Defining quality in early childhood settings: Experiences from the field

The successful education of the child during her/his years of schooling and the participation of that child in society as an adult, depends to a greater degree upon the foundation laid during the early years” (Evans, Myers and IIfled, 2000, p.7). Research indicates that learning is crucial to development whereby knowledge, skills, attitudes and values are developed. Research from disciplines such as physiology, nutrition, health, sociology, psychology and education provide evidence indicating that the early years are crucial in terms of developing intelligence, personality and social behaviour of children. If children are not provided opportunities to communicate, learn and develop they will not attain the optimal level of development and therefore will not thrive. It is therefore imperative that people working with young children understand the multifaceted aspects of children’s development within the context in which they grow, think and learn. Children spend a major part of their day in schools ‘learning’ and in interacting with other children and the adult/s (teacher/s). This implies that the role of the adult and significant others in the children’s life play a crucial role in providing opportunities for optimal development which include an emotionally safe and healthy environment, supportive interactions and relationships, stimulation and time. These are all important and integral aspects of quality in early childhood settings. Furthermore, research conducted in the area of early childhood in the UK and US indicate that the determinants of quality are a stimulating physical environment, staff knowledge and understanding of the curriculum, knowledge of how young children learn, adult skill in supporting children and helping parents to support children’s learning at home. (EPPE project, UK, 1999 to date).