Early Childhood Education
Numerous studies have found that children’s experiences in their first years of life are critical for their well-being and mental health as well as their neurological and emotional development. It is during these years that children develop their mental and social abilities, form the way they relate to themselves and their surroundings, and shape the way their surroundings relate to them. The developmental disparities that may be created in the absence of proper care for the child during the first three years of life have become clear today as has the difficulty in compensating for it in the years that follow.
Early preventative intervention amongst young children can reduce these future disparities and save the tremendous investment of effort involved in creating corrective plans. Evidence published by the World Bank shows that an additional dollar invested in quality early childhood programs yields a return of between $6 dollars and $17 dollars. Economic research proves that greater investment during the early years of a child’s development is highly lucrative and will produce greater revenue in the long term.
Despite the supreme importance attributed by research to the necessity for quality early childhood care as well as the economic and ethical reasoning for such investment, this sphere in Israel suffers from serious structural issues and a tremendous lack of resources. There is no official body in Israel that assumes comprehensive responsibility for children from when they are born.
The array of services for young children in the State of Israel is built like patchwork and is divided on both the national and municipal levels amongst five government ministries, a range of local authorities, and dozens of organizations working on the ground.
Consequently, there is:
- an absence of overall government policy and responsibility for the development of the country’s children
- an absence of awareness of the critical importance of early childhood care and its ROI
- an absence of coordination between the dozens of government bodies that are supposed to be responsible for the various parts of early childhood care
- an absence of a continuum of care for children from birth until graduation
- an absence of vision as well as of standards and monitoring of productivity
- an absence/reduction of budgets and potential for creating a budgetary agenda
- an absence/reduction of human resources
The Agnes and Beny Steinmetz Foundation is determined to lobby for the advancement of early childhood care by assisting in the establishment of professional municipal services within the local authorities. The foundation’s support for early childhood care as part of a framework within the local authorities is based on two demands:
- The local authority and its chairperson must have a profound dedication to the improvement of early childhood care in that respective jurisdiction.
- The department within the local authority handling children under the age of six must assume the responsibility of appointing a director employed by the authority’s Education Department.
In order to help the local authority best meet these requirements over the long term, the Steinmetz Foundation works through several channels. It facilitates a training program for early childhood care directors that is run by the local authorities themselves. It also releases comprehensive annual reports about what has been done at the municipal level. In addition, it holds seminars and professional forums to give staff the relevant professional know-how and the necessary support so that they can perform their work in the best manner possible.
Director of Early Childhood Education in Local Authorities
The Steinmetz Foundation believes that the local authorities have the chance to effect profound change and encourages them to appoint an early childhood education director within their Education Departments. The director’s role would be to enable the authority to assume responsibility for the education of local children and to develop a comprehensive doctrine.
Assessment and Evaluation
The foundation’s endeavors are based on three indices that are assessed annually:
- The foundation’s own goals and objectives
- The goals and objectives of each municipal authority’s early childhood department
- The goals and objectives of the programs funded by the foundation
The assessment and evaluation processes are conducted by the municipal authorities with the results passed on to the foundation and submitted annually in a summary report.
Development of Professional Proficiency
Good leadership and high-quality human resources are the most important assets that early childhood services can have. It is for this reason that it is so important to the foundation to ensure the development of expertise in this field. Furthermore, the foundation has been working with the forum of early childhood education administrators and the forum of healthcare professionals at the Family Health Centers to spearhead a broader collaborative effort. The foundation also holds seminars some three times a year by request of municipal authority staff.