Hence there has been an attempt to educate the infant even before the age of 6 or 7 years. This educational system is called ‘Infant Education’ or ‘Pre-Primary Education’. Froebel had stressed the importance of infant education.
In the latter years of the eighteenth Century (1709), Jean Oberlin had established infant schools in France at first. Robert Owen of Scotland started an infant school at Lanark. Froebel’s views on child education had a great influence on all the neighbouring countries of Europe and infant schools were established at several places in Europe.
Different countries tried different experiments in this direction. Germany evolved a new method of infant education. School based on this method was called ‘Kindergarten’.
In England, too, such infant schools were established. Nursery schools were opened in London and Manchester. In U.S.A., the first kindergarten school was opened in 1856 in Wisconsin state.
In U.S.A nursery education is supposed to have started in the early part of the twentieth Century. In 1919 it was in New York that the first nursery school was established.
The people of U.S.A. did not encourage nursery education because some people were not in favour of putting the burden of education on the immature minds of children at such a young age.
In 1920 some arrangement for infant education was made in Teachers College of Columbia University. But due to the depression in U.S.A. from 1920 to 1930, the Kindergarten school plan and the nursery school plan remained in abeyance.
But soon after this crisis was over, the Federal Government gave sufficient financial assistance to these plans according to the New Deal Act. Consequently, from 1930 to 1940 the enrolment in nursery schools raised upto 3, 00,000 and the enrolment in Kindergarten schools went upto 6, 75,000.
In this way, in the fourth decade of the current century infant education progressed much faster. The fast industrial development there also accounted for the quick growth of infant education. The establishment of these schools proved beneficial to those mothers who were employed in industries.
They were much relieved to leave their children in these infant schools during work hours. A healthy attitude in the direction of their personality development could also be created along with child care. This was the reason why nursery schools were established in large numbers in prominent towns and industrial centres only.
In U.S.A. just as the nursery schools educate children, so also the Kindergarten schools impart education to children. But the difference is that the kindergarten education is considered to be post-nursery education.
The period of kindergarten education is form three to six years of age. In some schools children below three years aid also admitted. Kindergartens have two main objectives:
(i) To follow the pattern of nursery education for developing natural abilities of children and to arouse the curiosity of children towards education.
(ii) To provide subject-wise education to children and to prepare them for primary education.
As the first objective, group feeling and spirit of cooperation are inculcated in these schools through games and recreation. The facilities for working, living and playing collectively make them capable of living co-operatively as well as improve their health and create a tendency for self-help. These activities also create self-dependence, interest and curiosity for knowledge.
The second objective is to lay the foundation for primary education. Hence programmes are chalked out for the mental, physical, social and cultural development of children according to their needs. They are prepared for primary classes by imparting knowledge of common words and numbers.
In U.S.A, kindergarten schools were established as a result of industrial development. Due to industrial and materialistic tendency the life of people became very busy.
People became conscious of the future of their children and thus started these public institutions for the education and protection of their children. This system of education is very popular, though it is not compulsory.
The efforts to establish kindergarten schools started in the nineteenth century. But their sufficient development took place in the twentieth century. By the beginning of the current century hundreds of such voluntary associations had been formed which established private Kindergarten schools.
Now, for the establishment of public Kindergartens, State Governments give sufficient grants in addition to financial assistance by the public. Generally, the educational level of Kindergarten schools has been accepted as the first primary unit.
The State Governments issue necessary instructions to these public Kindergartens. Officers and experts of Education Department inspect these schools in order to maintain the educational level set for them and motivate the teachers to maintain proper standards.
Sometimes a special teacher is appointed who in addition to doing supervision of these schools,’ gives approval to matters pertaining to the programmes of the schools. In 1997 there have been about 30, 90,000 students getting education in these private Infant Schools. In the establishment of such schools, private efforts are quite praiseworthy.
American Infant Schools are financed by local funds. State Governments also give additional grants. Local Boards are authorised to make arrangement for pre-primary education and to work for its expansion according to local needs.
Legislative facilities by the State Governments are also available for the establishment and protection of Kindergarten schools. In spite of all this, there is still a great demand for their expansion and development.