I embarked on my longest trip to date to provide a pre-conference presentation and keynote address at the Early Childhood Care and Education International Rendezvous in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During my three days at the conference, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend over 15 research presentations by early childhood educators from around the world including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Austria.

What I learned from my international peers is that we face so many similar challenges in regards to policy implementation, play, and family engagement.  As I discussed this insight with my new friend from Saudi Arabia, I could not decide if this made me sad because no one has determined the solution for early education challenges, or reassured me because I now had a sense that “we are not in this alone” and that we have many countries to look to for support as we work to solve the challenges. 

A summary of my notes on the similarities that I jotted down during presentations follows. See how many you have heard before in conferences or discussions with others.

There is a gulf between policy and implementation 

  • There is a lag between policy making and program implementation.
  • We have trouble integrating what is happening in higher education and what is happening in schools.
  • In higher education, they are teaching the theoretical, but in schools we need the practical.
  • The policies are “beautiful,” but the implementation is the problem.
  • What is “on paper” differs from what happens at schools.
  • We are rolling out programs without enough training for teachers.
  • Change takes time, but we do not give change enough time. 
  • It takes a long time to change values.

We are losing our emphasis on play in the world

  • We have limited time for play in classrooms.
  • People don’t understand the value of play.
  • We say things like, “If you finish your work, then you can play.”
  • Academics are given more importance than play.
  • Technology is replacing play at home and at school.

Family engagement is an issue everywhere

  • We struggle with engaging families in programs—particularly with families helping children with reading and homework at home.
  • We live in fear of complaints from parents.
  • There is a lack of trust between teachers and parents.

As we work to change practices, we are all plagued by these top five challenges:

  1. Time
  2. Standards and curriculum
  3. Rules and regulations
  4. Funding
  5. Safety concerns

And lastly, conferences seem to face the same challenges no matter where you are in the world

  • Conference rooms are SOOO cold! My new friends from South Africa brought a blanket to share.
  • Technology issues for presenters are the most difficult part of presenting.

CLASS® was developed to help educators deal with these challenges and more. It is a research-based method of measuring, evaluating, and improving teacher-student interactions. Effective interactions have proven to improve academic outcomes, social-emotional outcomes, and student engagement in the classroom.