The years before a child reaches kindergarten are among the most critical in his or her life to Influence learning (ED.gov, 2010); and this becomes a challenge and commitments to the parents, teachers, community and government, to ensure that these young children receive appropriate training in their early stages of life. Early childhood education programmes are highly recognized and promoted in developed societies to give children the opportunity to learn phenomenal amount of experiences at home and surrounding environments. Heward (2009) explained in this scenario that children grow and develop in orderly ways, learning to move about their world, communicate, and play. As their ability to manipulate their environment increases, so does their level of independence.
Nigeria is currently facing a challenging time in providing g her young citizensâ€™ quality education. Some important issues facing Nigeriaâ€™s policy makers include ineffective planning and implementation of programmes, accountability, and management of scarce resources, shortage of highly qualified early childhood teachers, undefined curriculum and inclusion. In agreement with the above, Mindes (2007) added that early childhood educatorsâ€™ challenges are enormous and they include parent partnership, respect for cultural diversity, appropriate early intervention assessment, and linking curriculum and assessment practices appropriately.
2.2 DIFINITION OF CHILDHOOD
In discussing anything about childhood education, it is necessary to first identify a child. That is, who is a child? If we are able to do this, then it will not be difficult for us to classify children into early, middle or later childhood.
According to the National Child Welfare Policy of 1989, a child is anybody who is 12 years or below. But this has been modified a little recently. Thus, a child in Nigeria is now considered to be anybody below the age of 18years. This appears to agree with the United Nations age definition of a child. As you may be aware the Nigerian law also regards anybody below the age of 18 years as a (minor) child. In other words, anybody below the age of 18years in Nigeria cannot vote or be voted for.
Now that we have been able to identify who is a child, let us look at the classification of the childhood period. There are three major ways of classifying childhood. These are the early childhood, the middle childhood and the later childhood.
2.3 CHILD EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
There are different names for the various establishments that take care of children at this stage. Such names as given by Kolawole (1989) and Maduewesi (1999) include:
Daycare or playgroup: For children below the age of three. There are many of them in urban centres in Nigeria. Working mothers use them as safe places to keep their children. CrÃ¨ches: For children below three years. This establishment is usually located where the mother is working. They are usually available within the campuses of tertiary institutions, hospitals, markets or big factories. For example, there is one within the Campus of University of Ibadan and another one at the University college hospital also in Ibadan. This is usually separated from the pre-primary and primary schools.
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