x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Higher standards good for children

Adding a new international qualification standard for nursery-school teachers is a positive step.

Parents who have spent anxious hours trying to select a nursery school for their toddlers will be delighted to learn, in the news pages of The National today, that a new standard of accreditation for teachers in these schools has arrived in the UAE.

The whole idea of entrusting your precious child to caregivers you barely know, employed by a nursery or school you may have had to select in a hurry, can be daunting, not to say terrifying.

And the process is not made any easier when parents consider the findings of a 2011 study that said that over 80 per cent of nursery teachers across this country have not acquired the educational qualifications appropriate to the job.

To be sure, this research was done by the company now introducing the new standards, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs. But nobody can doubt that some nursery schools are better than others, and nobody should doubt that this matters. A good nursery school can lay the foundations for decades, not to say a whole lifetime, of successful learning. But a badly chosen nursery, with an unfit teacher, raises short- and long-term risks no parent wants to contemplate.

The new credentialing programme, based on a US model but customised for the Arab world, will start slowly; so far only about 30 women have applied for the Child Development Associate certificate, which will be awarded to those who come up to a high standard.

It stands to reason that nursery teachers who have the new credential will speedily command higher wages than the majority without; soon demand for the certificate will increase - and standards throughout the sector will improve.

That's a fine step toward improving the opportunity our children experience. But qualified staff is not the only vital requirement for a sound preschool. The Villagio day care fire in Doha last May, which killed 13 children and six adults, was the worst possible way to bring attention to the issue of fire safety, but since that tragedy operators, teachers, building owners and parents have all been highly focused on secure premises. In this country, facilities are inspected by both Civil Defence and the Ministry of Social Affairs; officials, too, will be doubly vigilant after Doha.

Pre-school starts children on the educational journey that can take them to a satisfying life. We've all got to get it right, for their sake.