Early Education in a Global Context: Volume 16


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Global interest in early care and education has been growing. The Association for Childhood Education International has declared 2012–2022 the Decade for Childhood. They call for an increased focus on childhood from many disciplines and agents. Large research studies are also being conducted that are focused on early childhood education in many different contexts. In 2010, Education International published Early Childhood Education: A Global Scenario. This study examined early childhood policies from 17 countries. In looking at early childhood globally they found that in many countries early care is fragmented, that ECE teaching staff are overwhelmingly female, less trained, and have poorer working conditions than educators working with older children. Access to early education is more limited in developing countries especially in rural areas.

The kindergarten curriculum in mainland China has evolved through four periods and the current reform began in the end of 1980s. The reform aimed to transform kindergarten practice by shaping ideologies including respect for individual child, active learning, and play-based integrated curriculum. This review of research literatures shows that compared with the practice before the reform, many kindergarten teachers organize classrooms in learning centers, provide more play materials, pay time, and freedom for free play, and pay more attention to individuals. But indoor space organized in rice-seedling-bed model, teacher-led group instruction and teacher-controlled interactions are still often observed after three decades of reform efforts; there still exist great variations among kindergartens of different sponsoring bodies and in different regions. The problems resulted from the innate deficiencies of the top-down and value-priority reform, the conflicts between the advocated value and the traditional Chinese culture with emphasis on Ming-Fen, testing, and the value of children for the whole family and nation, and the unequal distribution of public resources decided by the educational institutions. Therefore, the curriculum reform is not a separate endeavor from other social changes, but a comprehensive and systematic change. To guarantee the success of the curriculum reform, the Chinese society needs cultural transformation and institutional reconstruction.

High quality professional development and preservice teacher training should incorporate elements to help practitioners to integrate theory, research, and practice. Ideally, lessons and activities in early childhood classrooms would look like a kaleidoscope of dynamic approaches, infusing what is known about teaching into the context of that particular classroom with a diverse group of learners at that moment in time. It cannot be a “one size fits all” package. In the present chapter, vignettes from two schools in different parts of the world (South Africa and the United States) illustrate how digital media (photographs and video) provide powerful tools for bridging principles learned in professional development with ongoing classroom practice. The authors show how the use of digital tools helped teachers to: (1) see the consequences of their teaching decisions; (2) understand and value children's cultures; (3) meet the needs of all students (special needs or gifted) in their classroom; (4) increase family involvement; and (5) demonstrate their accountability. Using video and photographs provides a lens for ongoing reflection and observation of children in action. Digital tools allow teachers to discover their classroom from a different angle, see what children learned, or experience something the teacher missed while engaged in action. Digital tools create dialogue among teachers from diverse settings and provide new ways for everyone to view classroom experiences. They offer opportunities for brainstorming and for gaining different perspectives. Thus, digital tools enhance reflective practice. The authors realized everyone could be changed from the experience, including those who provided the professional development.

Florida Partners in Education and Research for Kindergarten Success (PERKS) was an effective, large-scale professional development initiative to move Florida's early childhood workforce toward increased education and improved practices. This 7-month professional development intervention succeeded in increasing teacher knowledge, enhancing quality of the classroom literacy environment, and notably improving language development of children in high-need communities. These changes were generally sustained as seen in positive ratings of the classroom literacy environment a year later and children's maintenance of learning across the summer months prior to kindergarten entry. In addition, Florida PERKS provided preliminary answers regarding intensity of technical assistance needed to create positive change. Technical assistance delivered onsite was best, with no notable advantage found for weekly over monthly visits. To fully sustain change, however, may require continued support of teachers beyond a single school year when working with teachers who lack college degrees.

The main focus of this study is preschool teachers’ own learning from a specific course aimed to develop their knowledge of how to use learning study (LS) in preschool. The study included 24 qualified and experienced preschool teachers who took part in the course. The course was funded by the Swedish National Agency for Education and the teachers were chosen by their municipal employers. An analysis is made of their experiences of the in-service course on LS and variation theory. The 24 preschool teachers were divided into seven groups, each of which implemented one LS. A total of 162 preschool children participated. After the course, the participants were asked, “How do you think LS can contribute in preschool?” Their answers were analyzed, and six qualitatively different categories were found, capturing their different perspectives. In the studies reported in this chapter, the results of the children's learning outcomes are also briefly reported to offer readers a background understanding of the teachers’ experiences. The children's learning outcomes did all show an improvement. In describing their experiences of the in-service training using LS, all of the 24 participating preschool teachers reported that their understanding of children's learning had changed and improved. They specifically mentioned having a stronger focus on content than before, seeing the difference between learning and method by separating them, and focus on the learning of a defined content in the first place.

