For students considering a career in early childhood education, staying current with the most important trends in this field can provide added insights into required coursework and can often allow a more complete picture of the expected working environment after graduation.
The U.S. Department of Education has established several key early childhood education initiatives that will shape the future of these vital learning experiences. Here are five trends to watch for 2016 and beyond.
Increased Assessment of Young Learners
Testing in the elementary and secondary school environments has been used to assess the performance of both teachers and students for years. These methods, however, may soon be put into place in some preschool and childcare environments to evaluate readiness for kindergarten or to identify subjects in which children might need extra help to excel. By providing parents with guidance on the performance of their preschool-aged children in the academic environment, these tests could potentially allow early intervention to address areas of concern and could allow gifted students to receive the specialized attention they need to reach their full potentials.
Steady Growth in Early Childhood Education
As more parents become aware of the positive impact of quality early childhood programs for the future of their children, increased attendance and steady employment for qualified preschool teachers is expected to continue. In late 2014, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicted that 60,000 more children would be served by early childhood centers in 2015; this expected increase can be attributed in part to the $250 million in funding provided in 2014 under the Preschool Development Grant Program (PDGP). In 2015, the PDGP initiative disbursed more than $237 million in support of early childhood programs in 18 states across the country.
Greater Focus on Physical Fitness
The fight against childhood obesity has reached the preschool environment. Teachers are receiving greater encouragement to plan outdoor activities and to allow plenty of time for active play inside and outside. Some innovative childcare and preschool organizations are providing students with training in lifetime sports that may include running, swimming, dancing and even beginning martial arts training. By focusing on noncompetitive and independent sports activities, early childhood educators can help children get a healthy start. These organized training sessions are intended to supplement play time and recess; most educational authorities do not recommend reducing free play opportunities in favor of these more structured activities.
Integration of Online Technologies into the Learning Environment
As mobile technologies become even more popular throughout the consumer marketplace, preschool teachers and students alike will be expected to acquire at least a rudimentary grasp of Internet access methods and strategies for obtaining necessary information online. While the initial lessons taught in preschool and childcare settings may amount to little more than the proper use of a mouse to navigate online games, these crucial first steps may provide a solid foundation for young learners in achieving mastery over these basic technological skills. Teachers will be expected to maintain at least a working familiarity with these high-tech learning options to remain competitive in the educational job market.
Applicants with Bachelor’s Degrees in High Demand
Childcare and preschool facilities are increasingly showing preference to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in the field. While an associate’s degree in early childhood education may provide entry-level opportunities in some areas, an advanced degree generally attracts higher compensation and may make the difference between receiving a job offer or a rejection in competitive employment markets. Most public school systems require that lead teachers in preschool programs have a bachelor’s degree; Head Start programs, however, typically will accept applicants with an associate’s degree in early childhood education. A Child Development Associate or Certified Childcare Professional credential may be required to teach preschool in some states.
These trends are likely to have a significant effect on the working conditions and job opportunities available for college graduates in the early childhood education field. By pursuing this career path, preschool teachers and childcare providers can make a positive impact on young students and can ensure the best possible foundation for future academic growth and success.
Additional resource: Top 10 Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education