Fiji Time: 1:30 PM on Tuesday 28 July

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Critical learning stage

Fred Wesley
Tuesday, July 28, 2015

IT is interesting that the Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy has stated that all primary schools will have a kindergarten by the end of 2017.

He made the announcement while opening the new kindergarten centre at Nawai Public School in Nadroga recently.

The Government, he said, has and will continue to invest in the lives of the children of Fiji.

"These children are the future of this nation and they should be given adequate resources to develop into their full capacity," he said.

It is interesting because as we focus on kindergartens, there are a number of cities in the US for instance that are shifting the focus onto pre-kindergarten.

In New York City for instance, questions were raised about what a good education should look like for four-year-olds.

A report in the New York Times in October last year spoke about how 4000 of New York's pre-kindergarten teachers were trained.

It seemed there was more to developing vital cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional skills then meets the eye.

In Fiji, parents and guardians will be excited about the prospect of the free education grant that should extend to preschool.

As Dr Reddy pointed out, it "will relieve the financial burden on the parents and ensure that all students have access to early childhood education".

Clearly we now have focus zooming in on the most important phase in the development of a child.

With relevant resources placed before them, it is now critical that parents and guardians get behind the development of their young charges at this level of their lives.

While there is some effort for people to "push the frontiers and contribute significantly to the socioeconomic development of this nation", the initiative must come from key stakeholders and that firmly places pressure on parents and guardians.

It is encouraging to note that the Government will continue to invest substantially in the education of our children.

That is a vital part of the process to ensure our children get the assistance they need to develop themselves for the future.

But parents and guardians must be part of the process to prepare them for preschool.

They can make a huge difference in how their children navigate through this critical development stage and how they will be prepared for the learning environment. How we balance that need for education with time to allow our children to enjoy the joys of growing up is a matter for us to look at realistically as well.

For what it is worth though, timing matters at this stage, when the brain is supposed to be developing very fast.

Perhaps this is also the stage where we can start developing good habits that will help our children appreciate education and find joy in learning.

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