How to Manage Early Childhood Education

Child health education

Administering Early Childhood Education

in response to the needs of our time administration has become a specialized area as we realize that trained skill in implementing policy holds the key to the success of an organization. 

So it is with children's programs which in the view of this writer serve two purposes, namely: to enrich the lives of children as children and to equip them for further and future living.

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The administration of any program for children should bear these two purposes in mind and constantly evaluate actions against the yardstick of servicing these purposes.

What are Children's Programmes?

Broadly, children's programs include all the activities, knowledge, and skills that are arranged for the benefit of children, usually in a group setting. 

Generally, such programs are educative in one way or another even if the aim is not directly educational. Activities could be geared to recreation, custodial care, socialization, skills mastery, or any other focus. 

Thus, among the organizations and institutions for children requiring skilled administrators are:

  • Nursery schools
  • Day-care centers
  • Junior schools
  • Playgrounds
  • kindergartens
  • Entertainment programs for sick and handicapped children
  • Children's theatre
  • Children's choir
  • Children's Sunday school
  • Children's clubs
  • Boys/girls' brigade
  • Boy scouts
  • Girl's guides E.T.C 

The position of this writer is that the administration of children's programs should be allowed and encouraged to become a specialized area in the same way as hospital administration has become. The unique and delicate condition of children justifies this position.

Who Should Administer Children's Programmes?

In Nigeria, issues concerning children have not received nearly as much attention or generated as much enthusiasm as they deserve despite the platitudes about the future belonging to children, and they are being the future leaders. There is nothing much to administer in the public realm.

However, it should be noted that those who administer children's programs should be psychologically and professionally equipped 

Some experienced men and women have a deep and humane interest, devotion, and commitment to children's welfare and their proper upbringing. 

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Such persons, when they have had experience working with children in one capacity or another, and have matured socially and experientially would require some professional work in human and child development as well as in administrative theory. 

This could be through workshops, seminars, or outright diploma or degree work in administrative processes in general or was available in administration of children's programs in particular or failing that in educational administration. 

Even in industrialized countries like the USA, degree programs in the administration of children's programs are probably of recent origin and not exactly common.

Persons so equipped would be ideal to administer children's programs but such specialization does not yet exist in our country.

Conceptualization of Administrative Theory

According to Stevens (1975), Getzels, Lipham, and Campbell (1968), Getzel outlined three conceptualizations of administrative theory as follows: 

  1. A management orientation
  2. A human relations orientation
  3. A social science orientation.

  • The management-oriented administrator tends to focus on the task or product of the organization and devise the most efficient method of accomplishing that task. He is generally highly directive and authoritative, decision-making is at the top, and workers are assigned tasks that could be rewarded for the quality or quantity of output. There is a high rate of centralization as the manager has the responsibility to oversee and evaluate the performance of workers.
  • The administrator with the human relations orientation tries to coordinate things and activities so that mutually arrived at the organization's objectives are achieved. Workers are heavily involved in policymaking, policy implementation, and monitoring their activities. This process deepens worker's commitment and results in a feeling of belonging. It is unlikely that organizations run this way would have alienated and depersonalized workers because of the personal leadership followership style.
  • The third type, the social science orientation, is a cross between the managerial and the human relations style.  Here, the challenge is to identify the tasks which the organization wishes accomplished and then to manage human behavior efficiently enough to accomplish the tasks. Getzels, Lipham, and Campbell (1968) observed that the transactional style of leadership is commonly adopted by those who have the social science orientation and that as circumstances present, they utilize the directive or co-ordinating approach.
    A fourth administrative structure, the "horizontal" or "collective" type has also been proposed by Almy (1975). This bends to the needs and changes in the lifestyle of those who patronize to program being administered.

      Critique of Conceptualization of Administrative Theory in the Light of Administrative Reality

        Even without being an administrator, the problems of using the management orientation in administering any program, particularly for children are clear. 
          Frustration on the part of workers, who have no say in decision making, alienation resulting from inadequate or absence of consultation, form part. 

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            Then, the roving administrator could easily become a slave-driver as he marches from place to place, assessing, evaluating, rewarding, or withholding reward. 

            He runs a clear risk of being frustrated. tired out and ineffective by constituting himself into the walking machine to single-handedly monitor the organization. 
              The organization would, without doubt, suffer neglect if run on the management approach because the alienated workers would be careful to present only the minimum performance required to keep the job, while withholding their initiative, resourcefulness, and devotion, feeling that those who make policy should devise the means for ensuring these others. 
                It is felt that a growing, vibrant organization, especially one that requires the flexibility and humane quality which the care of children demands, may not thrive under a management-oriented administrator.
                  The human relations orientation looks very attractive for the administrator of children's programs, more especially because of the open communication channels and the participatory style of this approach.

