A pedagogy of care: Moving beyond the margins of managing work and minding babies (Free full-text available)

Jean Rockel
University of Auckland

The image of a carer 'minding' babies and toddlers has been transformed with the professionalisation of care in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This occurred with the introduction of the national early childhood curriculum, Te Wha-riki, in 1996 (Ministry of Education, 1996). Another key influence is the 10 year strategic plan to improve quality, introduced in 2002 (Ministry of Education, 2002) requiring that from 2007, 50 per cent of teachers in all teacher-led early childhood services would be qualified and registered, with the goal of 100 per cent by 2012 (recently changed to 50 per cent for infant-toddler teachers). The author proposes that this shift to an educational framework means early childhood professionals with infants and toddlers should consider their identity as a 'teacher' rather than a 'caregiver', and articulate a pedagogy of care.

There is ongoing international debate and local concern regarding the value and standard of care in educational services outside the home for infants and their families (Sims, Guilfoyle & Parry, 2006; ITV, 2008; Education Review Office, 2009). While acknowledging the complexity of such a debate, the author wishes to acknowledge the impact of an inclusive curriculum for teachers of infants and toddlers, to promote learning, teaching and assessment on the goals and understandings of adults in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in New Zealand (Nuttall, 2005; Ministry of Education, 2003; Ministry of Education, 2004; Education Review Office, 2009). The policy of 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers for all early childhood services in the 10-year plan from 2002–2012 (Ministry of Education, 2002) is also indicative of the drive for a higher standard of care. The essence of the policy remains despite a change of government in 2008, and the reduction of the 2012 goal to 50 per cent for teachers of children under two years. This policy has already increased the number of qualified teachers and has changed the nature and perception of infant-toddler care from an ad hoc basis more akin to baby-minding (Cooper & Royal Tangaere, 1994) to an inclusive education framework. The policy of increasing teacher qualifications indicates the intention to support teachers with deeper understandings of curriculum. The author argues, therefore, that the discourse of 'teacher' rather than 'caregiver' is used in order to acknowledge the significance of a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning that is inclusive of care.

Past images of care

During the past century, the role of 'caregiver' in childcare services indicated an image of protective care for children that endorsed infants as passive and dependent on adults for their wellbeing (May, 2003). The caregiver's personality traits were invoked to give kindly care while emulating the maternal role (Cooper & Royal Tangaere, 1994). Prior to the development of the national curriculum, teachers often organised care routines without acknowledging the problematic nature of viewing children in groups as submissive and obedient. Children were expected to conform to rules created for the purpose of managing large groups of children. With a history of unqualified staff and a technicist approach to 'training', practice remained task-focused, with physical aspects of safety emphasised (May, 2003).

The notion of 'care' implies watching over children who are away from their parents–adults were trained to manage tasks efficiently to care for children. 'Care' in New Zealand had traditionally been viewed in an ordinary way, seen as necessary for children's satisfactory growth and development. This view is illustrated by Dr Truby King's ideas on the image of the healthy child in early 20th century New Zealand, with the division of each day into predetermined routines to promote a sense of routine and order (Chapman, 2003).

An image of education and care

The image of growth and development as 'ordinary' contrasts with more recently acknowledged metaphysical or wondrous aspects of young children's learning epitomised by a child's own sense of enquiry and agency. Brownlee (2004), in her discussion on how very young children engage with new experiences, notes the paradox: 'it is all ordinary and at the same time, it is all extraordinary' (p.8). She proposes that the extraordinary is more likely to be apparent when teachers consider the agency exercised by children in their own learning and development. The notion of agency can be explained as 'an individual's ability to take action, to take control, or make decisions ... an 'I can do it feeling'' (Department of Education and Children's Services, 2005, p.16). Regarding children as competent to make their own decisions for action is in line with the pedagogical approach to care aligned to Te Wha-riki's notion of the competent child (Ministry of Education, 1996).

