Why Early Childhood Development Programme Needs ‘Young Engineers’
By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
Following the successful launch of Kenya’s ‘e² Young Engineers’ programme last week, the next stop shall be Uganda. And very soon!
I was privileged to attend the Kenyan leg during which I met Shahar Aharoni, the Vice President of the main franchise based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The Israelis are very fascinating people. Their attention span is way up there. Their attention to detail is in the clouds. But most importantly, is their innovative and entrepreneurial intensity. There is no wonder that the same people have invented this programme, and are busy rolling it over the world, that the people at the National Planning Athority (NPA), Private Sector Foundation, Ministry for Youth and Children and UNICEF, should get in touch with me for a coffee discussion.
If you missed details about the ‘e² Young Engineers’ programme last week, please check the online version at www.redpepper.co.ug in which I talked in detail about the need for STEM Education in Uganda, especially among children, in order to groom the next generation of scientists.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The e² Young Engineers enrichment programme is an Israeli-based innovation by Shahar’s ‘The Decade Group -Young Engineers Ltd,’ that is purely developed by its Research and Development team with an edutainment (the combination of education and entertainment) model of delivery.
They have developed a variety of different programs that can be used to teach the most important subjects such as arithmetic, physics, mechanical and software engineering in a fun way to children in the age categories of 4-6, 7-8, 9-10 and 11-13.
The children who have to go through five different STEM stages, outside the normal national curriculum until they are 13 years old, are able to innovate and create projects of their own by the age of 15.
This is the sort of programme that the country needs especially for the early school going children. When the Ugandan government with the help of the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) launched the National Integrated Early Childhood Development Police and Action Plan (ECD) last week, I knew this was one of the programmes that would fit the bill. I intend to be at the forefront of the launch of this programme in a few months time. However, it is important to understand how it can benefit our children and in the subsequent pieces, I will explain in detail.
The ECD launch last week came at the right moment, when the thinking in education circles is gravitating towards the adoption of STEM programmes in our curricula. The ECD for instance is looking at ‘Early Childhood’ as the most critical stage of development throughout a human being’s lifetime. This is the most important stage for a child’s growth as it is critical to the complete cognitive, emotional, and physical growth. If the rapid development of a child’s brain begins at the parental stage, it means this is the most critical stage of developing complete citizens that are, like the Israelis who have mastered this, able to innovate and create in their adulthood. If there is an entrepreneurial mindset problem in Uganda, this is the stage to tackle.
For example, the ECD says Neuroscience is showing that all behavior in the environment of young children aged 0-8, both positive and negative, affects their brain, which determines what they think, feel and how they contribute in the future. It adds that half of a person’s potential intelligence is developed by age 4.
The ECD further contends that investments in early childhood development have a lasting effect on intellectual capacity, personality and social behavior. With this new discovery, I am convinced that it is possible to find a correlation between poor or absence of early childhood development and Uganda’s current performance on the leadership and corruption indices. It also has something to do with the high levels of unemployment because of low entrepreneurial intensity and innovation.
Can we get it right, now? What can we do? How can ‘e² Young Engineers’ Programme salvage this situation?
We return next week with the different programmes and how Ugandan children can be turned around and prepared well for the future!
I can be reached on [email protected] or 0752 466 778