Enrolling little children in Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is very important because they learn the basic skills in life which helps to prepare them for more complex learning.
This is also the time of the year when parents start looking for a suitable ECCD for their children.
The proprietor of Hejo ECCD, Yangree Lhazom, provides the foundation of life skills to children, like soft skills, good behavior, good manners, emotional literacy, pre-literacy, emergent literacy. And this is why, kids need to come to ECCD, she said.
She pointed out that many parents do not avail their children of this service because they are not aware of the foundation skills. “They think it is writing ABC and learning but it is not. It is the basic skills of life, like how to navigate and how to make friends, how to play with friends and using polite words,” Yangree Lhazom said.
Hejo ECCD enrolls children aged from 3 to 5 years of age, so by the time they leave ECCD, they are ready for PP.
“In our ECCD, we teach them manners, like we teach them to wake up early, learn responsibility, and if we teach skills like these to children now, and when they move from here to the actual learning academic, it will be much easier for them. They already know that school is their responsibility, so they learn the responsibility of coming to school. After that they learn to focus, sit, and listen instructions and many more,” said Yangree.
Hejo ECCD provides a variety of activities which are child led activities promoted nowadays even in the developed nations, where early learning has been active for a long time.
The children are given small activities to do every 15 minutes. And they also have a naptime for 30 minutes, where they are also learning to look after their body. The morning time is filled with Dzongkha class, communication class, math class and science class, but nothing to do with writing. The children also have pre-literacy classes and towards the afternoon, they have club activities. There is a minimum of two facilitators for each group of children. For every five kids, there is one facilitator, said Yangree.
“I think that parents have to participate more because they somehow think that it is the job of the center that they are paying certain amount to mold their child. But it is not, it is everybody’s job. Like, when we are teaching their kid to respect, then the parents have to teach them at home and they should avoid scolding and beating because we don’t do these things in the center,” she said.
The other issue is that most of the facilitators that come to the center are youth and they do not have the stamina to work with little kids. They get bored with kids too easily. There is no work ethic.
The timing is 8 am in the morning and goes till 5 pm. The Hejo ECCD takes in kids with all abilities. The fees is very reasonable so that anyone can come, it is Nu 3,000 a month.
Yangree said the children who are directly put into PP often lack many skills. “They will cry for most of the year. They do not know how to stay away from their parents and they do not know to enjoy with friends. Learning to enjoy being a kid is what the center teaches them.”
Parents of children with different abilities should not keep their children at home said Yangree. “We welcome all kinds of children because research shows that they need interaction and structure and we provide the structure. Even children with special needs do very well in this kinds of environment,” she said.
All ECCDs are monitored by MoE and are provided with winter training.
A facilitator in play and learn ECCD in Kawajangsa, Phub Zam, said ECCD will benefit both the parents and their children because children who go to school after being in the ECCD learn very fast. “There is so much difference with the kids who did not attend early learnings. Also they face lot of challenges and difficulties,” she said.
Children who have been in ECCD know how to control the pencil with their hand, and understand the instructions.
“We have kids from 2 year five months till five years and plus. We follow according to the guidebooks and teach them everything which are needed. We are inclusive ECCD. Most of the kids who come here have speech delays and we have seen so much improvement in them,” said Phub Zam.
School teachers say it is very easy to teach children who have been through ECCD learning. She said they are not supposed to force kids to write but then parents expects their kids to at least learn some ABCs and rhymes, so the facilitators teach them four subjects in the very simplest form.
There are also issue where parents complain that the facilitators have not looked after their kids properly since there are number of kids, and sometimes it is very difficult to monitor so we have install CCTV. So there has no such big issues till date, she said.
The admission is open throughout the year and the fee is Nu 3,500 per month.
The person In-charge of Norter Little Angel ECCD in Langjophaka, Reshmi Katwal, said it is very important for the children to learn in ECCD because they need to be ready for formal schooling. In ECCD, children learn through play. “And at the same time, they socialize with their friends and they learn language. We see so many development in these kids in a month,” she said.
At least in day, facilitators introduce them to alphabets and how to hold pencil but then it is not mandatory that these little kids have to learn. It all depends on individual children.
“I can see lot of difference with the children who go to daycare and children who stay back home. The children who goes to ECCD socialize more, especially there lot of difference in motor skills,” said Reshmi.
She said working in ECCD is very much challenging because the kids are small and they have to be very fragile in handling then and nurturing them. “We give equal love and nurture them,” she said.
The center provide them with snacks. The kids have play time and also nap time. Currently, they are 16 kids and the fee is Nu 3,000 in a month. Parents can enroll their kids here at anytime.
A facilitator with Tiny Toes, Pema Eden, said, “ Most of the parents think that ECCD is taking care of their kids, but what we do is shaping the kids and preparing them for the next level.”
Tiny Toes allow kids to scribble and teach them how to hold pencils. Kids at home do not have much confidence and socializing with others seems very poor and they lack in many ways, said Pema Eden.
The center is an inclusive ECCD and including all kinds of children. They have children from 2 years five months to 5 years plus. “The best age is 3 years because they catch up very fast and whatever we teach them, they learn quite fast,” she said.
The fee is Nu 30,000 and payable in installment.
Similarly there is Happy Feet in lower Motithang and Wangmo’s Montessori Day Care Center in Changjiji that provide a very friendly environment for kids to learn. There are more than 30 ECCDs in Thimphu itself monitored by Ministry of Education.