Early childhood education begins at birth, or possibly even before it. It may be defined for the purposes of this article as the education provided for children before they enter a formal system of compulsory education. In most cases parents who provide formal childhood education have little professional training in how to conduct early childhood education.
One of the most important aspects in the lives of most people is the creation of a family with its attendant challenges of early childhood education. Ironically, few school curricula have anything about this. There is much ado about sex education and education for work, but little about how to be a parent.
By the age of two or three most children have learned to speak effectively. This is the greatest intellectual feat that they will accomplish in their lives and is an outcome of early childhood education. It involves the ability to apply complicated grammatical rules to every utterance. Although the mother tongue may be learnt without any apparent effort, it is in reality a consequence of early childhood education.
Parents who talk gently and sympathetically to their offspring are engaging in early childhood education. Human beings have what Chomsky called a language acquisition device which is the capability to learn human language. The learning process is greatly enhanced by the attitude of parents to their children in the context of early childhood education.
Readiness is an important concept in education. No-one can learn unless he or she is ready to learn and that readiness occurs at various stages of development. If the means to learn something are absent when a child is ready that thing may never be learned subsequently. This has been confirmed many times in the cases of feral children who have been denied the opportunity to learn their language in babyhood. Their lives are blighted forever.
In between feral children and child prodigies there are many gradations of treatment meted out to children. Work done by Bernstein many years ago illustrated how mothers determined the success or failure of their children when it came to secondary education. Those who took the trouble to reason gently with toddlers and answered all questions diligently produce successful secondary school pupils. Those who ignored their toddlers or told them to keep quiet, tended to produce scholastic failures.
The world opens like a wondrous place for young children. Mothers and fathers have the wonderful opportunity to relive their own excitement and joy through the eyes of their beloved offspring. By providing emotional stability and language for their children they give them the gift of normal life. The importance of early childhood eduction can hardly be overestimated.