                  Since flexibility is a constant watchword of those who are charged with the care of children, a system that enables workers to exercise initiative and to identify closely with the fortunes of the organization seems ideal.
                    However, since the human relations orientation is based on the assumption that "the greatest accomplishment will occur not from adherence to rigorously defined expectations, but from making it possible for each person to contribute what is most meaningful to him", the question then arises, what if there are crucial tasks which have to be performed, but which lack meaning for the staff members?
                      In practice, most modern organizations are probably not administered entirely based on the human relations orientation, attractive as it seems. 
                        Human behavior is influenced by so many variables that even the open channel approach might not produce the commitment, devotion, and open-minded co-operation and identification, expected of the workers. 
                          There are always people who prefer to be told what to do and such workers cannot be productive in a system where each person sets his goals based on "what makes most meaning to him." Such people may not be capable of identifying and articulating what makes meaning to them. A management-oriented administrator is what such workers require.
                            Since the social science orientation contains elements of management as well as elements of human relations, and in the light of the analysis in the preceding paragraph, this may well be the most suitable for the majority of organizations. 

                            The administrator with this orientation would then apply whichever element suits each category of workers. 

                            Stevens (1975) declared that "effective leadership in an early childhood center would appear to require this (social science) style of leadership
                              This provides some amount of directive leadership blended with open communication channels and participation. This might be best for the administrator of children's programs.

                                The Administrator's Scope and Functions

                                  Most organizations have boards that represent and incorporate the totality of interests and philosophic motivation of the organization. The board makes policy and thereafter the administrator takes over as interpreter, implementer, and monitor. He is now the activator, the nerve center.


                                  From which actions radiate to traverse the organization's body politic through human and other arteries which serve to sustain, energize and nourish the entire system.

                                  In practical terms, the administrator has
                                  responsibility for the welfare of the organization's employees, the maintenance of equipment, provision of facilities, which would enable the work of the organization to proceed, budgetary issues, monitoring
                                  operations, evaluating, and reporting, among others.

                                  Though we recognize and acknowledge the variety of programs for children, for the rest of this article, we shall use as our reference point the administration of early childhood education programs.

                                  In the parlance of childhood education, we can particularize the administrator's
                                  responsibility as embracing responsibility toward children and staff, respectively, for the educational program, for supporting services and facilities, for equipment, for financial and budgetary matters, for public
                                  relations especially relating with parents, and for evaluation. 

                                  Administrative services are intended to facilitate teaching functions and support the teacher so that success in teaching even at the early childhood education stage is closely tied up with an understanding of the structure of the school, and the teacher's ability to develop her zone of influence and effectiveness.

                                  According to Stevens and King (1975), the
                                  early childhood education administrators "must plan, implement, and monitor the operation of an educational program within a multi-disciplinary context. An efficient cost-effective system that facilitates the
                                  kinds of personal relationships and personalized care needed by very
                                  young children must be created."

                                  Providing Children's Needs

                                  This is another important function of the administrator. A children's program is for children, so they get priority attention in every way. 

                                  The plan of the center or whatever the venue is should have children's convenience as the guiding consideration, to provide ample, pleasant, and safe
                                  space for free movement and exploration.

                                  Equipment: In the form of play equipment or furniture should reflect good taste, be simple but pleasant, and of course child-sized, to be functional.  Play equipment should have variety in terms of functions, type, and uses, of both outdoor and indoor Ones.

                                  Building: If planned for children from the beginning should contain rooms earmarked for the various activities which constitute the concern of early childhood education, eg., dramatic play, rest or
                                  relaxation room, library, art or work-room, etc, while facilities for play with water and sand must be provided. 

                                  Quiet areas with picture books puzzles and games should exist indoors while grassed lawns, flowers, and shrubs outdoors enable the children to see and study nature first hand in attractive surroundings. All provisions should bear the children's safety in mind.

                                  Curriculum
                                  Even though the administrator may not be directly responsible for formulating the curriculum, he is in charge of the administrative implementation and will answer for any resulting administrative problems. 

                                  The curriculum in the early childhood
                                  program is normally built around the developmental tasks and needs of young children, presented to them in play form in pleasant surroundings. 

                                  Learning is best when arranged in learning areas or comers with appropriate supporting activities such as rhymes, songs, art, and trips together with adequate equipment and facilities.

