Quality early childhood education plays an important role in influencing the type of person the child will become, since it deals with the period of life when the base for competence and coping skills is established. Research has demonstrated that the base for competence and coping skills depends on the way the brain develops. The wiring and sculpturing of the brain take place during early childhood, and experiences during this period drives the wiring of the brain and builds its basic capabilities.
There are critical periods when a young child requires appropriate stimulation for the brain to develop neural pathways for optimum development of specific capabilities. By age six the critical periods are over or waning. Children, who do not receive the stimulation necessary for the development of specific capabilities during their critical periods, have great difficulty overcoming deficits later on. Although it is possible to develop the brain’s capacity to compensate and overcome some deficits, full potential will not be achieved.
Quality early childhood education programs can provide essential experiences for brain development and consequently have a direct effect on cognitive abilities. These experiences can have an enduring effect on intellectual and scholastic abilities and influence future learning capacity. Good early childhood education programs can also help children to develop social skills by providing a stimulating positive interaction with the environment, adults, and other children. Although individual children develop at their own pace, all children progress through a sequence of physical, cognitive and emotional growth and change. As children develop, they need different types of stimulation to exercise their evolving skills and to develop new ones. By the time they enter school, children who attend high quality programs out-perform children in lower quality programs on measures of learning and development. Quality early childhood education programs give children access to the opportunities that promote school readiness and ensure that the school experience will be successful.
The primary goal of a first rate early childhood program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life, develop self-esteem, and provide the experiences from which knowledge is constructed. A quality program is important because it allows children to create themselves through purposeful activity during the most important years for learning. Children will not be able to achieve their full potential once this critical period for learning is over.