Jindra Divis, president of the CIDREE board
There is a growing interest in early childhood education and care. Research on child development shows that providing children with targeted stimulation in early education has a positive effect on their development. This is particularly beneficial for children whose first language is not the language of instruction, or whose language skills are slower to develop. Stimulating broad development among toddlers and pre-schoolers, including learning areas such as mathematics, citizenship and digital literacy, can prevent early developmental delays. This is also important in the light of equity, developmental advantages, and special educational needs. Thus, early childhood education is a highly relevant and very interesting curricular topic.
This yearbook shows that educating young children is a complex matter, and that there are various opinions regarding the format and content of early childhood education and care. In European countries, childcare and education for children aged 0 to 7 is organised in different ways. Despite the differences, all the chapters of this yearbook tell us that educating children aged 2 to 7 requires a specific approach. Teachers and other pedagogical staff who provide education to young children must make many decisions relating to content. They choose the topics that children will work on, and they ensure that these topics are taught in a responsible manner. The most important criterion in these choices is that children truly progress in day-to-day life, in which they gradually participate more and more. A curriculum in which content and objectives are described is an essential tool in this regard.
In planning education for young children, curricular aspects other than content also play a role. Such aspects include time, relationships, pedagogical-didactical considerations and a rich learning environment. In order to make the best choices in all of these aspects, it is essential to have a vision for early childhood education. A well-considered vision can do justice to all the factors for a good education. For starters, this means providing a rich learning environment and a safe pedagogical climate. A rich learning environment concerns the toys, games and other learning materials available, the layout of the room, the teaching methods and the organisation of the education. In a safe pedagogical climate, children can gain all kinds of different experiences and are encouraged to explore, reflect on their experiences, and thus learn from them. They know from these experiences that the professional will stand by them and provide them with feedback. At the same time, all participants in the educational process have their own responsibility: both the professional and the child itself. The professional gives the children the level of responsibility they can handle. As a result, the children experience playing and learning as something of their own. Step by step, they become more independent and aware of what they want and what they are supposed to do. The professional also ensures that the education reflects the way in which children learn. Broadly speaking, this entails: transitioning from playing to learning through play, then to learning through self-chosen tasks, and finally to learning through tasks assigned by others. In addition, the professional monitors the progress in the children’s skills development, for example by using observational tools to observe the children. Lastly, the professional promotes the children’s development by providing appropriate content.
The contributions in this book clearly demonstrate that thinking about a framework or curriculum with goals and content for toddlers and pre-schoolers requires thinking about quality. The perspectives and focus areas in the chapters can be divided into three categories: developing a quality framework, working with a quality framework, and evaluating a quality framework.
The chapters show us that there is a huge diversity of issues to consider, but also that there are many shared challenges regarding the curriculum for our young children. While many of these issues are also present in primary and secondary education, this yearbook makes us aware of the fact that it all starts in the early childhood period.
On behalf of all CIDREE members, I would like to thank our Norwegian colleagues for taking the initiative on this very interesting and relevant topic for the 2022 Yearbook, as well as for their coordination and editorial work. And, of course, our thanks go out to all the contributing authors.
This yearbook will be launched and discussed at the 2022 CIDREE conference in Norway. I believe it will enrich the discussion and reflection both during and after this meeting, and that it will provide an impetus for curriculum-related dialogue on the quality of early childhood education.
CIDREE President and Director General of the Netherlands Institute for Curriculum Development SLO