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Early Childhood Education Program-Head Start Program


 Introduction

            Early childhood education is a systematic approach to educating children who are in their early childhood. This focus is based on the fact that such children are in their earliest and most vulnerable stages of life, and thus; need specialized education. According to the standards of the N.A.E.Y.C children under this programs are aged eight and below. The programs mostly focus on learning enhanced by play. There are other terms that may be used to denote early childhood education; these include early care and early education. However, terms such as childcare and day care do not have educational relevance. Early childhood education has been delivered in the United States by various initiated programs.


 The Head start program for early childhood education

            The federal government funds the children development program under the name head start program. The program was initially a private non-profit venture that later expanded to incorporate federal government support in the program. This comprehensive program was initiated in 1965 and was meant for low income families and their children. The head start act updated and improved the mandate of the program in 1981. The program is jointly run by U.S departments of human services and health. The program facilitates provision of comprehensive nutrition, education, health and the inclusion of parents and guardians in the facilitation of these services to low income families and their children.


             The program is divided into two parts which are early head start and head start. Early head start serves pre-natal and children below age three as well as expectant mothers from low income families. This sub-division was established in 1994. On the other hand, head start serves pre-school children and their low income families. Enrollment into these programs is based on income, however; other criteria is employed such as disability (H.S.D, 2006).


             The program was highly popular and successful at its start. However, the program had too many objectives and goals as defined by the planning committee and this was somewhat confusing. The early years of initiation had their major focus on improving Intelligence quotient and improving readiness of children from low income families when they go to school. This helped bridge the gap in readiness as the children from poor families got ready for school. However, this situation changed when the responsibility was partly taken up by the federal officials. In 1998 enhancing readiness for school was stated as the priority of the program. However, this has not realized greater focus or improvement because children from the program are always found to be less ready in comparison to children from other programs (Lisa, 2004). There is still a sizable gap in readiness for school between low income-class children and middle-class children. Congress has in the past ordered G.A.O (General accounting office) to evaluate head start and determine whether its works were significant and of any impact.


However, GAO never offered a definitive answer (Lisa, 2004). In the recent past the Educational testing center (ETC) published a paper (Parsing the achievement gap) that stated that bridging the gap completely required more action beyond the scope of head start as per the moment (Barton, 2003). The paper recommends for more action and focus on improving neighborhoods, families and other aspects of economy and social life in society. A similar stand is stated in a recent publication of a paper titled ‘Do you believe in magic? (Brooks Gunn, 2000). These findings and statements about the shortcomings and possible improvements for head start form the basis for its future plan. Thus, the scope of its work has to be extended beyond the present focus areas (Besharov & Hartle, 1987).


             Another famous early childhood education program is the Montessori early childhood education program. The program was developed on the basis of the research by Italian educator-cum-physician Montessori Maria. Her discovery highlighted the essence of educating children while considering their normal true nature. The method emphasizes giving children freedom to learn in an environment structured to enhance their free, natural and experimental way of learning by toying with ideas and learning implements. The environment is designed in such a way that the children can self-direct their learning. Learning should go on under the keen observation of a teacher that acts as a director who directs the learning of the child (Aken, 2007).


             The Montessori program was introduced in America as early as 1911 by the Modern school movement. A critique by William Heard in 1914 led to the collapse of the system. However, the system was revived in 1960 by Rambusch and the (AMS) American Montessori society was created. Even though there is no clear definitive explanation of the constitution of a Montessori school there still are many school’s whose principle of organization and teaching are based on Maria Montessori’s discovery (Aken, 2007).


             There are several differences that stand out to differentiate the head start program and the Montessori program for delivering early childhood education. Firstly, head start has an element of social learning incorporated in it because it tries to involve parents and children’s interaction as means of fostering better learning. On the other hand Montessori programs do not emphasize the social aspect of learning any further than emphasizing age groupings that would better learning. Secondly, the head start program uses mostly the conventional teaching styles where the teachers play an active role in delivering knowledge. On the other hand Montessori emphasizes that a teacher should only act as a director who should closely monitor the child’s gradual learning and change the environment accordingly and offer occasional assistance to foster the learning process.


The head start program does not give significance to the potential influence that the environment may have on a child’s learning but rather just concentrates on trying to only better the child regardless of environmental influence. In this particular aspect the Montessori program totally differs from the head start program because it places most of its significance on environment in the teaching process. The Montessori programs strive to create an environment that makes learning of children easier as a way to enhance their learning process. This involves placing children in environments containing learning material that is supposed to spark their natural learning ability to life with the teacher only serving as a director to the process.


             The two programs are also similar in the sense that they are all meant to prepare pre-school children for better readiness before they are able to get to school. They work towards improving the children’s reading, math and language skills as well as social nature in a bid to make their future learning easier. The programs have greatly influenced the preparedness of children as they leave pre-school. The Montessori program has introduced and emphasized the importance of considering the learning ability of children.


 References

Aken, V. M. (2007).The history of Montessori education in America, 1909-2004. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.

Barton, P. E. (2003). Parsing the Achievement Gap: Baselines for tracking progress.Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Besharov, J. D. and Hartle, W. T. (1987). Head Start: Making a popular program work. The journal of American academy of pediatrics, volume 79, issue number 3.

Brooks Gunn, J. (2000). Do You Believe in Magic? What we can expect from early childhood intervention programs.New York, NY: ColumbiaTeachers College.

‘Human Services Department (HSD)’, (2006). What is early head start? Retrieved from, http://www.hsd.maricopa.gov/headstart/?link=earlyhs, on 18th June, 2010.

Lisa, G. K. (2004). Early childhood programs and assessment closing the achievement gap: Head start and beyond. The evaluation exchange periodical on emerging strategies in evaluation, Volume X, issue number 2.


 

 
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