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A New National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood: Risks or Opportunity? March 20, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Education Policy and Politics.
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From Associate Professor Christine Woodrow

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.

Comments»

1. Miss Amanda Pickstone - April 8, 2010

First of all It is wonderful to see that there is finally a national framework for curriculum in early childhood settings to work with!

Throughout Woodrow’s article she makes it clearly evident that curriculum’s bring out controversial political concerns and arguments within society. However, I truly believe that this new implementation into the early years is going to do wonders in the educational development for the children of OUR future, thus allowing them countless opportunities of transformative experiences not only in the classroom, but in everyday life within this contemporary world.

It needs not to be overlooked that education for children starts at infancy and in early childhood settings. Therefore, this newly devised curriculum is essentially one of the key fundamental characteristics that will contribute to improving early childhood and making it lucrative for all!

Thank You,
Amanda Pickstone

2. Christine Woodrow, Associate Professor School of Education - April 11, 2010

Yes, I agree with you Amanda, I think it has the potential to be transformational for teachers, children and families, and perhaps inspirational to schooling education as well, with its emphasis on relationships and integrated play and learning. I hope too that it will result in greater recogntion of the educational dimensions of early years education, not just the ‘care’; and will lead to greater pay and conditions for early childhood professionals.
Chris

3. Lisa Milne - April 12, 2010

I agree with Amanda with the fact that it is great to see a national framework for curriculum in the early childhood area. It is going to provide so many opportunites not just for professionals, but also for children and families as Christine mentioned. These opportunities could detail important relationships between the parents, children and teachers. It will definitely provide transformational opportunites which will give professionals detailed insight in to what is expected, for example in the play and learning area. Overall I think the introduction of this framework is definitely a positive for the early childhood setting.

4. Christine Vinson - April 12, 2010

Alongside with Amanda and Lisa I also think it is wonderful that there is a national framework for curriculum in the early childhood area. I believe the national curriculum framework will give professional educators more opportunity to exert their professional power alonside with having agency.

I think it is great that early childhood provisions is beginning to be seen in a professional discourse. Steering away from nagative discourses of early childhood educators and the work that is involved.

5. Tina Prorellis - April 12, 2010

I think that the reform will help the way society views early childhood centres and give early childhood teachers the acknowledgment we have long deserved. As Christine mentioned politicians are framing discourses that title all role in the field as professionals. This is empowering and somewhat a milestone in the field. It is exciting to hear about a new reform and the many avenues it will produce.

6. Zoran Blazic - April 13, 2010

I believe it is fantastic to see that a national framework for curriculum has been implemented in the Early Childhood setting. From what I have seen of the proposed National Curriculum for the primary setting, there will be a smooth transition between the two. Professionally speaking, it is also good to see that money and effort is being put into ensuring professional development is maintained to the highest standard.

7. Mary Fenech - April 16, 2010

I agree with what Christine has said. It is great to have a national framework for curriculum in early childhood. In the article, Christine states that this framework will promote social inclusion and equity, which i believe to be very important, not just for children but also for teachers and parents.
Amanda is right when she says that education for children starts at infancy and in early childhood settings so as a result there needs to be greater recognition for example in play and other learning areas.

8. Brigette Harrison - April 20, 2010

As many people have already stated it is wonderful to have an early national framework for early childhood however teachers need to be actively involved in the unfolding of its policies and pedagogies. Woodrow points out that a construction of childhood innocence could dominate how children learn which could hinder the pedagogies of teaching. Another interesting point that Woodrow makes is the point about power relations which cannot be overlooked but on the whole it appears to be a good start!

9. Ebru Temi - April 20, 2010

The National Framework For Curriculum in the Early Childhood area is a wonderful thing. That way child care centres are having greater recognition, which they deserve. People do not know how hard work it is until they actually work in a centre. Woodrow pointed out that the insights into the significant challenges have to be overcome if the early childhood field is to advance to new images of professional identity and early childhood leadership. Which i totally agree with.

10. Anna Ralic-Hanrahan - April 20, 2010

I agree with Amanda, it is great to see a national framework for curriculum in early childhood.
I’m glad to see that early childhood is now being recognised as a professional discourse, with workers capable of harnessing their own agency. I agree with Christine, and I hope to see this result in greater pay and recognition for workers in the early childhood setting.
I appreciate the promotion of social inclusion and equity but question how this applies to the speed in which the framework was developed and implemented…it doesn’t sound as though this time period allowed as much consultation as something this significant might need.