For more than a decade Te Wha-riki has challenged adults in early childhood services to think about care for infants and toddlers differently. This process has taken the notion of care beyond the margins of minding children and managing care within prescribed care regimes. Such regimes are often based on predetermined group routines; for example, children's sleep, mealtimes and toileting practices. The reconceptualisation of care within an educational framework creates a tension in continuing these regimes, thereby prompting the need to look more closely at the individual ways infants and toddlers express their desire for responsive care–and the adult's responsibilities in this process.

A new discourse: Caregiver, worker, educator or teacher?

Lally (1995) comments that care is viewed as 'care that anyone can do, that until recently was done for no pay as part of daily family life, and that needs no training' (p.59). It is helpful to engage in dialogue about changes in discourse, as common understandings of professional roles shift in regard to status. Titles can convey a powerful message about status to teachers themselves and to others in society.

The most commonly used descriptor of adults working with infants and toddlers is 'caregiver'. When deconstructed this term implies a rather condescending message of 'giving' care. Te Wha-riki (Ministry of Education, 1996) emphasises 'reciprocal and responsive' (p.14) interactions which are indicative of mutuality and a two-way relationship. The title 'caregiver' suggests an association with mothering in the home, even though 'mothering is seen as non-work and therefore given low status' (Cooper and Royal Tangaere, 1994, p.85). This situation overlooks the ethical issues that arise when infants are away from families and in group settings with 'strangers' who may or may not care enough. However, the frequent use of the term 'caregiver' could indicate a strong desire to retain a care discourse to distinguish it from education. A pedagogy of care would retain this distinction for teachers.

The term 'primary caregiver' is also problematic as it includes assumptions about the role. This term is used to explain that a person has been nominated to take the main responsibility for infant and family relationships. There is often confusion regarding the way this term is interpreted, mainly because of a lack of an articulated rationale (Rockel, 2003a). A research project exploring the ways teachers and parents interpret the notion of primary care found there was confusion in how this term was understood in services with or without primary care systems (Rockel, 2003a). Rather than using this term without explanation, a pedagogy of care would convey the complexities of practice.

The title 'key worker' is sometimes used in the United Kingdom (Bruce, 2005; Rockel, 2003b). This description relates to the selection of a specific adult allocated to a child for the purposes of building close relationships with child and family. The term 'worker' has industrial connotations and is more commonly used to describe a person engaged in manual labour. In New Zealand the term 'worker' has been associated with child care (Cooper & Royal Tangaere, 1994). Through unionisation there was a change in terminology when the Early Childhood Workers Union of the 1980s was replaced by the Combined Early Childhood Union of Aotearoa in 1990. In 1994 this union amalgamated with the teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute/Te Riu Roa, which represents teachers in schools and early childhood services (NZEI, 2009).

New Zealand early childhood policy documents refer to 'educators' in order to be inclusive of unqualified teachers (Ministry of Education, 1998). The term 'educator' becomes problematic in the shift to teacher-education qualifications when the distinction between qualified and unqualified teachers is more obvious. This distinction is indicative of the complexities of professional identity in this field.

As there are more qualified teachers working with infants and toddlers, the term 'key teacher' is becoming more prevalent in New Zealand (Taoma, Wendt-Samu, Podmore, Tapusoa & Moananu, 2003). This describes the notion of a teacher taking on the main responsibility for supporting the assigned child and family. This term may also clarify the professional responsibilities of a person with a teacher–education qualification, in which developing a pedagogical approach to care and learning is implicit.

In New Zealand, titles such as 'whaea' and 'kaiako' in a Maori early childhood setting (Kaimahi and Kairangahau, 2005), and 'Faiaoga' in a Samoan early childhood setting (Taouma, et al, 2003), are used in these culturally specific contexts to reflect the mana (prestige) of a teacher or leader. The role of the teacher in such settings is one where responsibilities are undertaken within collective cultural representation rather than one in which an individual takes sole responsibility. This also indicates the complexity of pedagogy based on philosophical and theoretical understandings which are appropriate in a particular context.

The title given to adults for their role in an early childhood centre not only defines the responsibilities and professional identity, it also reveals to others how infant/toddler education and care is perceived. The discourse is confusing when parents are referred to as 'first teachers', as in government parent–support programs (Ministry of Social Development, 2009). Yet the popular portrayal in the media of teacher in cap and gown passing on information overlooks the teaching and learning relationship for very young children (Cullen, 2001)–conveying the impression that the title of 'teacher' is reserved for children's learning at a later age.

