January 4, 2018
A nursery school in Northern Egypt, 20 children sit in front of a large piece of drawing paper. When the teacher gives the signal, they begin finger-painting and pressing stamps however they like. This kind of nursery-school educational activity, a common sight at nursery schools in Japan, is widely increasing in Egypt.
This scene was part of “The project for quality improvement of early childhood development,” which JICA launched in Egypt in June 2017. Preschool education in Egypt has tended to focus on teaching children how to read and write. Children do not have much time to play. In Egypt, the introduction of “learning through playing,” for developing children’s independence of mind and creativity, has begun in a big way with national quality standards for nurseries.
Children attending a nursery school in Northern Egypt. What will they draw on that blank piece of paper?
Children learn all sorts of things while having fun playing. It has been pointed out that appropriate early childhood education before entering school is important for being mentally and physically healthy and leading a rich life from infancy to adulthood.
Japan entered into the Egypt-Japan Education Partnership (EJEP)* with Egypt in 2016. In keeping with this agreement, JICA offers assistance for the strengthening of the overall Egyptian educational system, from preschool to higher education. The Egyptian government is aiming to enhance the quality of childcare by adopting Japanese-style “learning through playing.”
Children playing with beads. Playing helps children develop cooperativeness and the ability to carry things through to the end
The project to enhance the quality of preschool education and childcare targets a total of 50 nursery schools in five governorates. These children are learning through playing in ways that emphasize children’s interests and concerns, which include make-believe games, storybook reading and arts and crafts. The project also promotes the improvement of nursery worker capabilities and the management structure and living environment of nursery schools.
This is the first time JICA has carried out a technical cooperation project targeting nursery schools, but it has a long track record of dispatching volunteers (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and others) in the field of early childhood education. Early childhood education by JICA volunteers puts to use the experiences of childcare workers in Japan. In Egypt, more than 70 JICA volunteers have provided assistance in the field of nursery-school education over the past 20 years. Preschool education was included in the EJEP out of recognition of the track record of such volunteers.
Training participants involved in Egypt’s early childhood education administration visit Tsurumi Junior College Sansho Kindergarten in Kanagawa prefecture
In December of last year, 13 administrators involved in Egypt’s early childhood education participated in childcare training in Japan. They visited an actual nursery school as part of their training in cooperation with Tsurumi Junior College in Kanagawa prefecture.
While watching the children play, one training participant said, “Japanese childcare workers receive specialized education. So, for example, when children fight, they are able to support them by intervening in a skillful way that respects and understands their independence and individuality.”
The participant also pointed out differences with Egypt, such as, “They make good use of parent-teacher notebooks and achieve good collaboration between the nursery teacher and guardian.” Another opinion expressed was ‘’I want to come up with a training program for nursery workers to enrich their specialization in childcare and education.”
Going forward, Japanese experts dispatched to Egypt and those participants will work together to ensure that what has been learned and felt in Japan will be concretely reflected in the plan and in specific activities at nursery schools in Egypt.