Early Childhood Education

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What is Early Childhood Education?

Early childhood education generally refers to education before the start of formal schooling or before the age at which children are required to attend school. It covers the period from birth to 6 years. Legislation on school attendance requires children to be at school (or receiving an education) from the age of 6.

In most cases, early childhood education and care services in Ireland are delivered outside the formal education system, by a diverse range of private, community, and voluntary interests and are described variously as crèches, nurseries, pre-schools, naíonraí (Irish language pre-schools), playgroups and daycare services.

Montessori is one of the most well-known childhood education models. Maria Montessori (1870–1952), an Italian physician and educator pioneered this method. She believed that the learning environment should meet the psychological needs and characteristics of children. She believed this would give children a greater chance of developing into well-rounded adults capable of building a better society.

What Early Childhood Education Courses Are Available?

Degree course options include Early Childhood Care, Early Childhood Education, and Early Childhood Studies. They teach students about the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of children. Typical subjects include Developmental Psychology, Language Acquisition, Inclusive Education and Sociology, Childcare Management, as well as Healthcare and Nutrition. There are also classes in teaching Art, Music, Science, Creativity, and Drama. Supervised work placements in a childcare environment are an integral part of most Early Childhood Education courses.

Childcare is one the most common and popular courses in further education, with dozens of providers nationwide. Options include one-year Level 5 certificates in Childcare, Special Needs Assistant, and Childcare with Social Studies. Once completed, it is possible to advance to a Level 6 Childcare Supervision/Management program. Work experience plays an essential role in all PLC Childcare programs.

Montessori courses are available from several local colleges around the country. Students are taught the Montessori Method of education, including subjects that focus on Practical Life Exercises, Environment & Cultural Awareness, Art & Music, Movement Sensorial Education, Language, and Mathematics. You will also learn about child development (physical, social, and psychological) and experience an extended period of teaching practice.

Studying Early Childhood Education Courses in College

Already sought after, the demand for accredited Early Childhood Education and Educators is growing as the field and its benefits gain recognition. This course will help you learn how best to support the wellbeing and learning of children, in partnership with their families, during the crucial early years.

The course prepares you for a range of early education settings and develops your knowledge, competencies, and understanding of children’s welfare, development, and learning; key national frameworks and how to create settings that support and challenge young children; how to translate teaching theory into practice; social and legislative context and its impact on children; how to work, communicate and build relationships with children, parents, and colleagues.

Career Options

Teachers who specialize in Early Childhood and Montessori Education have a unique opportunity to help shape the minds of the next generation. Graduates can find work in crèches, pre-schools, day nurseries, and private homes, as well as with special needs services, community services, and family centers. They may also decide to move into counseling or other areas of educational, organizational, and administrative work in the state, private, and voluntary sectors.

One of the central tenets of early childhood education is that children learn through play as it allows them to form concepts and understand complex relationships while remaining interested in-class exercises. Early childhood workers will typically lead their charges through activities that touch on key educational areas, such as music, art, science, maths, and literacy.

Early childhood education professionals also deal with situations ranging from children who miss their parents to helping children gain confidence in everyday tasks such as pouring a drink and tying their laces.

Montessori teachers deal with the above situations in a particular way. The child is encouraged to explore and learn through both his/her own will and through the examples set by the teacher.

Someone who works in childcare education should, of course, as children and be able to communicate well with them. Young children generally don’t care if they are tired or not in the mood to play. High levels of energy, patience, and a sense of humor are useful for a career in this area, while the joy and satisfaction of helping young children learn are tremendously rewarding for many people.

Teaching takes place in several environments. Teachers can work in a crèche, pre-school, kindergarten, playschool, or Montessori school. Different schools and childcare workers or teachers can concentrate on different areas and education styles. However, all must plan and implement educational programs for young children.

“The child,” wrote William Wordsworth, “is the father of the man.” The sentiment is largely true. The links between early childhood and later adult identity are well documented. The first three years in a person’s life have a lasting impact upon their psychological development. Teachers play a vital role in this development. The job is important but it is hard work!

Graduates have secured employment as managers of early childhood care and education centers, supervisors and staff, play therapists, primary school teachers, social workers, youth and community workers, and disability nurses, among other roles.

Related Jobs

Jobs directly related to your degree include:

  • Early years teacher
  • Education consultant
  • Family support worker
  • Health play specialist
  • Learning mentor
  • Play therapist
  • Primary school teacher
  • Special educational needs coordinator
  • Special educational needs teacher
  • Social worker
  • Teaching assistant
  • Youth worker

Jobs where your degree would be useful include:

  • Child psychotherapist
  • Children’s nurse
  • Community development worker
  • Counselor
  • Educational psychologist
  • Speech and language therapist

Further Study

Gaining a postgraduate qualification brings with it many benefits. It enables you to gain further, more

specialized knowledge in your field of study. It can give you a specific technical, vocational or professional

qualification and facilitate you in developing a range of key skills including; research, analysis, evaluation, and

written communication.


Why do I need to be Garda vetted before starting my career in Early Childhood Development?

Garda Vetting is a legal requirement for all people working with children and vulnerable adults, under the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012-2016. The Garda Vetting process must be completed before an employee commences work in an Early Learning and Care or School Age Childcare setting.

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.

Where Can I Study Early Childhood Education Courses?

Explore your options here.

Did you know?

The brain of a three-year-old child is twice as active as that of an adult.

Further Resources

Early Childhood Ireland

Síolta – The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education


Whichcollege.ie is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.


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