Early Childhood and curriculum

My critical reflection on the ‘fit’ between my own approach to early childhood, the current national political agendas in early childhood education, and the curriculum framework that I am required to work within’.

I am yet to work in the early childhood area however I have had the opportunity to run a Prep/1/2 using the principles of the approach of Reggio Emelia for two years. A situation that would similar to Victoria and the ACT where they are introducing integrated maternity services, childcare, and K to 2 learning places. My practice could be defined as respecting and valuing the ideas of children; emphasising the critical role of communication and relationships for productive learning, and learning to be a learner; art as the primary medium for the expression of children’s thinking; a pace of learning that is in accord with the needs of the particular children; and so, appreciating the different roles this means for teachers. My situation then included team teaching in the classroom and the support of a visiting part-time teacher conversant with the emergent curriculum, and close collaboration and integration with the Art and Garden teacher’s program.

These experiences convinced me that there are better ways to organise public education that is conducive to maximising children’s happiness and flourishing, and that with appropriate support it can be achieved. At this time I was also responsible for overseeing the introduction of Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) and the Principles of Learning and Teaching (PoLT) within the school. The VELS is the curriculum framework and the PoLT addresses the pedagogical questions around student and teacher engagement and curriculum relevance. Many committed and engaged teachers greeted this curriculum reform with enthusiasm. I was fortunate enough to have participated with a number of these teachers in forums under the auspice of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority.

I remain with the conviction that what we were doing at that school in Prep to 2 was in complete accord with the intention of the VELS and PoLT. For me education means power through knowledge. My interest in education came about partly due to a lifetime of overcoming the sense of failure that my own (non-government) school experience had left me with. I had been encouraged to enter teaching at a time when the Thinking Curriculum was de rigueur. I had a background in community arts, where I had first come across the work of Paulo Freire the Brazilian educator who had illuminated the way in adult literacy and political agency – he coined the phrase ‘Reading the word; reading the world’. While at Latrobe University I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to study Philosophy with Children as a part of my philosophy degree. It was here I found the work of Dewey and Vygotsky. It is all these experiences, and others, that inform my approach to Early Childhood.

In many respects I believe my pedagogical approach is in accord with the aims and intentions of the VELS and the PoLT and the Early Childhood Blueprint which has the vision of providing the means for the holistic development of young children from Year 0 to Year 8 to develop “optimal health and wellbeing”. However I do believe that government Blueprints are one thing and the actuality in schools and learning places for preschool children another. The Victorian Government has been working closely with Early Childhood Victoria and its national office to implement the National Early Childhood Learning Framework. In this regard dues must be given to the latter organisation for keeping the bureaucracy up to the mark and the government honest, so to speak.

I believe as practioners and educators we have an obligation to meet the standards being set by these various blueprints and frameworks. However many of the methods being employed by departmental and regional bureaucrats to improve quality are counter-productive to building teacher confidence and self-respect. If we are to be respected as professionals, and build the profession we need to be prepared to challenge and argue against these pedagogical and industrial counter-reforms that determine so much of what happens in practice. If we wish to recognise the social and political agency of children, preparing them for their active adult participation so necessary for a democracy, then we as the current adults must also actively model our agency in democratic classrooms and learning places.


One Response to “Early Childhood and curriculum”

  1. ZAREMA Says:

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