a curriculum that has been approved and is being used. There is not enough teaching personnel, both in terms of number and quality. This is a result of the educational system in Nigeria being a relatively new one. For this kind of instruction, not enough employees have gotten the requisite training. Some of the early childhood institutions don’t appear to provide environments that are good for physical learning. Additionally, it seems that the youngsters’ health is in pretty poor condition (UNICEF, 2009).
In order to guarantee a high standard of early childhood education, UNICEF (2009) provided a guidance for use by all early childhood schools in Nigeria. Children’s health and wellbeing are taken into account when promoting learning, schools are safe as places for learning, there is an overall gender-sensitive environment that is conducive to learning, schools and teachers respect children’s rights, and child-centered instruction is implemented, according to the guidelines that are clearly outlined in the child-friendly school (CFS) initiatives. the practice of eradicating bias based on gender, race, or social class via education. Advocates of child-friendly schools claim that when all of these factors combine in a natural, dynamic fashion, a “packaged solution” that is indisputably a “child-friendly school” is produced.
UNICEF (2009) (2009: 23).
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