Guiding Principles To Early Childhood Curriculum Using Examples From Four Countries
Early childhood education has been recgonised as important in laying foundation for the future of a child. Early childhood education is important in its own right - a time when children investigate, explore and discover a great deal about the world around them and establish attitudes to learning that remain with them throughout their lives (Wilks et al., 2008). It is therefore imperative to imbibe a framework of learning into the system of early childhood education. This framework is most times identified as a curriculum.
Curriculum refers to planned approaches to teaching and learning, an area of study or topics, which fit together according to predetermined criteria that are guided by theoretical and philosophical beliefs about the nature of learners and about the kinds of knowledge that should be taught (Lim and Genishi, 2010; Marsh, 2009). Curriculum therefore represents a set of goals that represent the aims of education for children; in essence it represents a value statement of what a society aspires for its children (Spodek and Saracho, 2003). Curriculum assumes many labels and perspectives in different countries, such as ‘core subjects’, ‘foundation subjects’ or ‘key learning areas’, depending on the aim or purpose of education in each country.
Early childhood curricula vary from guiding principles and characteristics through to key learning areas and descriptive outcomes. For example, one perspective of curriculum prescribes specific content knowledge, objectives and goals, teaching procedures, and assessment strategies - the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) may be said to belong to this category. Another perspective conceptualizes the curriculum as less planned in advance, developing through collaboration between teacher and students (Lim and Genishi, 2010) and relying on the professionalism of the teacher or practitioner to make it work – Reggio which is the curriculum being used in Italy is an example of this .. However, four elements must be included in such a descriptive framework – guiding principles and values; programme standards; outline of content and outputs - expected knowledge, skills, dispositions and values in broad developmental areas; and pedagogical processes through which proposed outcomes are achieved (Bennett, 2005).
Definition of curriculum varies amongst countries, institutions /academic scholars. Irrespective of the variation , it is generally acknowledged that what is written as a curriculum appears to be influenced by the definition or perception of what constitutes curriculum (Wilks et al, 2008), and that no curriculum is ideologically neutral as it is influenced by economic, political and cultural/societal influences (Soler and Miller, 2003). This essay presents an analysis of culture/ societal childhood expectations and its impact on early childhood curriculum . The four countries to be considered are Italy, New...