The study assessed the extent to which the National Policy Education (NPE) has been implemented in Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centres in Ogoja Education Zone of Cross River State. Specifically, the study determined the extent to which the ECE programme has met with the stipulated policy statement in terms of: establishment of ECE centres, teacher specialisation, application of language and method of instruction among others. Six (6) research questions and one hypothesis guided the study. Methodically, the researcher employed descriptive survey design for the study. A sample of four hundred (400) respondents (300 teachers and100 head-teachers) drawn from all the primary schools in the study zone responded to the researcher's designed questionnaire titled; Assessment of Policy Implementation on ECE Questionnaire (APIECHQ), which consisted of 30 questionnaire items in six (6) clusters. Mean and standard deviation with four point ranking order were used to analyse the data, t-test was used to test the hypothesis at 0.05 level of significance. The findings revealed low or unsatisfactory implementation of the NPE as evidenced among others by lack of adequate support to private efforts, failure in the application of the recommended language of instruction and method of teaching, ineffective supervision and maintenance of ECE facilities. This implies that ECE centres provide poor quality educational background for children at this stage. Based on this, the researcher recommended among others that maximum support should be given to private participation, provide and recruit professional ECE teachers, organize regular Seminars and workshops for teachers, intensify efforts to funds for infrastructural development and supervision of ECE activities.

Background of the Study
Most countries of the world have provided various educational programmes for their citizens because education is recognized as the cornerstone for sustainable development. In Nigeria, the Cross River state Education Sector Analysis (CRSESA), (2011) described education as the bedrock for national and personal development because the socio-economic development of any nation is wholly dependent on the level and quality of education given to its citizens. According to Olalaye and Omotayo (2009), education is the fulcrum around which development of any country revolves. In this context, education includes any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. This is why developed countries always guard their educational industries with jealousy and total commitment. In order to address issues of holistic transformation, the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) referred to education as an instrument 'par excellence' for national development and has initiated several educational policies over the past decade. One of such policies is the 2004 edition of the National Policy on Education, which specify the objectives and guidelines of action on Early Childhood Education (ECE) (Agbo, 2008).

Early Childhood Education consists of varied formal or informal initiatives required for children from birth to pre-school age to make them thrive. These activities are intended to effect developmental changes in children prior to their entry into primary school. Mitchell (2011) describe ECE as the overall development of the child; physically, socially and intelligently. It is the foundation for a life-long education for children which provide for the physical, motor, health, nutritional, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and social development of the pre-school child. According to Mezieobi (2006), if a child’s education can provide these vital fundamental necessities, it is likely to have an important and strong relationship with the pupils’ performance at the primary school level and perhaps at the secondary and tertiary levels. Developmental ideologies and theories of Dewey, Montessori, Piaget, Chomsky, Vygotsky and so on influenced the practices of ECE (Bahago, 2010). Contextually, ECE is the bedrock upon which excellent basic and sound education is built for children through vigorous activities that lead to mental abilities at this stage.

Unprecedented attention to young children has created concerns on parents about their children’s learning, and readiness for school. Parents are more concerned than ever before about their children’s: learning, care, protection and readiness for school and values for life challenges and others . Early childhood teachers are taking on the challenges of serving all children equitably and well. And policymakers are looking carefully at the outcomes reported for children participating in early education programs. Motivated by these concerns and by the growing emphasis on accountability, parents, teachers and policymakers all want more information as they make decisions on how to foster children’s early learning a and development (Nakpodia, 2003). The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and development of Children in 1990 undertook a joint commitment to make an urgent universal appeal to give every child a better future. In addition, the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 2005) emphasized urgent priority to ensure access to improved quality of education for all children. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act of 2000 cites ECE as an integral part of basic education. Bush (2001) consider this a step in the right direction in achieving the EFA goals. Prior to the introduction of Universal Basic Education, Nigeria had early childhood centres managed basically by private sectors, thereby making this educational provision inaccessible to every child. (Awoniyi, 2006).

In pursuant of the development and implementation of the ECE, Sub-sections 13 of the FRN (2004) National Policy on Education refers to ECE as the education given in an educational institution to children prior to their entering the primary school. It includes the crèche, the nursery and the kindergarten. It enumerated eight (8) objectives of early childhood/pre-primary education to include: effecting a smooth transition from the home to the school, preparing the child for the primary level of education, providing adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work, creating individuals who are responsible citizens and so on. According to Napkodia (2010), the objectives cover adequately the three main aspects of developmental domains as recommended by Benjamin Bloom (cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains).

Using the whole- child concept, the objectives of ECE can be categorised as catering for social, emotional, mental and physical needs of the child. So the ECE centres could be regarded as an extension of the home because the primary concern of the home, namely, social, emotional and mental adjustment, is majorly pursued in the ECE centres. This implies that child-care facilities have to be provided, these facilities need to do more than just provision of safety of the children but also to cater for intellectual development as well, (Maduewesi, 2000).
To ensure the attainment of these objectives, the Government outlines its responsibilities and strategies in the National Policy on Education to include:

Ø     Encouraging private efforts in the provision of pre-primary education;

Ø     Making provisions in teacher education programmes for specialization in early child-hood education;

Ø     Ensuring that the medium of instruction is principally the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community, and to this end, will develop and produce textbooks in orthography of many more Nigerian languages;

Ø     Ensuring that the main method of teaching at this level shall be through play and that the curriculum of teacher education is oriented to achieve this;

Ø     Regulating, monitoring, controlling and setting a minimum standard for the operation of early childhood/pre-primary education;
Ø     Ensuring full participation of government, communities and teachers’ associations in the running and maintenance of early childhood education
facilities (FRN, 2004).

The FRN placed the child at the centre of learning activities, but left out execution mostly in the hands of ‘private owners’ most of whom lack knowledge of the national philosophy behind ECE (FRN,2004). One wonders, if these ‘private owners’ can implement the policy as was designed to be done (Borishade, 2009). The thrust of this study is find out the extent of implementation of the stipulated FGN 2004 edition of the NPE Guidelines of action on ECE. The guideline of action borders on: School establishment, teacher factors, language of instruction, method of teaching among others. This NPE serve as a guide to the current ECE and other levels of educational programme in the country. Eresimadu (2008) insists: for this educational level to be a reality in Nigeria, the aspects of the 2004 edition of the NPE, that stipulated government's guidelines of action need to be considered seriously. Supportively, Adenipekun (2004) ensued: for a nation to develop quality ECE programme, faithful utilization of Government`s guidelines for such institutions is the only sure way. Adesina (2007) opined: in spite the glaring recognition given to ECE programme the real challenge will lie in the successful implementation of this educational policy guidelines by all.....

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