11. Louise Earl - April 30, 2010

I also agree that this is a positive step forward for the field of early Childhood education, but i hope the government and politicians stick to their promises and see it continue and implemented well into the future with more opportunities for educators to add their findings experiences and input into making improvements.

My hope is to see more positive discourses on professional early Childhood educators , so that other people continue to join, work hard and develop what is best for children and the environment they grow up in.

12. fiona - March 21, 2012

I disagree with a lot a policies.

I work in the 3-4 years old and we are told children can do what they want it crazy. It is absolute chaos- and this is not just at this centre its at all the centre’s I’ve worked at.
I have been told by a government rep that this new framework, we are not allowed to have children in time- out; children don’t have to use their manners, don’t have to say ‘please’ or ‘thankyou’
and we can not make them say ‘sorry’ if they hurt someone
also if children are now arent expected to tidy up after themselves!!!

whose insane idea is that?

3/4 year olds know what thankyou, and please and sorry mean

they need to learn about social skills and that their actions have consequences.

If they don’t learn this basic skills- what are they going to be like as an adult!!

they are bored because they have nothing to look forward to, they are bored of all their toys at childcare, because now we are told that we can not preplan activities. we are told they don’t have to sleep if they don’t want to they don’t have to eat during the day if they don’t want to- we as adults know the importance of children eating throughout the day- healthy bone structure/growth/teeth development/ot to mention behavioural and mental development.

I have read the early chilhood framework booklet, and there is nothing specific about do’s and don’ts- just a guidline-
so whose making up all these crazy rules for staff
they need to listen to staff
a lot of staff won’t say anything because they are worried about being fired if they speak out

Sala - January 12, 2013

It’s amazing to see a national framework curriculum for early childhood education as guidelines for all children, educators, staff members and parents and besides I totally agree with Fiona regards too many policies and rules confusing educators…allowing children to do whatever they want to do or say. I work in the pre-school room 3-5years old, there’s a child would tell the teacher to shut up…go away don’t talk to me….my mum said no I’m not going sleep today…my mum said i’m not going to sit down I have to do what I want…I’m interesting to see more comments on this

13. Ally McCart - September 17, 2014

The importance of the early years to children’s lives is now beyond question. It is well known that a good beginning to life is the foundation for wellbeing, health, and future development (Emerson, 2000). The Australian government has recognised this, and there has been abundant efforts made, in terms of education policy, to include early intervention strategies in the promotion of early childhood development (Stanley, 2003)

The National Framework For Curriculum in the Early Childhood area is a wonderful thing. Particularly for Defence Families that move around every two years. The differences in the education systems between states is very disruptive for a lot of students, especially when they have learned a skill – particularly writing and then are told at the new locality they are wrong.

The Australian Education Union has proposed policies that are aimed at offering better public education for Australian Students. Though there are concentrated efforts, policies, and practices in early education, the efforts made to implement such policies lack integration and focus.There is a lack of cohesion between the various government organisations at present. The Aborginal action plan (Ministerial Council for Education, 2014) recognises this lack of collaboration and recommends that government bodies accelerate improvements by implementing collaborative plans in response to local needs. The manner in which children are educated in their early years is a major determinant of the economic and social costs. The assertion proposed here is that the various regulatory measures and funding regimes between and within state level jurisdictions, have caused a widening, rather than closing, of the gap between the education offered to children in rural and developed areas in Australia.

There is a high level of political interest in Australia in improving outcomes of the early education policy, so there is an imperative and a good opportunity to develop an ongoing, and coordinated national approach aimed at ensuring the ECEP policy objectives are met. The challenge is to reduce the continuing inequalities between students coming from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This can be done only at the policy level, thus curbing the hindrances to equity in education.

The implementation of the Early Childhood Education Policy, has provided evidence that offering good public education alone does not necessarily increase the standard of living for people in a group or society. The decision to implement a national agenda that prioritises early childhood education illustrates the fact that the local and state governments in Australia are making considerable investments in ensuring adequate services in education are provided for children and families. There is compelling evidence that investing in the early years of children’s lives will result in long lasting benefits. Hence, there is the need to develop a clear strategy to guide the people involved in implementing the ECEP. By creating an integrated early childhood education, and indigenous student education system, Australia can attain a higher level of economic and social development.


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