The study developed professional skills improvement programme for early childhood education teachers in South- East, Nigeria. Five research questions and three hypotheses guided the study. The design of the study was Research and Development (R&D) design. The population for the study was made up of 4,992 which comprised of three categories of respondents. These respondents are 63 lecturers in ECE from government owned Universities and Colleges of Education, 4,914 head teachers from government owned ECE schools and 15 SUBEB staff, 3 staff from each state in the South- East, Nigeria. The sample size for this study was 447, 63 Lecturers in ECE from government owned Universities and Colleges of Education, 15 SUBEB staff, three from each state in the South-East.Yamane’s formula was used to determine the sample size for ECE head teachers. Using the proportionate stratified random sampling technique 369 head teachers were usedfrom the five states in South-East, Nigeria. A 95 item questionnaire developed by the researcher and titled Development of Professional Skills Improvement Programme Questionnaire (DPSIPQ) structured on a four-point rating scale was used as the instrument for data collection. 95 items reflecting the objectives, contents, methods, materials and evaluation techniques for professional skills improvement programme questionnaire were generated. Three experts from University of Nigeria, Nsukka validated the instrument. The reliability of the instrument was trial tested in Delta State using 18 respondents. The data collected were analyzed using Cronbach Alpha Reliability Coefficient. On cluster basis, 0.86 was obtained for cluster 1, 0.80 was obtained for cluster 2, 0.89 was obtained for cluster 3, 0.91 was obtained for cluster 4 and 0.85 was obtained for cluster 5. An overall coefficient of 0.84 was obtained for the entire instrument. The data for the study were collected by the researcher with the help of five research assistants. Out of the 447 copies of the questionnaire administered on the respondents, a total of 427 copies (15 SUBEB staff, 63 lecturers and 349 head teachers) representing 95% return rate were analyzed. Mean and standard deviation were used to answer the research questions. A mean cut off of 2.50 and above was used to consider the opinion of the respondents on the appropriate items for inclusion in the programme. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used in testing the hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. The following were the major results of the study. 15 objectives, 14 contents, 34 methods, 11 materials and 11evaluation techniques were accepted for professional skills improvement programme for ECE teachers in South-East, Nigeria. The findings revealed that there was nosignificant difference (P>0.05) in the mean ratings of ECE head teachers, SUBEB Staff, and Lecturerson the objectives of professional skills improvement programme for ECE teachers but the difference is not statistically significant.There was a significant difference (P<0.05) in the mean ratings of ECE head teachers, SUBEB Staff, and Lecturers on the appropriate content for professional skills improvement programme for ECE teachers. There was significant difference (P<0.05) in the mean ratings of ECE head teachers, SUBEB Staff, and Lecturers on the evaluation techniques for professional skills improvement programme for ECE teachers. Based on the findings, it was recommended, among others, that the developedpackaged should be used for training and retraining programme for early childhood education teachers by school administrations, government agencies and UNICEF for the purpose of effective teaching delivery in early childhood schools in South-East, Nigeria.

Background of the Study
Education is an indispensable tool in nation building. Education is a process of systematic training and instruction designed to transmit knowledge and provideskills, develop potentials and abilities which will enable individuals to contribute efficiently to the growth and development of the society (Osakwe, 2006). It involves all round development of an individual physically, socially, morally, intellectually and mentally (Osakwe, 2006).

The Federal Government of Nigeria in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2009) posits that education is an instrument for national development and social change. Education is vital for the promotion of a progressive, united Nigeria. Also, education should maximize the creative potentials and skills of the individual for self-fulfillment and general development of the society. The National Policy on Education (FRN, 2009) states the operational goals of education in Nigeria to include: ensure and sustain unfettered access and equity to education for the total development of the individual; ensure the quality of education at all levels; promote functional education for skill acquisition, job creation and poverty reduction. Other goals include to ensure periodic review, effectiveness and relevance of the curriculum at all levels to meet the needs of society and the world of work; collaborate with development partners, the private sector and local communities to support and fund education and promote information and communication technology capacity at all levels. The National Policy further states that every Nigerian shall have a right to equal educational opportunity irrespective of gender, social status, religion, ethnic background and any peculiar individual challenges.

