The Importance of Early Childhood Learning

The Importance of Early Childhood Learning

Most countries in the world offer two to three years of junior kindergarten education before a child enters grade one. Depending on the country, this education is comprised of early reading, writing, mathematics, arts and crafts. These programs are considered very important, since children are at their peak learning years before the age of six.

Recognizing that this kind of learning didn’t exist in Vancouver, I founded the CEFA Early Learning and Junior Kindergarten Schools.

The CEFA curriculum is designed to stimulate children’s development. Children learn reading, writing, math and science by playing games designed to teach the skills they are ready to learn. The children feel like they are playing, enjoying their friends and exploring an ever-changing classroom.

CEFA also develops empathy in children and gives them opportunities to express their voice in our community, and to contribute to it, by working on projects that range from recycling to exchanging letters with schools around the world.

I believe that with the right start in life we inevitably affect so many other aspects of our society, like school readiness, crime reduction, and high school and university graduation rates. A strong early learning plan also yields immediate benefits, like a parent’s ability to contribute to our communities by returning to work within one year of having a family, instead of five or ten.

One person who clearly understands this is Sam Sullivan.

Because CEFA is different than the pre-schools and daycares available in Vancouver, there were challenges with the existing legislation to make it work. We encountered numerous problems along the way.

However, I will never forget the day I was interviewed by the Vancouver Sun regarding the numerous problems we encountered while trying to open in Vancouver. Coincidentally, that same day Sam, who was Mayor at the time, was interviewed over something else for the six o’clock news. At the end of the interview the reporter asked Sam what he thought of the lack of childcare in Vancouver, to which he responded it was a very important problem to address.

The reporter then said “I hear there are people trying to open more centres in Vancouver, and are not able to due to problems with the city bylaws.” Sam replied that it would have to get looked at.

When I heard that I began writing him a letter, determined to ensure he would not forget.

To my surprise, before I finished the letter, I received a call from Sam’s office asking me to come in and discuss the issue. He wanted to understand the issue and work towards finding a solution. I did not even get a chance to send my letter! He truly meant what he said!

I was even more impressed when after our meeting, he understood the root of the problem and addressed it with his team.

He understood the requirement for regulation and bureaucracy, but also the necessity to view initiatives on their individual merits and contribution, and that sometimes it is in the public good to be progressive and reduce red-tape and administrative roadblocks.

Sam Sullivan is a remarkable man, and we are fortunate to have someone of his intelligence, understanding and thoughtfulness, contributing to public service.

Natacha Beim is the founder and CEO of CEFA Early Learning and Junior Kindergarten Schools. CEFA has 12 schools owned by parents and teachers, and employs over 400 people. Natacha has been a Vancouverite since 1994.


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