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The Importance of Early Childhood Education and ECE Degree Programs

January 29, 2020
Insights from the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College

Early childhood education plays a vital role in the development of a child. Numerous studies have found that the years spent in kindergarten through second grade are among life’s most important.

Teachers who complete a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education degree program prepare themselves to excel as educators during this critical developmental period.

Studies Stress the Importance of Early Childhood Education

As noted by the Learning Policy Institute, the impact of quality early childhood education became apparent through a series of studies in the 1960s and 1970s that revealed “enormous benefits for children lasted into adulthood”. When children are exposed to high-quality early education in preschool they are better prepared for school and less likely to be held back later or identified as having special needs.

There are other positive effects that last a lifetime. The National Education Association provides information on  studies that find strong early childhood education leads to students committing less crime in the future. While early childhood education helps students from all backgrounds, these studies found that minority children benefit to an even greater degree.

Growth from Prenatal to Age 8 

In the Merrimack College Master of Education in Early Childhood Development program, students learn about the latest research and biological, cognitive and sociocultural theories on early childhood education covering the period from prenatal growth to the age of eight.

Science supports this approach. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The first 8 years of a child’s life build a foundation for future health and life success.”  The study found that “stressors” during these years can disrupt a child’s neurologic, metabolic, and immunologic systems, leading to “poorer developmental outcomes.” However, the report found that “consistent, responsive caregiving relationships and supportive community and health care environments promote an optimal trajectory.”

The Merrimack College program focuses on how teachers can play an important role in this area during these important developmental years for their students.

What You Learn at Merrimack College 

The 36-credit early childhood education master’s program offers teachers an extensive education in subject matter knowledge, curriculum design, and instructional strategies as they relate to early childhood education. The program also prepares graduates for application of those skills in real-world situations such as observation and assessment of students; communicating with students, peers, and parents; and collaborating with families and the community on education issues.

The Merrimack College program prepares teachers to earn their initial license from the state of Massachusetts to teach kindergarten through second grade.  Merrimack College offers the program online, granting much-needed flexibility to teachers attempting to balance their career and family life with the commitment needed to get the most out of their education.

For more, stay tuned for additional articles in this early childhood education series as we dive deeper into early childhood research and the importance of higher education in preparing teachers to lead in this area.