                                  Time scheduling is usually very flexible and geared to the needs and convenience of the children and the staff. Evaluation is based on
                                  the objectives which should be articulated and on which the curriculum is based
                                  Attention is called to the new (1988) Federal Government Curriculum Guidelines for Nigerian Pre-primary Schools.

                                  Supportive Services
                                  The delicate condition of children necessitates the provision of services that support learning in early childhood education. Such services include social, psychological, and health services, such as counseling, communication, screening for handicaps, etc. The administrator has to see to the provision of these services.

                                  Providing for Staff Needs
                                  In any consideration of administration, personnel matters usually loom very largely indeed. Every administrator whatever the size of his organization, must develop the ability to work effectively with people.

                                  Good staff relations thrive on clear delegation of responsibility, open communication channels humane considerations fairness, and patience In
                                  the fact the earlier discussion of the conceptualization of administrative
                                  theory concentrates exclusively on personnel relationships Indeed, this is
                                  central to the functioning of any organization since the human resources
                                  constitute the "life and moving spirit of the organization. 

                                  However, that the discussion on "providing children's needs" was taken first was not by
                                  accident. Children's needs must always come first.

                                  The Organizational Scheme
                                  Every organization must evolve an administrative set-up that enables the free flow of authority and power such that the goals of the organization are pursued and the aims and objectives are achieved. No matter how accomplished, devoted, or committed, no one person can successfully run an organization. 

                                  On the other hand, unless his lieutenants clearly understand and identify with the aims, success may be elusive. It is necessary for each worker to understand and to accept his/her position and role in the setup, so that he discharges the relevant responsibility, thus enabling the organization to move forward.

                                  The idea is to set out a suggested organizational structure for administering a nursery school in Nigeria. Modifications can be made to adapt this structure to other children's programs.

                                  All the workers in the early childhood programs need to know how the system works, where to obtain information, material or where to make a report or complaint. They need to realize and
                                  appreciate how the various parts of the program relate and the hierarchy of staff.

                                  Each worker, in whatever capacity, should have a clear grasp of the tasks he is expected to perform in his position in the form of a job description, for example, the following sample job description (Fig. 5.1), and his role in achieving the objectives of the establishment.

                                  Relating with Staff
                                  Regular meetings with staff who are in charge of sub-sections of the
                                  organization (Fig. 5.1), for instance, operations staff education co-

                                  ordinator, supporting service staff are desirable Meetings help the administrator to see these lieutenants at close quarters understand the way they think or perceive their work listen to their problems all of which assist the administrator to pick up administrative skills and supervisory confidence.

                                  List of organizations structure 

                                  • Board of Governors
                                  • Supervisor (Probably the Proprietor)
                                  • Parent-Teacher Association
                                  • Administrative Head
                                  • Parent Advisory Committee(Probably the Headmistress)
                                  • Co-ordinator Supporting Services
                                  • Sectional Coordinator or Ass. 
                                  • Head Sectional Coordinator or Asst. Head
                                  • Sectional Co-ordinator or Asst. Head
                                  • Classroom teachers
                                  This is the suggested Organizational Structure for Administering a Nursery School properly.

                                  In Managing Early Childhood Education
                                  The procedure and tone of such meetings would normally be influenced by the administrator's orientation but his perceived
                                  concern for the welfare and satisfaction of staff usually helps them to work meaningfully toward the achievement of the goals of early childhood education. 

                                  Also, promoting staff development through
                                  creating career ladders, recognizing and rewarding increased competence are viable methods of staff development. Competency-
                                  based and performance-based training which is steadily gaining ground in such countries as the USA appears to be more relevant than the possession of certificates as is the common craze in Nigeria my country.

                                  Other concerns are with recruiting and selecting staff who can work with existing ones. It should be noted that the ability of the organization to attract high-quality staff is due at least partly to whatever reputation the organization has built up in the job market.

                                  iii. Personnel Policies and Supervision
                                  Whatever the size of the program, all workers should be given a written document specifying the organizational policy - as far as the staff is concerned.

                                  Written Philosophy of the Programme
                                  Because of the variety in the type and quality of early childhood programs, the administrator should produce in a written form, a statement outlining the philosophy, aims, goals, curriculum,
                                  admission policy, fees, and all other information deemed necessary. 

                                  This would serve not only to inform the general public especially prospective
                                  patrons and clients, but would form the nucleus around which the history
                                  of the program would be written whenever, if ever that becomes desirable.

                                  Other issues which concern the administrator include grouping policy and cost of the program. Traditionally, children are grouped according to age or ability described as homogenous. But there are advantages too in heterogeneous grouping and the administrator should
                                  explore these types of grouping which suit the circumstances of the program.
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