Teaching qualifications

What does an effective early childhood program look like?

What do we mean when we say “curriculum”? Around the world, the term “curriculum” has many different interpretations. In some countries, ‘curriculum’ has a holistic meaning, encompassing not only subjects but also the links between subjects, teaching methods and all aspects of schooling that define the learner’s experience.

In other countries, a narrower interpretation is used, referring either to a prescribed range of courses or to a specific learning program covering different years or different levels.

With the implementation of NEP 2020, curriculum definition is changing in India. This is especially true for early childhood education, which requires well-designed and well-supported programs to achieve educational vision and goals. Since 80% of the brain develops during the first five years of life, the early years program plays a vital role in supporting children’s development: cognitively, linguistically, socially and physically.

To assist early childhood practitioners, an early childhood studies program can be structured into broad areas of learning. Progressive learning statements in each area of ​​learning state what learners can work on and are expected to achieve at different ages and stages of development.

Here is an example of the areas of learning you would expect to see in a well-designed early years program.

These areas of learning are all equally important and interconnected, and therefore it is essential that teaching and learning take place in a holistic way:


Communication is an essential life skill and the foundations are built here. Talking and listening is a strong focus, ensuring children develop the way they express themselves and respond to others. Emerging literacy is first appropriately supported by familiarization with texts, which helps to generate curiosity and enthusiasm for reading. Children are prepared to enter formal education, having built a solid foundation in all aspects of their communication, language and literacy.


Creative expression allows children to communicate their ideas and develop their imaginations through art and design, music, dance and drama. Fostering creativity from an early age is crucial because it combines skills and cognitive processes. For example, by creating a “sensation wall” in the classroom with surfaces that have different textures, teachers can encourage children to visually and tactilely explore and differentiate between natural and man-made materials.


From an early age, it is important to help children recognize the impact of mathematics on daily life. Through games and activities, we can introduce children to the language, thinking and mathematical concepts they will need when they start their primary studies. This helps children recognize and talk about patterns in the environment by describing sequences of items, including identifying errors in color, shape or size patterns, for example.


This area of ​​the curriculum builds on the physical development that occurs naturally during children’s play. It promotes motor skill development, helps children develop positive attitudes toward exercise, and lays the foundation for a healthy, active life. Children are engaged in activities that also allow them to engage and participate.


This area is at the heart of children’s lives. It underpins their well-being and success in all other areas of their learning. This area helps them develop social learning and friendships, regulate their emotional responses and meet the needs of others, and develop self-esteem and confidence. This should help learners to act independently and make their own choices, to develop at their own pace, and to develop feelings of competence, emotional attachment and self-esteem.


Children’s natural curiosity should be nurtured, so that they are equipped to think, question, explore and interact, and be guided in their understanding of the world. This area of ​​the curriculum lays the foundation for a range of different subjects in primary education and beyond, including science, digital literacy, history, geography and religious education.

Curriculum development is an evolving and ongoing process. This requires many education experts and regular review to ensure the content remains relevant to how children learn today. These areas can be integrated and combined in many ways to create a holistic, child-centered experience, allowing children to explore, develop and, most importantly, play. They should enjoy the variety and excitement of encountering new ideas, making new friends, and learning new lessons that will give them a lifelong passion for learning. It is crucial that we give learners the best possible start in life.

Written by Abigail Barnett, Deputy Director of Curriculum, Curriculum and Qualifications, Cambridge Assessment International Education.

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