Early Childhood Education, like the rest of the educational stages, is being affected by Covid-19. Although boys and girls of these ages do not seem to show too many effects at the symptomatic level, they are more sensitive and susceptible than those in other later stages to suffer from conditions related to social and personal training.
This stage , characterized by personal attachment, motor play, exploration for learning, the consolidation of values such as sharing and helping, as well as the promotion of personal autonomy, could be seriously affected by the indirect effects of pandemic.
In this sense, 42 teachers from the province of Malaga surveyed in an unpublished study have manifested themselves with the aim of knowing closely the state of this issue. 71.4% of them agree that the necessary variability of this educational context is greatly diminished.
62% affirm to perceive a reduction in the margin of freedom of the students and half affirm that this situation represents a serious setback in terms of the methodological and significant effectiveness of learning.
The significance of these first years of life has not gone unnoticed by international institutions and organizations such as the UN or the OECD, nor by researchers in the field of human and social sciences, whose work constantly confirms the importance of this stage.
A moment of great changes
Let us remember that during Early Childhood Education our physical, affective, social and intellectual development is established and founded, at the same time that we are developing the values and skills necessary to participate actively and autonomously in our society.
These learnings occur through continuous interaction with the physical, natural, social and cultural environment. During this stage, everyday life is constituted as the stage from which and from which one learns.
A central part of this scenario is the organization of the infant classroom, which must be configured as an optimal context to encourage action, and therefore learning, by proposing educational experiences and situations.
The pedagogical proposals must promote the development of the autonomy of children, as well as teamwork, fostering active participation and facilitating interaction with adults, with peers and with the environment.
All this, taking into account the characteristics of these ages and taking into account the different learning rhythms, providing an affective climate that, from safety, stimulates the discovery of themselves and their environment.
Today, while we suffer the scourge of this pandemic, the Infant Education teachers consulted affirm (66.7%) that the normal relationship with children is being seriously hampered and that they try to combine the limitations imposed by the disease with educational objectives through the continuous search for different alternatives.
Attachment to teachers and peers
One of the most differentiating aspects of this stage is the school environment, characterized by strong affective bonding and the feeling of belonging to this social group. It is therefore necessary that these relationships be of security, affective, individualized, balanced and empowering children’s autonomy.
However, 83.3% of the interviewees perceive how such relationships are seriously affected and, therefore, seek to modify both the oral and gestural codes that allow us to externalize the emotions and feelings that relationships with others awaken to adapt them to this new situation.
The development of oral expression and the interpretation of emotional language is a basic objective that the mask opposes. 95.2% of the teachers affirm that this element, although necessary, hinders communication development.
The expression of attachment through body contact, voice, look or gesture generates confidence and security that allow us to actively intervene in society. The formation of a positive and adjusted image of oneself is the foundation of initiative and social participation. More than 40% of the teachers perceive a reduction in attachment as a result of forced social distancing, even though they use “distance hugs” and “flying kisses”.
Relationship with families
In this desirable situation of stability and school reliability, families play a very important role of co-responsibility and collaboration. From the centers, moments of encounter should be facilitated, to which the families must participate actively.
However, due to the current situation, 88.1% of the teachers affirm that this participation has been reduced and even, in some cases (66.7%), this relationship is distant, distrustful, abstract and not very personal, favored partly due to the digital divide or technological ignorance of some families.
The school is, par excellence, the socialization space in which educational work can create favorable conditions for children to acquire and learn the values, ideas, customs and habits that our society is so in need of.
Sharing a sandwich, a toy or the material, helping to put on a shoe or to reach an object are actions that promote the acquisition of habits of cooperation and collaboration, priority objectives in this educational stage.
Group work and changing partners during games and activities are appreciated educational resources with which we learn to negotiate our participation and resolve possible conflicts that may arise. The current situation, therefore, not only involves greater physical distancing due to methodological constraints (62%), but it also generates fewer situations of collaboration and cooperation between equals (47.6%).
Intimately related to the socialization process are identity and personal autonomy. The social participation of each child should be increasingly autonomous, both from a physical, moral and intellectual point of view.
Early Childhood Education must promote an environment that allows the increasingly autonomous functioning of boys and girls, for which a design and organization of spaces, a distribution of time and grouping possibilities should be presented that allow and enhance exploration behaviors. and inquiry, thus stimulating children’s autonomous participation.
Shared play and freedom of movement and interaction between peers, conductive instruments of learning, seem to be reduced as a consequence of the pandemic (83.3%). Even, in some cases, there is a type of individual game, less affective and favoring unsympathetic selfish behaviors.
The professionals consulted assure (90.5%) that freedom of movement has been considerably reduced both within the classroom and the center. 57.1% believe that the new rigid and non-flexible grouping models inevitably worsen this situation.
66.7% corroborate the decrease or loss of use of certain learning spaces and of certain methodologies and beneficial activities for minors.
The objective of our writing is nothing more than to appeal to parents and education professionals to take these situations into account and act accordingly. In this same sense , the UN manifests itself , and warns that the interruptions caused by Covid-19 in daily life meant that up to 40 million children around the world missed early childhood education in its critical preschool year.
Thus, a stimulating and nurturing environment, learning opportunities, social interaction and, in some cases, proper nutrition were lost. This is likely to compromise their long-term healthy development, especially children from poor and disadvantaged families.
Author Bios: A. Ramón Romance García works in the Human Motor Laboratory, Body Expression Area, Adriana Nielsen Rodriguez is Research Staff in Training, specialization in Early Childhood Education and Psychomotor Development and Juan Carlos Dobado Castañeda is a Professor in the Degree of Early Childhood and Primary Education of the Faculty of Educational Sciences all at the University of Malaga