1.1 Background to the Study
The definition of Early Childhood Education (also known as Early Childhood learning and Early Education) varies in scope and seem to be closely linked to geographical locations. While the main thrust of some definitions is based on age bracket, some consider the environment within which the education is delivered, others combine both. ECE has been considered to be a pre-school, semi-formal education outside the home (Oyewumi, Alhassan and Ofoha, 2010). It includes the crache, the nursery and kindergarten (Olaleye, Florence and Omotayo, 2009).
This program was introduced for children between the ages of 0-5 years. In Nigeria, ECE came into being in order to assist and bring early child care within the reach of majority of Nigerian children, particularly those in rural and low socio-economic areas. Hence, the Nigerian Educational research and Development Council in collaboration with UNICEF is implementing a low cost, community based and non-formal day care program. Locally sourced educational materials are introduced to caregivers, to provide avenues for cognitive, affective and psychomotor development of the child (Zakariyah, 2012).
Young children learn best by experimenting with their environment through hands-on activities and play, which is why learning corners are such a vital part of the preschool classroom. Using learning corners to give children the hands-on experiences and play opportunities they need is important, but there are a variety of factors that influence which learning corners would work best for your space, how you should set them up, and the materials you should include in each. Research indicates that a well-organized classroom helps children learn and motivates them to interact positively with each other which in turn enhance children learning outcome.
The early childhood classroom is set up to be an environment that supports learning. Furniture, equipment, and materials are carefully chosen and arranged to appeal to children and promote the curriculum’s content goals. The learning environment encourages a mix of independence and cooperative play and provides materials that reflect the diversity of children’s family lives. Interest Areas or “Learning Corners” are specific places in a preschool room’s physical environment where specific activities are arranged for the children to explore (Nakpodia, 2011).
Preschool classrooms are usually organized around interest areas or learning corners. These defined areas allow children to play and explore materials with the guidance of the teacher either individually or in small groups. Low dividers often separate the corners, but children move freely among them. Skills that lead to reading and writing and math are not confined to specific corners, but rather reinforced in different ways throughout all the corners via communication, exploration and play.
The environment of the classroom communicates to students what is expected of them. Independence and a joy of learning is what should be conveyed. In the early childhood classroom, the use of learning corners is a key component to ensuring the success of students. Three basic settings are needed when planning where to set up corners: a place for the whole class to work together, a place for students to work independently, and a place for teacher-directed small group work. It is helpful to use a map of the classroom with scale cutouts of furniture and equipment to try different arrangements.
Early childhood education is aimed at caring and nursing all dimension of life of young children to enhance holistic development. The early years of zero to six years are important in laying the foundation for adulthood. Therefore its great important that all the stakeholders concerned should treat this without any hitch. Hirst, Jewis, Sojo and Cavagh (2011) contend that early childhood education is of great value to all children and should be available to all. They argue that preschool provides a sound basis for learning and helps to develop skills, knowledge, personal competence and confidence and a sense of social responsibility. Therefore every child should have access to early childhood education of good quality. He noted that there is a wide range of positive development and experiences in several countries, including increasing participating, and professional development of teachers to enhance enrolment and transition rate. However the rates are quite slow.
According to Duba and Orodho (2014), most families living arid and semi arid areas in the rural areas in Kenya face several challenges with regards to access to schooling and preschool education especially for the girl child is worst hit. In a classroom where there is a teacher and an assistant, both are responsible for supporting children’s play and work in the learning corners while also monitoring children and encouraging supportive friendship behaviors. When children are in the learning corners, the teacher’s role is to encourage children to share ideas and experiences with other children as well as with the teacher. Engage children in conversation and by asking open ended questions (questions that require more than just yes or no answers). Extend children’s learning by introducing new ideas and materials. Observe children’s skills, development and interests.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Since the commencement of the implementation of the National Policy on Education in Nigeria which seeks to ensure an optimal and qualitative ECE, stream of concerns have been raised by stakeholders in respect of the quality of education in Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) and its actual implementation.
Despite all measures put in place by the Federal Ministry of Education in Nigeria, there are still some lapses in the implementation and non-implementation of this program. There is no doubt that the implementation of Early Childhood Education requires the collaborative effort/input of all stakeholders, including the government, parents/guardians, and school authorities. While the government is expected to provide necessary teaching and learning resources, the availability of relevant age-grade pupils, and the cooperation of parents/guardians in enrolling their children/wards cannot be overemphasized.
Another challenge affecting Early Childhood Education is the huge capital involved in establishing learning corners in Nigeria’s environment which is costlier to afford. The establishment of learning corners can strive more in advance country than in Africa e.g Nigeria because of economic recession and inflation on the prices of materials and electronic gadgets.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to examine effect of learning corners on the preschoolers’ learning outcome in early childhood education. Basically the study will look into:
- The relationship between learning corners and preschoolers’ learning outcome.
- The relationship between learning corners and preschoolers’ academic performance in early childhood education.
- Strategies for enhancing preschooler’s performance through effective learning corners study methods.
1.4 Research Questions
The study is guided by the following research questions:
- To what extent do learning corners relate to preschoolers learning outcomes?
- Is there any relationship between learning corners and preschoolers’ academic performance in early childhood education?
- What are the strategies for enhancing preschooler’s performance through effective learning corners study methods?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following hypotheses were stated for the study:
H0: There is no significant relationship between learning corners and preschoolers’ learning outcome.
H1: There is significant relationship between learning corners and preschoolers’ academic performance.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The significance of the study are stated below
The findings from the study will enlighten care-givers, school owners and Government on the factors affecting learning corners and preschoolers’ learning outcome in early childhood education.
The study will serve as a guide to care-givers on how to strategically enhance learning corners and as such district education officers, district inspectors of schools to realize the effects of poor learning corners on preschoolers’ learning outcomes.
It will enable pre-nursery school proprietors to be able to plan systematically for the provision of good classroom which enhance children’ academic performance.
It will contribute to the existing body of knowledge and will help other researchers when working on related issues.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study covered all the care-givers or instructors or teachers who are currently working in pre-nursery schools located within Education District IV Lagos State. Only the aspect of learning corners on the preschoolers’ learning outcome in pre-nursery school will be covered.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Caregiver: A caregiver is an unpaid or paid person who helps to look after the preschool children.
Instructor: An instructor person who teaches a subject or skill: someone who instructs people ” instructor in a sentence.
Preschool: A preschool is an educational establishment or learning space offering early childhood education to children, usually between the ages of three and five, prior to the commencement of compulsory education at primary school.
Early Childhood Education: Early childhood education (ECE) is a branch of education theory which relates to the teaching of young children (formally and informally) up until the age of about eight.
Classroom: A classroom is a learning space, a room in which classes are held.
Education: Education is the process of facilitating learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.
Learning Corners: Learning Corners is a special learning activity for nursery children which strongly promotes Independence and Love of Learning.
Learning outcome: Learning outcome is the measure of how individuals learn to think and reason for themselves in relation to the world around them.