Meeting the Demands for Early Education
By Colleen Bielitz, Dean of Accelerated & Professional Studies
In May, my spouse and I are expecting our first child. As both a parent-to-be and an educator, I know how important it will be to provide my child with a healthy environment in which he can grow and learn. J. LeRoy Conel published as early as 1959 that 700 new neural connections are made every second in a young child’s brain. Indeed, the very early years of a child’s life set the tone for the long term. From the second we are born, our brains are ready to soak in and obtain information. According to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2000), it is the initial months and years of a child’s life that are crucial to laying the foundation for future learning and development. By age five, children cultivate 85 percent of their intellect, personality, and skills.
Early education plays a vital role not just in each child’s development, but also in the future of our nation; primary experiences mold the foundation for adult productivity. According to Shonkoff and Phillips (2000), “Virtually every aspect of early human development, from the brain’s evolving circuitry to the child’s capacity for empathy, is affected by the environments and experiences that are encountered in a cumulative fashion, beginning in the prenatal period and extending throughout the early childhood years” (pg. 6). The early formative years of our lives are the most important and are slowly receiving more attention.
Fortunately, Massachusetts is one state that realizes the importance of early education and the significant role it plays in the future success of our society. “The latest science shows that early experiences actually influence the architecture of the developing brain, much like a house is built from the bottom up. Each sequential step lays the groundwork for the next set of skills–like reading and math–and a lifetime of learning, success and productive, responsible citizenship”(Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, 2012).
This growing research is driving job market expectations. Over the next decade, our area of southern New England is projected to have a smaller overall job growth rate than the rest of the nation. However, in certain areas, there will be an increased demand for specific skills. For example, in New England, jobs for childcare professionals are projected to grow by 18.9% over the next decade (EMSI Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.).
In order to meet the job demands of the next decade and to ensure that we play our part in the growth and success of our community, Becker College has launched a new bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Youth Education. Massachusetts has initiated rigorous quality standards for early care and education and after school programs, and most of the new childcare positions over the next decade will require college graduates to fill these vital teaching roles.
Demands dictate that teachers must be formally trained in the development and assessment of developmentally appropriate curricula. Teachers need an increased understanding of how to assist children with special needs, as well as those from diverse populations. As educators, it is vital that our teachers have an increased understanding of children’s social and emotional development and its impact on learning. Our new bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Youth Education will ensure that Becker graduates will have the skills necessary to fulfill upcoming workforce demands and to mold the young minds that will shape our future.
Conel, J. L. (1959). The postnatal development of the human cerebral cortex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. (2012). Branching out: Expanding STEM learning in Massachusetts early childhood and out of school time settings.
Retrieved from http://www.eec.state.ma.us/docs1/20120305-branching-out.pdf
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2000) From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Shonkoff, J. & Phillips, D. (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, D.C. :National Academic Press