The low status of infant/toddler teachers in New Zealand may be seen within an industrial paradigm (for example, the discourse used in reference to people being 'on the floor', 'customers/clients' and 'parent partnerships'). This language is indicative of the care and education division of 'worker' or 'supervisor/manager' rather than teacher. The term 'teacher' will be used in this article to position the argument for pedagogical understandings of infant-toddler curriculum by teachers in ECEC services in order to distinguish them from a caregiver who manages tasks within a technicist approach to care.

Why pedagogy?

When curriculum is in place it follows that pedagogy is essential for its interpretation and implementation. Pedagogy can be defined as providing a theoretical and philosophical basis to practice. There is the understanding that a teacher has deeply considered his or her personal values and beliefs when grappling with theories and philosophical ideas (Hill, 2003). The early childhood curriculum for the state of South Australia (Department of Education and Children's Services, 2005) provides succinct definitions of pedagogy:

  • The function, work and art of educators
  • The science and art of putting together learning processes and teaching actions
  • How you put into practice your values and beliefs about care and education within your setting/ environment

An example of theorising practice with infants is illustrated by Linke and Fleer (2002) as they explore the distinction between task-based and relationship-based practice. The authors summarise task-based practice as focusing on the schedule in order to implement the program. Relationship–based practice acknowledges the child's own pace of learning and the teacher's reflection before action, which is more representative of pedagogy. An articulated pedagogy provides a framework for dialogue as well as rationale for action that is beyond routinely performing tasks. The process of theorising how routines for infants and toddlers can actualise learning within the curriculum contributes to a pedagogy of care.

These ideas are highlighted in the draft Australian National Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR, 2008) which states that teachers provide pedagogical leadership, for example, when they:

  • create a culture of consideration for the ethical implications of relationships and pedagogies
  • negotiate competing ideas about early childhood and draw on a number of knowledge bases about children, learning and curriculum in order to ensure the best learning outcomes for all children
  • articulate their practice and its intentions clearly to children, families, colleagues, professionals in other disciplines, and the broader community. (p.11)

The process of professionalisation in NZ

The introduction of an inclusive national curriculum in licensed and chartered early childhood services in New Zealand in 1996 was a bold move and prompted the expectation that there would be teachers with the theoretical understanding to implement the ideas (Cullen, 1996). Te Wha-riki is based on a different philosophy of practice than were earlier prescriptive and normative views of development, and requires in-depth consideration of many different perspectives. Reflective of socio-cultural theory and challenging the earlier Guidelines to developmentally appropriate practice (Ministry of Education, 1993), care was viewed not simply as a service to 'mind' very young children whose parents were absent but to empower children and their families. As such, this curriculum had the potential to assist teachers to discover broader and complementary philosophical and research perspectives (Nyland & Rockel, 2007).

The commitment of New Zealand early childhood teachers to theorise practice and investigate the agency of infants and toddlers in their daily lives in early childhood settings has been slow to eventuate, hampered by lack of encouragement and limited access to relevant research. There is a need for professional development and teacher–education to make provision for the injection of new theoretical positions of care and research.

The paucity of ongoing professional development for teachers with specific regard to infant toddler education and care has meant a lack of exposure to new ways of seeing infants and the significance of issues such as identity formation, culture, power relations and social justice. Smyth (2001) emphasises the importance of opening up dialogue between teachers and asking about 'taken-for-granted, even cherished assumptions and practices' (p.189) in order to formulate alternative hypotheses to be tested. Without dialogue new ideas will not have the opportunity to drive change in theorising practice.

The research regarding infant/toddler care and education in New Zealand has been slow to emerge. The findings of a pivotal study of 100 centres with under-two-year olds across New Zealand in 1995 (Smith, Ford, Hubbard & White, 1995) signled concern about the lack of adult interactions with children. This research revealed that training for teachers makes a difference to quality. Yet the ways relationships with children and their families are established often remain untheorised (Rockel, 2003a). These and other practices are often the result of a culture of practice established over time (Dalli, 1999), and remain unchallenged by theory or philosophies, with the undisputed attitude that such practices are already effective.

