Check credentials of early childhood educators

THE cruel death of T. Nhaveen and Zulfarhan Osman due to their peers’ merciless bullying has rightfully aroused public outrage. Brutal bullying that caused grievous harm has occurred a number of times previously and cases of fatal assaults are not rare. We also know that the cases of bullying reported are just the tip of the iceberg.

Following the assaults, perpetrators of reported cases were punished, proposals and plans were made to mitigate bullying, especially if the assaults were fatal, and action might even have been carried out. But bullying continues unabated and, if anything, they seem to occur in greater frequency and gravity.

One of the reasons for this is that we are treating the symptoms and not the root causes. We need to know why perpetrators are sadistic, why they display such cruelty and have no empathy or are unable to feel the pain and suffering of the victims. Knowledge of how these characteristics are inculcated in children will enable us to provide environments that promote children’s wholesome development.

Environment plays a critical role in ways individuals behave or react. Knowing the circumstances or environment that promote or trigger the expressions or release of cruelty or sadism will help schools and education institutions to minimise the creation of such environments.

 In recent years, the findings of neuroscientists have revealed the importance of the first five years of a child’s life. The experiences of children in these formative years affect all aspects of their development – physical, intellectual, socio-emotional and spiritual – because they affect the developing brain. Good, positive experiences such as loving, caring and stimulating interactions with adults and developmentally appropriate exposure to learning provide a strong foundation for the children’s physical and mental well-being.

Conversely, negative experiences such as abuse, neglect, discrimination and stresses created by persistently unmet needs (such as anger, thirst, discomfort and need for attention) affect the structure of the developing brain, and the possibility of nurturing an emotional monster who can kill without blinking an eyelid.

Realising the importance of a violence-free early childhood for the physical and mental well-being of children, the Early Childhood Care and Education Council Malaysia (ECCE Council) organised a Violence-free Early Childhood Forum in February this year. We were very fortunate that Marta Santos Pais, the special representative of the secretary-general on Violence against Children, was the keynote speaker.

Early childhood practitioners, whether they are childcare providers or preschool teachers, play a critical role in shaping the physical and mental well-being of children in their formative years. They have therefore to be professional and well trained. Among the important knowledge and skills they must have is the ability to observe and assess children’s state of development, especially their behaviour and mental health, and the ability to provide proper guidance.

Hence “Observation and Assessment” and “Guiding Young Children” are among the core subjects of the professional early childhood programmes accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. These subjects are compulsory but in several colleges and universities offering diplomas and bachelor degrees in early childhood education, these two courses are not on the compulsory list. Parents are strongly advised to check very carefully the credentials of the early childhood educators to ensure they are not fostering mental ill health in your children.


Social Psychologist


Early Childhood Care and Education Council Malaysia