Pre-school education is a vital
part of the education process. It is from the pre-school that
the child learns knowledge since stepping out of the parental
home for the first time. It is very necessary that the formative
steps of the child's learning process should be both correct and
It is at the pre-school that the child meets with friends and
learns to live in a group outside home. The environment of the
pre-school should be both friendly and healthy. It is there the
child learns habits and manners of living in a group. It is
there that the child learns that education is fun. If it becomes
a burden it will affect the child's entire future.
The child spends a considerable part, sometimes up to
one-third of his early childhood at the pre-school. Therefore it
is very essential that there should be a conducive atmosphere in
the pre-school for the child's physical, intellectual and
A National Plan developed by the Human Resource Development,
Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry in the year 2000 titled
'Education for All' cited eleven objectives for early childhood
education, ie at the pre-school level. It included among others
development of creative abilities and skills to complete routine
work, developing the ability to face challenging situations and
guidance to love, appreciate, evaluate and to safeguard the
According to experts about 80 percent of the personality
characteristics and 60 percent of the intelligence of a person
is developed during early childhood. More than 10 years after
the report nothing has happened. The objectives remain on paper.
No effort was made to transform them into reality.
Pre-schools do not get adequate attention from the State and
society. As in other sectors of education, pre-school education
is also unorganized and full of problems.
It has become a profitable business for enterprising
individuals. Both content of education and the manner in which
it is imparted are haphazard and questionable. In most instances
there are no qualified pre-school teachers with even school
dropouts in charge of tender children.
Though certain community organizations try to maintain some
standards in most places the standards of teaching are low. In
cities exorbitant fees are charged from parents.
It is tragic that there is no National Policy on pre-school
education and childcare. Ministries in charge of education and
childcare should formulate such a national policy at the
earliest. As the National Education Commission has recommended
day care centres and pre-schools should be registered with the
Children's Secretariat. Standards should be set for space,
physical facilities, equipment and quality of teachers in all
pre-schools and day care centres.
There are around 15,000 pre-schools in the country in which
more than 200,000 students are studying. The number of
pre-school teachers in the country is around 60,000. All of
these pre-schools are unregistered and unregulated.
There should be a supervising and regulating agency in charge
of pre-schools either at the Children's Secretariat or the
Education Ministry. In fact, this could be established at the
provincial level so that scrutiny and guidance would be closer.
The Government has declared its intention to make Sri Lanka
the knowledge hub of Asia. In this effort the development of
human resources takes foremost priority. There is nothing better
than developing the child from early childhood. Hence, the
development of a sound system of pre-school education and the
inculcation of good intelligence, above average skills, healthy
habits, customs and manners as well as the rearing up of
personalities who are able to face the challenges posed by life
is a sine qua non. That is why the Government must give priority
to early childhood education.
It should immediately draw up a National Policy on Early
Childhood Education, institute official bodies for registration
and regulation of pre-schools and day care centres, develop
nationally recognized teacher training courses and standards,
conduct research on early childhood education and related
subjects, ensure adequate salaries and conditions of service for
teachers in order that the objectives of personality development
through pre-school education are ensured.
The private sector is the major player in this sector. While
the public sector could also join in developing pre-school
education more effort should be concentrated on ensuring better
regulation and standards in the private sector run institutions.