A New National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood: Risks or Opportunity? March 20, 2010Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Education Policy and Politics.
Tags: curriculum, national curriculum
The development and implementation of Australia’s first national framework for curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood settings: ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming : The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia” (EYLF), was launched in July 2009 for immediate implementation. This has been a significant early outcome from the Rudd government’s early childhood reform agenda. The development of this framework was perceived by many to present a unique opportunity for the creation of new discourses of early childhood, rich with ‘transformational possibilities’ (Sumsion et al 2009) and the articulation of a vision for the role of early childhood education in promoting social inclusion and equity. The compressed time frame for its development (nine months compared to the six years of development for the New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whariki) and the political compromises necessary to achieve quick consensus from the many stakeholders have undoubtedly truncated the opportunities for dialogue about what matters in early years education and limited the conceptual space for the creation of new discourses of early years education and the work of those undertaking its leadership. The account by Sumsion et al (2009) of some of the necessary compromises by the development team and the kinds of challenges to, and erasures from, early versions of the EYLF by risk-averse political gatekeepers provide sobering reading and salutary lessons about the political and contested nature of curriculum. They also provide telling insights into the significant challenges that must be overcome if the early childhood field is to advance robust new images of professional identity and early childhood leadership. For example, the reported institutional resistance to the use of the term ‘pedagogy’, explicitly chosen by the writers to communicate complex ideas involving the centrality of relationships and the importance of intentionality in teaching in early childhood contexts where this is not always visible, together with the censoring and erasure of reference to power relationships in play, could be read as maintaining the hegemony of childhood innocence and developmental frameworks. These frames have not been seen to be empowering to the profession in recent times and a robust critique exists to highlight their dangers in reinforcing care and nurturing dimensions and minimising the intellectual character of early childhood work. Conflicting images of the early childhood professional have emerged during the implementation of the government’s ‘new agenda’, that both constrain and expand possibilities for strengthening professional identities within the field. It is at least encouraging to see politicians locating early childhood provision within a ‘professional discourse’. Arguably, the activation of strong and effective field-based leadership will play a significant role in how these opportunities and challenges ultimately play out. As Osgood (2006), Miller (2008), and others have suggested, early years educators can ‘harness their own agency’ ( 2008: 260) and exert power over their professional identity and positioning to resist the disempowering potentials inherent in many policy discourses.
The new Early Years Learning Framework might be one such avenue for this assertion.