The Role of the Family in Early Childhood Development and Education
The first few years of a child’s life are vitally important. Put simply, children given the right start perform better in school, have more successful careers, enjoy better health and are less likely to suffer a range of diseases than those who do not.
But Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) Falls short in Indonesia – in 2012 we ranked 44th out of 45 selected Asian countries in the Starting Well Index, which assesses the extent to which governments provide a good, inclusive ECED environment for children between the ages of three and six years old.
Families play a crucial role in a child’s development, especially in Indonesia where the majority of children do not attend kindergarten. Without proper care from parents and family members, children enter the primary education system at age seven unprepared for learning.
About 80 per cent of brain development takes place in the first three years of childhood, with another 10 per cent in the following two years. That means that 90 per cent of brain development is dictated by the experiences they have – whether positive or negative – before they first set foot in a classroom
The role of the family
The primary caregivers in this early period tend to be parents and families, so it’s vitally important that they understand the kind of positive interactions that young children need, and how to provide them.
This is reaffirmed by recent research from the World Bank which specified that active parental engagement, including by fathers, in a child’s preschool activities is crucial to readiness for school later.
Many Indonesian children of five years old and below do not reach their full potential because they do not receive adequate care, nutrition and opportunities to learn when their brain is developing most rapidly.
Some playgroups and toddlers group activities are available for children aged two and under, but only 0.8 per cent of infants and toddlers in Indonesia are able to attend.
Kindergartens for children aged three to five are available in 74 per cent of villages, but as these are provided by the private sector and not the government, many parents view them as a luxury, leading to an enrolment rate of just 34.6 per cent.
Many frontline actors also lack training, leading to an emphasis on health and nutrition at the expense of strengthening parenting skills to enable quality interactions that introduce their young children to play-based learning.
Many parents and kindergarten staff emphasise reading and numeracy skills, where in fact a focus on structured play will better prepare young children for the formal education system.
Parents often require help learning the skills they need to provide structured play activities, foster functional communication and ensure proper nutrition.
That’s why we’re setting up four Early Childhood Parenting Centres in Jakarta in October, to be followed by nine more in 2020. As part of the Foundation’s SIGAP (Strengthening Indonesian’s early Generation by Accelerating Potential) program, these centres will host expecting parents and main caregivers to have one-on-one sessions with stimulation coaches and feeding counsellors.
These are meant to be a top-up to the existing Integrated Child-Friendly Public Spaces (RPTRA) in Jakarta, which are run by the government.
Eventually, Tanoto Foundation plans to build the Parenting Centers in areas where our basic education program, PINTAR, already exists. This will be done with the premise that by taking care of the children’s first three years with good learning stimulation and play, followed by accessing quality preschools, they will be ready to enter PINTAR-assisted schools later and achieve their full potential.
We hope that by working with local government to set up and run these facilities we can provide a model that can be scaled up and implemented across the country for the period where the return of investment for holistic human capital development is the highest.
It takes the entire community to successfully raise our children. That means government, the private sector, philanthropies like Tanoto Foundation and, of course, parents and families all have a role to play in preparing the next generation of Indonesian citizens.
Sri Kusuma Hartani, MD is the Head of Tanoto Foundation’s ECED program which aims to improve access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre-primary education so all Indonesian girls and boys are ready for primary education.