Equal Opportunity in Early Childhood

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Children should be treated and respected as individuals in their own rights. Like any individual, children have rights to shelter, food and education. They too should be treated fairly and equally. Many a times, we have failed to recognise these needs and as adults, we think we know best for the child. If we are able to recognise these rights, it will greatly assist in a child's development both emotionally and spiritually.

According to Bruce and Meggit (2002), "equality of opportunity means opening up access for every child and family to full participation in early childhood services. There can be no quality in early childhood services unless there is equality of opportunity". Children should not be denied of their rights based on their race, nationality, gender or abilities, boys and girls should not be treated differently. Also, equal opportunities can be defined in general as not discriminating a person by his or her race, gender, family orientation or whether they belonged to the minority in the society. I truly agree with this statement and advocates for equal opportunity to be practiced in every way.

It is now the 21st century but can we safely say that children in this world are treated equally? Some parents tend to treat their children differently if they are a boy, especially in the Eastern culture; succession is through boys instead of girls. Several parents have stereotyped the colours that their children should wear, boys should be in blue and gals should be in pink. Stereotyping basically means unduly fixed mental impression (Oxford, p.546).

Society too, plays a role in influencing the parents when it comes to bringing up their children in this part of the world and to a certain extent the children's interest will be sacrificed. Children are expected to excel academically and those who do not will be branded as slow and they will be frowned upon by the society due to the competitive environment. Parents are ‘pressured' to have an academically sound child and as a result, children will feel ‘inferior' if they are unable to excel academically and this would hinder their fitting into the society in the future.

In order to uphold the rights of the children in the world, UNICEF introduced the "Convention on the Rights of the Child" which was adopted by Unite Nations General Assembly on the 20th November 1989. (http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/UNICEF_FS_-_Understanding_the_ CRC.pdf). There are four principles that the Convention rests on and they are; non discrimination, best interests of the child, the child's right to life, survival and development and respect for the views of the child . (http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/UNICEF_FS_-_Understanding_the_ CRC.pdf ). The main idea of having this convention is to recognize that children should be treated fairly as human beings and they should be brought up in a safe and conducive environment in order for them to realize their full potential in life.

Malaysia signed the convention in March 1995 and being a multi cultural country that also advocates for human rights has made many changes to its legislation to adopt the convention especially in the area of education and healthcare.

However, a question that many Malaysians will ask today; are the changes sufficient to provide the children in Malaysia equal rights? Here, let us look into the two major areas to analyse the impact of the convention on Malaysia's legislation concerning children.

According to article 28 of the CRC, "The child has a right to education, …" (CRC, p.19). Malaysia however has reservation on seven articles and article 28 is amongst them. The preschool education is Malaysia is under the responsibility of a few government departments and social agencies such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Unity and Social Development, Ministry of Rural Development and also several states departments (http://porta;.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=46167&URL...
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