In support of the above, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCR, 2003) state categorically that children have the right to receive education. A child is a young person in the early years of life. He or she is still dependent on a parent or any other adult for the provision of his or her needs. Sykes in Ogbuji (2005) defines a child as a boy or a girl who has not reached the age of discretion. The author further states that a child is seen as a dependent one who is to be provided for in terms of food, shelter, protection and health care. This means that he or she is someone who is dependent on others for survival. The Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC, 2007), defines a child as a human being below the age of eighteen years, unless national laws fix an earlier age of maturity. It is in line with these rights and the need to lay a solid academic foundation that early childhood education becomes necessary and relevant.

Early Childhood Education (ECE), according to the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2009) is the care, protection, stimulation and learning promoted in children from age 0-5 years in a crèche, nursery or kindergarten. Early Childhood Education (ECE) is the understanding that learning is a social process and that children from the very earliest are active participants in the shared construction of knowledge (Obinaju & Umoh, 2012). Furthermore, Okonkwo, in Obinaju & Umoh, defined Early Child Care Education (ECCE) to include the feeding, providing shelter, clothing, adequate supervision, preventing and attending to ill-health, providing a stimulating and safe environment for learning through play for the child. Okonkwo reiterated that the period of early childhood, if properly taken care of, provides a lifelong opportunity for good health, growth and development. It makes for positive changes in the life of a child. Early childhood education in this context is the education given to children to develop them morally, socially, intellectually, physically and psychologically for the growth and development of the child in later life.

Early childhood education forms part of the education system in Nigeria, and falls under the joint responsibility of the Ministry of Education, the Universal Basic Education Commission and Boards, in collaboration with the local governments. At the Federal, State and Local government levels, commissions and boards monitor and control early childhood education.The ECE has been found to be crucial for satisfactory adult development. It is very useful to the child’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual well-being. Early childhood is the period for laying the foundation for the overall development of the child. It is believed that early childhood education facilitates the learning that occurs in the later stage of a child’s life. The early childhood years set the foundation for life, ensuring that children have positive experiences and that their needs for health, stimulation and support are met and that they learn to interact with their surroundings. Furthermore, early childhood education results in easier transition to primary school, better completion rates, reduced poverty and social equality (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2007). According to Education International (2010), high quality ECE provides the foundation for life-long learning and stimulates children’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive and linguistic development.

In line with this, the Federal Government of Nigeria recognizes the importance of early childhood education in our economic development and social transformation process. The objectives of early childhood care development and education, as enshrined in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2009), shall be to effect a smooth transition from home to the school;prepare the child for the primary level of education;provide adequate care, supervision and security for the children while the parents are at work.Other objectives include to:inculcate social and moral norms;inculcate in the child the spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music and the use of toys. Furthermore, other objectives as enshrined in the policy includes: develop a sense of co-operation and team spirit; stimulate in the child good habits including of good health habits; and teach the rudiment of numbers, letter, colours, shapes, and forms through play.
The government shall on the other hand,set and monitor minimum standard for Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) centres; andestablish ECCDE sections in public schools and encourage both community and private efforts in its provision based on set standards. The government shall alsomake provision in teacher education programmes for specialization in early childhood care and education, and for retraining of teachers;ensure that the curriculum of teacher education is oriented towards play methodsand ensure that ECCDE centres adopt the following caregiver infant ratio: Crèches should be 1:10, Nursery and kindergarten 1:25. Again, the government shalldevelop suitable ECCDE curriculum for nationwide implementation;supervise and control quality of ECCDE institutions;make provision for the production and effective utilization of learning and instructional materials in adequate numbers andensure that the medium of instruction is principally the mother-tongue or the language of the immediate community. And to this end, will develop the orthography of more Nigerian language and produce textbooks, supplementary readers and other instructional materials in Nigeria languages.Early childhood experiences have great impact on all areas of a child’s development and the teacher is an extremely important person in the child’s life (Osakwe, 2009).

To achieve success of an educational enterprise particularly in terms of qualitydepends to a large extent, on the regular supply of quality teachers in adequate quantity. In the light of the above, Fareo (2013), defines a teacher as one certified to engage in interactions with learners for the purpose of effecting change in their behaviours. A teacher assumes different capacities such as educator, instructor, tutor, lecturer (Fareo, 2013). Teachers, at all levels of the educational system, are very important in the overall development of any nation. According to Cochran-Smith & Lytle (2001), a teacher is....

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