By JESSICA FELDTMAN
From 1 April 2022, all Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres around South Africa will migrate from the Social Development Department to the Department of Education (DoE).
The migration is to encourage more structured and standardised learning for children through a managed, CAPS-aligned curriculum.
Eastern Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade says the shift will see about 2 556 ECD centres migrate to the Department of Education.
“The shift will ensure adequate preparedness for every child that arrives in the primary schooling system,” she said.
It aims to address poor grades, dropouts and the repeating of grades emanating from low levels of school readiness.
While the transition has not come as a surprise to many ECD centres, some concerns still exist.
Acting Director for the Centre for Social Development at Rhodes (CSD), Nicci Hayes, said there is still a lack of clarity as to what it will mean on the ground for ECD practitioners and supervisors.
“What is going to have to be done by them – and what is going to have to be done differently?” Hayes asked.
Hayes said another concern was around methodology and teaching. “ECD centres have a much more holistic approach to education compared with primary and high schools. My concern is that if ECD is aligned to more traditional school systems, there’s a risk they will lose play-based methodologies,” she said.
Lebone Centre coordinator Cathy Gush echoed Haye’s concern about the changes to the ECD curriculum. “We believe that children should be learning through play, right until they go to school at the age of 5 or 6. So we are concerned that there will be an over-formalisation of the curriculum when young children should be taught more informally,” Gush said.
Gush is hopeful, however, that the Department of Education will be a better administrator than the Department of Social Development.
“The Department of Social Development is not at all a good administrator – its methods are cumbersome.”
Gladys Williams Creche ECD practitioner, Linda Williams, had several questions: “Will ECD names be changed? Are there plans in place for people who have ECD centres running on their private property? Will the ECD committees change? Will other people from the department be involved and make rapid changes?”
However, Williams also expressed excitement for the move. “I think the transition is a step in the right direction. I say this because ECD practitioners are at the core of children’s educational foundation, and I think they do deserve more recognition.”
At present, there are approximately 70 000 ECD practitioners in South Africa. Hayes also explained how she believes ECD practitioners should get more recognition through this move. “We hope that the ECD function improvement will result in better remuneration for qualified ECD practitioners,” Hayes said.
“Everyone acknowledges that the ECD phase is so important in education, but it is not remunerated in the same professional category that qualified teachers are.”
“It is hoped that the move will also improve communication between ECD centres and primary schools. It would be easier to ‘track’ a child almost from birth and support individual children better,” Hayes said.
Many more questions have yet to receive answers from the Department of Education. The DBE has assured ECD practitioners they will be fully informed of developments in the days to come.
“It remains to be seen what the advantages of this move will be,” said Gush.