One of my contacts, Sherry is from Australia and one thing she told me was that the biggest change in early childhood education is the implementation of a national curriculum framework called The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia which they haven’t had until recently. Read about it here.
It specifically states that children should be taught through play. “The principles of early childhood pedagogy underpin practice. Educators draw on a rich repertoire of pedagogical practices to promote children’s learning by (amongst eight other points) planning and implementing through play.” (EYLF, 2009, p.14)
This means that the activities should be child oriented and initiated, not
Sherry stated, “Another issue in Australia is that the Federal Government has legislated that every child in the year before they attend school must have access to 15 hours of preschool per week (it is called Universal Access). As up until now children have had 10 hours, it is a big change to staffing, programming and timetabling.
Also the Government is bringing in the National Quality Standard which is divided into seven areas that contribute to the quality of early childhood education and care. These areas have been identified by research and are:
1.Educational program and practice
2.Children’s health and safety
4.Staffing arrangements (including the number of staff looking after children)
5.Relationships with children
6.Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
7.Leadership and service management
For the first time there will be consistency all across Australia in the Early Childhood sector.”
My contact Kierna from Northern Ireland also gave me an overview of their educational system.
She blogged about it here.
She said one difference between Northern Ireland and the US is that children start compulsory schooling at the age of four instead of five. They call it Primary 1 and she mentioned that it has become less formal over the years. Children now have more play based experiences, but they are still learning to read and write at a very young age. Kierna teaches in a nursery program for children ages three and four. It is not compulsory like Primary 1, but it is free. Kierna said that nursery teachers have to have a teaching qualification which allows them to teach children of any age in elementary school. She gives her class a lot of outdoor time and play based experiences. However, that is not the norm in Northern Ireland. There are classes that do not go out everyday or even have a good outdoor space. Kierna’s practice has been the most influenced by her experiences in Norway.
She discusses her experiences in European settings here.
She told me that the French and Polish settings were generally more formal and that she prefers the Scandinavian models.
Click here for part 2.