Assessment of early childhood care education providers’ adherence to the provisions of national minimum standard on early childhood education.

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The main purpose of this study is to assess the early childhood care education providers’
adherence to the national minimum standard in Zone C (Idoma) Education Area, Benue State.

Five research questions and five hypotheses guided the study. The study adopted descriptive survey research design. The population of this study consisted of 5,999 head teachers and teachers in 170 primary schools in Zone C (Idoma) Education Area. The sample size was 381 head teachers and teachers drawn from the population. The sample was drawn using simple random technique.

The instrument for data collection was a structured questionnaire titled “Early Childhood Care Education Providers’ Adherence to National Minimum Standard Questionnaire’s (ECCEPANMSQ) was adopted by the researcher. Three experts validated the instrument and the instrument yielded an overall reliability coefficient of 0.89. The data collected was analysed using mean and standard deviation to answer the research questions while t-test statistic was used to test the null hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance.

The findings of the study were that: ECCE providers have not adhered to the requirements of the National minimum standard on the recruitment of teachers, the ECCE centres are not regularly supervised by the providers, the learning environment is not conducive enough, teaching materials are not used in line with the requirement of the National minimum standard and also children’s health is not well protected. Based on the findings of the study, conclusions were drawn and recommendations were made.

Background of the Study
Education is a process of developing an individual to help him improve himself and his/her society.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria as stated in the National policy on education[Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), 2004] , Education is defined as the process that helps to develop the whole being, physically, mentally, morally, politically, socially,economically and technologically. Education will enable the individual function in any environment in which they may find themselves. Education is the process through which a child or an adult acquires knowledge, experience, skills and sound attitude. It makes an individual civilized, refined, cultured and educated (Nwagwu, 2003). The value and importance of educating the child can never be over emphasized.

A child is a young human being between birth and puberty. According to Opera (2012),a child is a person known as a minor from birth to the legal age of maturity, for whose parents and caregivers, foster parents, public or private homes, institutional or agency is responsible.

The child is somebody under a legally specified age who is considered not to be legally responsible for his or her actions. In this study a child is defined as a person from the age of zero to five years under the care of caregivers, helpers and securities in Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) Centres. For a child to survive and develop, someone has to nurture and care for him. The child depends on his parents and others (caregiver) who ensure that the child survives and develops through good care.

Evans, Myers and IIford (2000) opined that the care results into creating an enabling environment which can support the child’s optimal development. Care include providing in the child’s life appropriate modelling, stimulation, protection and time which are all components of respect for the child’s right. The authors’ further state that a child with consistent caring attention is generally better nourished, less likely to be sick and learn better than a child who does not receive such. This is why early childhood stage is a critical period.

Early childhood period is a sensitive stage. It is a period of 0-8 years of age (UNICEF,2004). It is the time the child needs appropriate care for growth, development and survival. It is the foundation of the world’s future and must be given highest priority (Maduewesi, 2005).

The period of early childhood requires special care practice for the child for good physical and psychological development. Proper early childhood care practices are very essential to every society that aspires to raise healthy children. This encompasses such aspects as feeding,bathing, clothing, shelter, toilet training, medical care, supervision, among others. It involves engaging the child in social interaction, providing stimulating and safe environments for play and exploration (UNICEF, 1996).

The term Early Childhood Education has been used severally for children of different age bracket who are yet to attain the school-going age.[ pre-schoolers] , early childhood education is also known as pre-primary, pre-school, or nursery school, among others.

Maduewesi (2005) sees early childhood education as encompassing the overall social, physical and intellectual development and education of children below the age of six years. According to the Federal Republic of Nigeria as stated in the National Policy on Education (NPE),(FRN,2004) early childhood education is the education given in an educational institution to children prior to their entering into primary school. It includes the crèche, the nursery and the kindergarten. Here, it implies that younger children are to be taught in informal settings as in the crèche starting from zero to two years, the nursery, two to three years, and kindergarten,three to five years.

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