The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the impact of an “Early Steps Physical Education Curriculum” (ESPEC) in children's attitudes and awareness toward a healthy lifestyle in early childhood. ESPEC was a part of a five-European country intervention program named “Early Steps” project. Early Steps project was a European Union funded initiation that targeted at improving children's healthy lifestyle and social development. The main philosophy behind the “Early Steps” project was the use of physical education activities to help children acquire the basic knowledge of social interaction skills, and healthy and active lifestyle. The ESPEC was designed to improve children's awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The curriculum comprised of 24 physical education lessons, which aimed through the acquisition of several motor skills at making children in early childhood engage more actively in a healthy lifestyle. Results showed that children developed several healthy habits through their participation in play experiences provided by the “ESPEC for healthy lifestyle.” Such findings could lead to the conclusion that (a) children's attitudes toward a healthy lifestyle can be influenced positively and enhanced in a carefully organized physical education program and (b) curriculum-based initiatives that aim at improving children's attitudes and behaviors, such as the “ESPEC for healthy lifestyle” program, can be implemented effectively in early childhood education.

The purpose of this chapter is to examine how early childhood development (ECD) programs are being established and supported in The Republic of Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa. First, we discuss the rationale for ECD programs. Based on a 10-day field visit to Zambia where we observed ECD programs, interviewed policy officials, and held focus groups with families, educators, and community groups, we reflect on practice and policy implications regarding supporting and increasing high-quality early education programs. Based on the analysis of this field visit, we provide some preliminary recommendations on increasing access to high-quality ECD programs. We also discuss the limitations of this study and the need for additional studies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The questions at the origin of this chapter are: Are children aged 5 years able to become involved in a critical thinking process, which implies a certain degree of abstraction and decentering? To what extent can an approach centered on philosophical dialogue among peers contribute to this development? The chapter describes a study of the exchanges in two groups of children aged 5 years. One group had experience with the philosophical dialogue tool, the Philosophy for Children approach, while the other group had no such experience. The analysis grid was the operationalized model of the developmental process of dialogical critical thinking, as revisited by Daniel and Gagnon, which includes four thinking modes (logical, creative, responsible, and metacognitive) and six epistemological perspectives (egocentricity, post-egocentricity, pre-relativism, relativism, post-relativism, intersubjectivity). Results of the analysis showed that 65% of the experimental group's interventions were situated in relativistic perspectives and 35% in egocentric perspectives, whereas 60% of the control group's interventions were situated in egocentric perspectives and 40% in relativistic perspectives.

Kindergarten teachers are increasingly being called on to deal with emotionally laden topics in their classrooms. Little is known about effective means of supporting early childhood educators in their professional development to cope with these issues effectively. This study examines the utility of the Community of Practice (COP) model to address this need. A two-year COP was established among veteran and novice Israeli kindergarten teachers focused on teaching the Holocaust in their classrooms, which is a culturally mandated topic in preschools and kindergartens in their country. Six teachers were interviewed, and the data was analyzed using grounded theory. Findings show the COP to support teachers in learning more about the subject matter and thinking deeply about its teaching in the early childhood classroom. In addition the COP provided a community of peers that encouraged meaningful feedback in a safe environment, which served to break professional isolation. The COP format was also found to be an effective tool for professional growth due to its support of cooperative learning, professional assurance, empowerment, mindfulness, and a disposition for focusing on the child's needs rather than the demands of the curriculum.

David Brody serves as Academic Dean and Chair of the Early Childhood Department at the Efrata College of Education in Jerusalem where he teaches and conducts his research. His research interests include men in early childhood, professional development among teacher educators, thinking education, and how early childhood educators cope with emotionally charged issues. He taught preschool for 15 years in the United States before immigrating to Israel where he has engaged in teacher education for 20 years.

Publication date
Book series
Advances in Early Education and Day Care
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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