In what could be a game changer for improving education outcomes, the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for early childhood development (ECD) is expected to be rolled out to hundreds of centres in the Western Cape next year.
But Vanessa Mentor, subject matter expert in ECD at Afrika Tikkun, said the framework would have to be implemented properly.
“There has never been a curriculum for children aged nought to four in South Africa before. The stimulation these children will be getting should help to improve some of the issues we are having in terms of literacy and numeracy in the later grades. The quality of implementation will be crucial.”
According to the Department of Basic Education, the framework is a response by the government to ensure that children in different settings receive quality ECD programmes.
The framework describes the competencies that babies, toddlers and young children “hope to, and need to, develop”.
In her budget speech last year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the National Development Plan underlines the need for access for all children to at least two years of pre-school education.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) collaborated with the Department of Social Development to introduce the framework at 10 ECD sites in the province in a pilot project this year.
“The centres found the curriculum exciting and challenging, and are looking forward to continuing in 2016,” said WCED spokesman, Paddy Attwell.
He said the target was to roll out the curriculum to 600 ECD sites next year.
“The WCED is developing a management plan with the departments of Social Development and Health to roll out the programme. The plan will include identifying lead practitioners to mentor and support other practitioners in their circuits. We will need to appoint 128 lead practitioners.”
He said the ECD teams and sites would have to involve parents. “The curriculum focuses on enabling children aged nought to four to reach their developmental milestones. Parents have a key role to play, because we have to address these milestones at home as well as the ECD sites.”
Mentor said an assessment of the impact of the framework would have to be done in about three to five years.
She said the importance of free play, structured play and constructive play for this age group should not be underestimated.
Parents should, however, not be concerned it will be all work and no play for their little ones as the NCF considers the importance of play.
Mentor said the first 1 000 days in a child’s life – from conception to two years – was critical. “The NCF ensures that stimulation activities are implemented to ensure that children achieve relevant milestones at every age.”