The best way to describe New Zealand’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) model is as a hybrid between informal, play-based learning, and formal education aimed at ensuring young children’s academic preparedness before entering primary school. In practice, this approach focusses on developing each individual child’s inner core – that is, their sense of belonging, confidence, and resilience.
Formal ECE takes place in preschools or ECE centres, where qualified ECE teachers provide children with numerous opportunities to develop socially, build their imagination and problem-solving capabilities, and improve their gross- and fine-motor skills through activities like free-play, drawing, singing, and dancing. These centres also ensure academic preparedness by teaching young children the basics of numeracy and literacy. Informal ECE then bolsters this formal education through parental and communal support in the form of playgroups, outings, and other relevant activities.
Studies confirm that children who feel a sense of belonging in their families, schools, and broader communities, as well as with peers, tend to exhibit greater levels of confidence, self-esteem, and resilience. This bodes well for later learning achievement, as confident children are more likely to willingly undertake new tasks; and resilient children are less likely to give up or consider themselves failures when faced with challenging academic subject matter. Thus, by building children’s inner core in their formative years, the NZ ECE model effectively works to ensure later academic and social success.
To best support the NZ ECE model, there is great emphasis placed on equipping educators to function well in the ECE field. As such, there are many undergraduate and post-graduate, as well as professional development courses offered related to early childhood education in Christchurch – all of which are aimed at growing the ECE teacher population and ensuring top-quality professionals who can support very young children in their learning, growth, and development.