Multiple Perspectives

Volume 2, Number 4 - March 2011

Editoral

It was always hoped that the first “Multiple Perspectives” issue of He Kupu would elicit the views of various stakeholders with interests in the early childhood community of Aotearoa. This has certainly been the case. The issue has also brought to the fore a whole lot of passion for children, their cultures, their rights and their curriculum opportunities.

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Peer-reviewed Papers

This paper is based on the premise that we need to start early in children’s education to challenge and reform everyday beliefs and actions that are exclusionary with respect to tamariki (all children) with disabilities and their whānau (all family/and or extended family) in educational settings. The paper focuses on the attitudes and understandings that parents of non-disabled children have towards the attendance and inclusion of children with disabilities and their families in early childhood settings in Aotearoa New Zealand. We look, in particular, at how these constructions on the part of parents contribute to early childhood education settings that are exclusionary or inclusionary with respect to disability and inclusion. Taken together, the findings of the research showed that the comments and behaviours that parents of non-disabled children made in relation to children with disabilities and their families did make a difference (either negative or positive) to the early childhood education experiences of those children and families. On balance, attitudes tended to be more on the negative than the positive side, which led to children with disabilities and their families feeling discriminated against or excluded from their local early childhood education provision. We end by offering early childhood teachers some ideas and strategies that may help them appropriately respond to negative attitudes towards disability and inclusion in their early childhood settings and communities.

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This paper examines the challenges that Pacific Island early childhood teachers are confronted with when trying to advocate learning opportunities for young children through play. Research studies (Hughes, 2004; Leaupepe, 2008a; Mara & Burgess, 2007) reveal that Pacific Island teachers are seldom involved in children’s play experiences and rarely encourage play opportunities for children. These findings are attributed to a number of critical factors: cultural influences, parental attitudes towards play, and teachers’ values and beliefs about the term ‘play.’ Drawing from the findings of a research project that investigated Samoan and Tongan student teachers’ views of play (Leaupepe, 2008a) assumptions about the term play and the responsibilities of teachers in promoting play opportunities are explored. Aspects that are specifically related to play and Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education [MoE], 1996), Aotearoa New Zealand’s national early childhood curriculum, underpin this discussion. The implications of this document for Pacific Island early childhood teachers are discussed. The discussions in this paper are not intended to be conclusive. Rather, it is hoped that by engaging in a critical discussion concerning the need for Pacific Island early childhood teachers to understand theories of play, this paper will inform Pacific Island early childhood practice.

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In this paper I argue that New Zealand early childhood teachers need to have a better understanding of the theories underpinning their visual arts practice. This account is based on my recent personal development journey into the current theories and practices in early childhood visual arts teaching. As a result of this personal development, I have come to believe the teaching of visual arts in the early childhood sector in New Zealand is still strongly aligned with child-centred art theories of the last century. I assert that we need professional development for teachers so that there can be a major pedagogical shift towards socio- anthropological, multicultural visual culture education. We need to examine current practice, with regard to the socio-cultural principles that underpin the early childhood curriculum, and determine whether critical reflection on our practice results in a shift in pedagogy.

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Numerous definitions, theses and legal interpretations of children’s rights are indicative of the complex philosophical, theoretical and cultural tensions nuanced in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This article presents a range of arguments both for and against children’s rights, particularly very young children’s rights, with a view to promoting a deeper interest in the rights of the child in early childhood services.

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The purpose of this paper is to examine and critique policy makers’ assumptions about raising Pasifika children’s achievement and literacy levels. The paper has emerged from our disappointment in relation to the introduction in New Zealand of the ‘National Standards’ assessment tool, and the ‘pausing’ and/or ‘stopping’ of production of the Tupu Series Pasifika reading materials. Our concerns are in relation to the danger and risks that these decisions create for our Pasifika children. The children’s parents and communities have motivated us to voice our concerns about the introduction of the unfounded/untried National Standards assessment tool in English and the attack on vital materials for our children’s bilingual education. This paper begins with a brief discussion of the Tupu series and National Standards double saga, followed by our blended views of theoretical and experiential ideas. It concludes with the suggestion for Pasifika educators, and for those who teach our Pasifika children, that we all need to challenge the policy makers’ decisions and/or discourses to ensure that our children’s and their parents’ voices are heard.

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Commentary

This article makes links between the world of early childhood education and the adult learning environment and reflects on ways in which teachers can make adult learning environments inspiring places where people can relax and engage with their learning. It aims to motivate teachers of adult learners to think more about the physical environment in which they teach and proposes some ways in which teachers can create stimulating spaces that will engender wonderful learning experiences for adult learners.

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It was an event to be celebrated: for the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand an exhibition from Reggio Emilia, Italy had arrived on our shores. This thought provoking and enlightening exhibition attracted over two thousand visitors while it was on display. I believe for the majority of us it was our dreams come true. For the organisers from the RE Provocations committee, a lot of hard work and determination paid off as they shared this amazing experience with New Zealanders.

From all corners of Aotearoa two hundred and ten dedicated early childhood professionals and people who believe in children, their rights and the value of early childhood education came together at the ‘Dialogues with Materials’ conference that accompanied the exhibition at Auckland’s viaduct basin. Collectively we began an emotional and spiritual journey of discovery and exploration. Over three days those inspired, intrigued and challenged by the principles and practices of Reggio Emilia, Italy dialogued with one another and digested information delivered by guest speakers from Italy, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

All four guest speakers at the conference provoked their audiences’ thinking and challenged their practices. One challenge was to go beyond asking children questions that we already know the answer to, to asking questions that not only provoke, inspire and encourage their learning but also lead teachers to a better understanding of how children learn. Another challenge posed by speakers was to no longer accept the repetition of children making the same art product, such as chicks at Easter time or caterpillars from egg cartons. Teachers’ were challenged to offer children many different art forms and experiences that provided opportunity for exploring, investigating and making sense of the world they live in.

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Contributors

Diane Gordon-Burns, Rachel Hughes, Manutai Leaupepe, Evonne Phillips, Vaitulusinaolemoana Pua, Kerry Purdue, Benita Rarere-Briggs, Robyn Stark, Joy Stott, Sarah Te One, Patisepa Vaitimu Tuafuti, Karen Turnock, Sonya van Schaijik.

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