Early Childhood Care and Education is a critical link in the quest for the improvement of the education system in South Africa and is recognised as a priority in the National Development Plan (NDP). As the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria (UP) has a long tradition of training top educators in South Africa, the Faculty's Department of Early Childhood Education approached the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the European Union in 2016, with a view to obtaining a grant for the development of a bachelor's degree programme in Early Childhood Care and Education for the 0-4 year age group. The R3 million grant that was subsequently approved will be used to develop quality programmes aimed at equipping practitioners and educators with the information and knowledge needed to ensure developmentally appropriate early experiences for children both at home and in institutionalised forms of care and education.
According to staff of the Department at UP, the new programme will lead to increased professionalism in Early Childhood Development (ECD) settings with technically standardized applications of top-down expert knowledge that meet objective accountability measures. This will in turn make the attainment of optimal developmental outcomes for children possible, thus creating a stronger educational foundation that will enable learners to thrive in their later years. The visibility of research, collaboration and the development of high quality ECD programmes that uphold children's rights and interests, which are currently being designed, developed and implemented by higher education institutions across the country, is rapidly changing the ECD landscape in South Africa and is set to emancipate early childhood educators from the technical, de-professionalising constraints that they have traditionally had to contend with.
Over the course of the next three years, Dr Keshni Bipath from the Department of Early Childhood Education, the co-ordinator of the Project, along with other staff members in the Department, will focus on the development of the essential new modules that will facilitate a solid foundation to be laid by emergent Early Childhood Care and Education teachers. The planned standardised training programme will be presented over a period of four years, resulting in a qualification that will enhance the professional status of educators and practitioners involved in Early Childhood Care and Education. It is envisaged that this new qualification will be in a pilot preparation stage by 2019.