While critical thinking and reflective practice encompass broader views of learning and development in teacher–education programs, many teachers and student–teachers note the lack of an infanttoddler specialism within current undergraduate and postgraduate teacher–education programs, and seek the investigation of issues and relevant research more specific to infant/toddler care and education (Rockel, 2007; Powell, 2007).

The necessity for research is addressed in the 10-year strategic plan (Ministry of Education, 2002), through the funding of selected Centres of Innovation (COI) to research innovative practice over a three-year period and disseminate research findings to inspire teachers' practice. There have been 20 COI projects completed or in progress. This strategy included several infant/toddler research projects. (Sadly, the COI initiative has been abruptly curtailed from 30 June 2009, because of Budget restraints.) As more teachers engage in research while seeking academic and professional development, an infant/toddler education and care specialism to incorporate a pedagogy of care seems more likely to develop.

The struggle for status

In the latter part of the 20th century early childhood education was equated to the Cinderella of the sector (Dalli, 1993) with child care suffering from low status and an 'ugly stepsister' image (Stonehouse, 1980, cited by Dalli, 1993). Pre-service teacher-training courses incorporating a focus on infant care had initially been available at only a few Polytechnics and Colleges of Education throughout New Zealand (Cooper & Royal- Tangaere, 1994). In the author's experience, unqualified teachers were placed with under-two-year- olds if they were 'good with babies' with the rationale that infants required practical care rather than education (Nyland & Rockel, 2007).

At the turn of the 21st century the emphasis was on preparing children for school with literacy and numeracy objectives. As more and more women participated in the labour market, supporting infants and toddlers in the transition from home to early childhood settings became an urgent priority, including the expectation that there would be qualified teachers for this process.

Until the development of the 10-year strategic plan (Ministry of Education, 2002) there was no specific teaching qualification requirement for teachers with infants and toddlers in early childhood services. The qualified 'person responsible' was regarded as qualified to be in charge of the centre. The strategic plan placed 'child care' and 'preschool' under the same banner of qualified teachers for all children under five years, which was in line with the inclusive nature of Te Wha-riki.

Current concerns

Concern about the lack of scrutiny for the quality of experiences for infants under one year in particular arose at a national forum on early childhood held in Wellington (Farquhar, 2008). This concern acknowledges the unease at the lack of current research on the impact of long day experiences in centres for infants and toddlers. In New Zealand the under-two age group is the fastest growing in the sector. For example, between 1997 and 2007, enrolments for under-two-year-olds in licensed early childhood services increased by 39.5 per cent while enrolments for three- and four-year-olds increased by 4.7 per cent (Ministry of Education, 2008).

There is a high turnover of infant/toddler teachers in New Zealand centres as wages and working conditions vary between services. Teacher turnover remains of great concern as children cannot maintain stable and secure relationships with frequent changes of teacher (Smith, 1995). There is a lack of ongoing professional support by some employers that has led to teachers seeking positions in other centres. In Auckland, the author notes that, because of a severe shortage of qualified teachers for infants and toddlers, there are many services surviving on a pool of relief teachers, who lack the opportunity to build contextual knowledge for these children. There are few mentors of qualified and experienced teachers to provide leadership in this specialised area of pedagogy.

With many early childhood centres continuing to employ unqualified teachers, partly because of unavailability of qualified teachers and partly because of the reluctance of some employers to make change, the focus on untheorised care practices with infants and toddlers continues in many centres. The routines of physical care involved in feeding and sleeping practices continue to revolve around group task management, while teachers access little research to inform their practice or recognise the problematic nature of institutionalised care routines.

