Early Childhood Education: Politics, Policy and Curriculum Issues

Volume 3, Number 2- March 2013

Editoral

This edition of He Kupu is in a new revised format divided into three sections. The first section is dedicated to practitioner researchers, the second forms the Special Edition and the final section comprises book reviews. As the description suggests the practitioner researcher section is predominantly written by teachers writing on a variety of topics of their choice. We are delighted to present in this edition three papers written by students from New Zealand Tertiary College, who are also full time teachers. Each paper is quite different in character: Marilee Pretorius has written on child care for the very young, Debra Ross writes about the protection for children in early childcare and Mamta Sen Gupta has produced an examination of partnerships in education.

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Practitioner Researcher

In the field of early childhood education in New Zealand/Aotearoa there has been much research conducted on the long term as well as short term effects of full time day care on infants. I have chosen this topic as I hold an interest in this area, and personally feel that it is sometimes not in the best interests of an infant to be placed in full time day care. I do understand that there is often not a choice in this for parents, but I would still like to know what effect early childcare may have on the child in their early years and later years as well, to see if my feelings on this topic are justified.

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Recently, a young preschool child came into the spotlight, due to his parents disclosing to the early childcare centre that he was HIV positive (Fuatai, 2012). Subsequently the family were asked to withhold the child from the centre while decisions were made regarding his future attendance. As with any subject like this, things became highly emotionally charged. Most people would openly decry such treatment of a fellow human being, least of all a child. Yet if your child attended this centre what would you do? Nobody is blaming the child for his condition but parents need to know what safeguards are in place. If we follow the fundamentals of Te Whāriki there are the principles of empowerment, holistic relationships, family and community that should guide us (Ministry of Education, 1996). However these principles apply to both sides of this discussion. The child with a non infectious illness and the healthy child each has the right to learn and grow through holistic empowerment in all areas of human development. Through the building of relationships they learn and grow by developing responsible and reciprocal interactions with people, places and things (MoE, 1996). In this way the families and community can embrace and nurture this family within the community.

Parent teacher partnership, parent-teacher collaboration, parent involvement, parent–teacher relationships, parent teacher interactions, whanaungatanga are all different terminologies used in early childhood education and in educational sector as a whole. This paper focuses on the relationships between parents and teachers in early childhood settings and how this relationship has the potential to improve learning outcomes for children.

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Special Edition

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals have long held claim to the early childhood knowledge base. In doing so, particular knowledge and skills have been compartmentalized as existing as core business only in the care and education sectors. This is highly problematic when work in the early years is undertaken across the health, community and education sectors. If the early years’ knowledge base is to inform all practice with children zero to eight years and their families, then it is more important for it to be considered ‘transdisciplinary’, rather than as owned by any one particular discipline or sector. It is important for it to be part of core business in the health and community services sectors, as well as in ECEC, so it can exist in between care and education, be less siloed and have an influence on all related disciplines where necessary.

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Peer-reviewed Papers

Beginning with a brief discussion of kindness we argue there is a weakness in governmental capacity, specifically in policy directives, to ensure citizens’ entitlement to ‘care’. Several recent, disturbing, instances of failure to care, and failures of care, are cited. Some voices willing to cast blame, for this absence of kindness and compassion, at the door of education, are named. The authors reflect that some of these voices belong to politicians content to excise thoughtfulness from the U.K. early years curriculum. The authors point to agreement between practitioners’ accounts of young children’s capacity for empathy and kindness and the field of educational neuroscience. A tension between practitioners’ commitment to young children’s empathetic development and curricula, and inspection, demands is also reviewed. The authors conclude by suggesting that social understanding, arguably the most important trait for nurturing caring citizens, evident in historic educational principles, is currently being forgotten by early childhood policy makers in the U.K..

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This article explores complexities, (un)intended consequences, and possibilities within globalized, neoliberal, and neocolonial early care and education discourses and practices. Roland Robertson’s notion of glocalisation acts as a unifying construct to connect abstract discourses with early childhood education policy mechanisms in the seemingly disparate locales of Kenya and the U.S. state of Arizona, in particular that state’s relationship with the 22 sovereign Indigenous communities that it surrounds. Applying Antonio Gramsci’s notion of common and good sense as a lens for uncovering and bringing to light tensions and contradictions contained in these respective policies in practice, we analyze persistent issues and common sense discourse, with “bad sense” impacts, of pervasive neoliberal policies. We close by considering spaces of possibility in the hope that we can join with others who are committed to social justice and building stronger alliances to raise questions, shed light on opportunities for action, and engage in sustained work with teachers and young children.

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Book Reviews

While this book is scholarly, it remains eminently readable, providing a valuable contribution to the field of critical discourse. Themes in the text include a discussion on the marketisation of education, critical pedagogy - what it is and why we need it, the underlying assumptions teachers may hold, praxis in teaching, social justice issues, discrimination, equity, and transformational teaching to mention but a few of the topics. Above all the book is a call for a humanizing, respectful, democratic education for all children where teachers are recognised as intelligent, creative professionals who understand the complex art of teaching, basing their teaching on well grounded critical practice.

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As there is so little available on the topic of science during the preschool years, the authors have made a successful attempt to fill the gap with this title. This book, which combines practical work for students and teachers, will be useful for all those who work in the early childhood sector as teachers or teacher educators.

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The first part of this book is entitled, ‘Professionalism in Local and Cross- national Contexts: Towards a Critical Ecology of the Profession.’ This section gives readers a glimpse into early childhood education in Australia, England, Finland, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden. Subsequently each chapter begins with an overview/background of early childhood education in each country. This provides a useful context to the key political and/or historical events that have led to the development of early childhood education in each setting. In all the chapters, the author/s analyse a case study in an attempt to bring out aspects related to being a professional early childhood educator. For instance, in Chapter Two, Christine Woodrow highlights being an early childhood professional in Australia. Set in New South Wales, Christine analyses three themes that she ascribes to professionalism in early childhood education, namely; relationships, reflexivity and renewal. Relationships are an essential part of the NSW Curriculum Framework, aptly titled ‘The Practice of Relationships’, demonstrating how early childhood practitioners reflect and use policies and regulations in developing their professional practice. The subject of Woodrow’s study ascribes importance to this topic, extending it beyond interpersonal relationships to include aspects of the physical and temporal environment. Themes related to the reflection process are also highlighted, where the author considered reflexivity and renewal as important professional attributes.

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Contributors

Helen Butcher, Pearl D’Silva, Richard Eke PhD, Sujatha Gomathinayagam, Mamta Sen Gupta, Kym Macfarlane, Mark Nagasawa, Evonne Phillips, Marilee Pretorius, Debra Ross, Beth Blue Swadener