INTRODUCTION FROM THE EDITORS
INTRODUCTION FROM THE EDITORS
We know that high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) has a significant impact on children’s social and developmental well-being, laying the foundation for lifelong learning and development for all children. We also know this is especially significant for children from disadvantaged families (Bonetti and Blanden, 2020; Melhuish and Gardiner 2020, Zachrisson et al., 2021). With this CIDREE publication, we are highlighting a common goal among the CIDREE countries: namely, to establish the best foundation for all children by prioritising quality development in ECEC. The CIDREE countries have demonstrated their overwhelming supp-ort for this topic, which illustrates that it is both engaging and often a top political priority. We are thrilled that Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care is given the full attention of the CIDREE Yearbook 2022.
The focus of this yearbook is on ECEC, an area which we have defined as encompassing children aged 0 to 6. We present the various guidelines and interpretations of quality of the different CIDREE countries. We also share current ECEC research, as well as discussions of how the CIDREE countries are prioritising and making strategic decisions when it comes to quality development in ECEC. Some countries refer to their main guiding ECEC document as a “curricula” while others use the term “framework plan”. Furthermore, CIDREE countries come from a variety of backgrounds and histories, and these differences are reflected in each country’s approach to, organization of, and responsibility for ECEC.
Nevertheless, this yearbook shares information and experiences that can be useful for all countries. Each country’s chapter is introduced with a few key points of information to help make it easier to understand the article’s context.
Common to all the contributions in this yearbook is a commitment to ECEC and an app-reciation for the significant role that ECEC plays in children’s opportunities and develop-ment. There is a common focus on early education and care, support for children, and professionalism among staff. We also see a common understanding of the important role that ECEC plays for children and society, as well as common ambitions for developing frameworks that create the best conditions for all children.
In the CIDREE network, we find countries at various stages in their work with ECEC curricula and frameworks. While some countries have had a curriculum or framework that sets a standard for ECEC quality for many years, others have recently revised their curricula/ frameworks in line with new research, societal developments, and paradigm shifts. Meanwhile, other countries are now embarking on the process of developing their first curriculum/framework. This yearbook shares valuable knowledge garnered from the countries’ diverse experiences. We hope it will serve as a useful tool for stakeholders across Europe and the world.
ECEC is an arena for the youngest children, and it is often a starting point for families to find community and a sense of belonging. In ECEC, many children have their first experiences outside of the home, and it represents the first stage in their educational journey. ECEC is where many children meet their first peers as well as their first teachers. For any country dedicated to supporting lifelong learning, ECEC is the first step.
Similar among all the CIDREE countries is the fostering of values such as humanity, respect, tolerance, and democracy in ECEC reforms, curricula, and frameworks. These values give children an important foundation in the diversity of society and respect for different cultures. However, it is also important to note that, for some children, ECEC can be an arena where children have their first encounters with prejudice, conflict, and other negative experiences. Therefore, good staff are of great importance for raising the quality of a centre. They should act as good role models and have clear guidelines to which they adhere. This has become even more evident in light of the many health and political crises that young children have witnessed in recent years.
ECEC centers are diverse: they are large, small, privately owned, and publicly owned. They are in cities and rural areas, and some centers are based upon a certain ideology or religion. There are also many actors involved when preparing national guidelines for ECEC, each with their own specific set of interests and priorities. A curriculum/framework does not exist in a vacuum, and it can be developed and implemented at the same time as other reforms. It is therefore important that a curriculum/framework is developed collaboratively, where different opinions are heard on which elements should be included or excluded. If one succeeds in having a curriculum/ framework that is supported broadly, it will lead to a common professionalisation of the work conducted in ECEC centres. It will also enhance the professional development of teachers and kindergarten leaders.
A good curriculum/framework alone is not sufficient for achieving high quality in ECEC. Centre leaders must also assume responsibility for ensuring that the intentions of the curriculum/framework plan are implemented in the centre’s day-to-day work. Professionals should use the curriculum/framework as a tool for local quality development. This can establish a shared vision and shared practices among staff, for instance. This takes time, skill, reflection, and a willingness to change (Ogden and Fixsen 2014). In order to maintain high quality in ECEC, it is important to step back and evaluate the work. Teachers can reflect on whether their work corresponds with the intentions of the regulations, and on the challenges they face in their systematic quality work.
There is more research happening now about ECEC than ever before, and quality development has come a long way. National understanding of the implementation and implications of these framework plans is important for policy development. This CIDREE yearbook explores a number of research projects and discussions about quality in ECEC which can be valuable for all CIDREE countries regardless of where they are in their quality development work.
The editors would first and foremost like to thank all of the contributors to this yearbook: the talented and knowledgeable authors from Albania, France, Hungary, Ireland, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Montenegro, The Neth-erlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzer-land. It has been our pleasure working with all of you this past year, and we’ve learnt so much from you. We would also like to thank Jindra Divis for the President’s foreword to this yearbook. We are grateful to the sup-port we’ve received from our colleagues at the Norwe-gian Directorate of Education, including Hedda Birgitte Huse, Hege Nilssen, Annette Qvam, Martin Siewartz Nielsen and Vebjørn Løvås, as well as our partners at JCP and Totaltekst. Finally, we would like to thank Christine Stadnick from the CIDREE Secretariat and Jos Tolboom, Marc van Zenten, and Cynthia Schalkwijk from CIDREE Netherlands for their support and sharing of their ex-periences throughout this process.
We hope you enjoy reading this yearbook as much as we have enjoyed producing it.
Leah Aursand, Stine Kolstad Jensen, Cecilie Langholm, and Camilla Vibe Lindgaard
Stine Kolstad Jensen
Camilla Vibe Lindgaard