A teacher's pedagogy should confront the deeply entrenched culture of practice in regard to institutionalised care. It is not uncommon to see very young children seated in large groups for ease of management at predetermined mealtimes (waiting restlessly for some attention), rather than seeing a response given to an infant's individual cues. A recent Education Review Office (2009) report on the quality of education and care in infant toddler centres noted that:

In a few centres routines were not so responsive. In these centres, teachers were often unaware of the needs of individual children for sleep, food and toilet, and routines were based on managing groups of children ... children often spent too long waiting for food to be provided, to be put to bed or have their nappies changed. (p.6)

Fortunately, teachers are now beginning to write about their pedagogy in relation to such routines within theoretical frameworks. An example is the analysis of daily mealtime routines written about pedagogically, using the Gerber (2005) philosophy of practice, that might previously have been simply viewed as the way things were done (Homewood, 2006). Gerber's theoretical ideas for sleep practices have also been integrated into recent debates (Rockel & Peal, 2008). The COI research at the Massey Child Care Centre at Massey University, Palmerston North, reflects a community of practice where teachers work cohesively negotiating daily responsibilities for routines without rosters (Deans & Bary, 2008).

It is timely to acknowledge the specialism of a growing body of knowledge relating to the competent infant and toddler, incorporating concepts of physical movement and agency into pedagogical views of learning and teaching. These ideas are evident in practice at the Pikler Institute in Budapest (Pikler, cited in Brownlee, 2008). Infants are fed on a teacher's lap until they are able to sit in low chairs with their feet on the ground around small tables, rather than being placed in rows of high chairs as in many centres in ECEC–with a view to the convenience of feeding large groups of children at the same time. The sensitivity of teachers to each child's body movement helps them gain a sense of the child's autonomy and use of agency. This process can be equated to a thoughtful teacher building a pedagogy of responsive care with an ethical and philosophical focus (Sansom, 2007).

A pedagogy of care

Lisa Goldstein (1998) introduces the notion of an 'ethic of care' to early childhood education that may help teachers to see beyond the ordinary. She discusses care as encapsulating ethical and philosophical ideas. Goldstein explores Noddings' use of the term caring as:

... not an attribute or personality trait, but a relation. Caring is not something you are, but rather something you engage in, something you do. Every interaction provides one with an opportunity to enter into a caring relation. (1984, cited in Goldstein, 1998, p. 2)

Noddings' concept of motivational displacement refers to the teacher's obligation to 'meet the other as onecaring' (1984, p.17), giving primacy to the goals and needs of the cared-for. As Noddings points out, this process will be unpredictable as reciprocity in these relationships occurs as a result of new encounters. The uncertainty in such interactions between children and adults can be challenging to teachers who may fall back upon more dominant power relationships to create certainty in their practice. In order to integrate broader images of care and to consider whether we care 'enough' for children, their families, ourselves and others, the political, ethical and moral aspects of pedagogy must be considered. Goldstein points out that caring encounters are learning experiences for the very young, and that 'it is by being the cared-for that he or she will learn how to be the one-caring' (1998, p.3).

When care is considered within a pedagogical framework, the ethical aspects of care are raised anew. There are fine distinctions between care and learning, as epitomised by Moss (2006) in his discussion of the pedagogue (a term frequently used in Europe that reflects the notion of caring for others):

For the pedagogue, learning, care and upbringing (a typically pedagogical term) are indivisible activities; these are not distinct fields that must somehow be joined up, but interconnected facets of life that cannot be envisaged separately. (p.32)

In New Zealand, Dalli (2006) argues that a theorised discourse about professional practice regarding care would allow an unacknowledged part of teachers' lives to be heard. She proposes a re-visioned notion of love and care as a pedagogical tool. Dalli endorses Goldstein's (1998) contention that the image of a caring teacher as smiling and offering warm hugs obscures the complexity and intellectual challenges for teachers.

Goldstein (1998), citing other feminist writers, warns that portraying women as carers traps women in an oppressive set of roles and behaviours. Such stereotyping may be responsible for inequities in pay, status and professionalism for women in educational settings with very young children, in roles as caregivers rather than teachers.

It is the right of infants and toddlers to experience wonder and joy in their lives, and to feel cared about in any relationship, whether in or out of the home. Pedagogy should not be devoid of 'care', but examine issues such as those raised by Noddings (1984) and Dalli (2006) in relation to personal practice.

Changing perspectives

The voices of many writers are beginning to make visible the complexities of infant toddler education and care. Australian advocate Anne Stonehouse (2003) writes of the shift in emphasis from health and hygiene within a medical model of care in the 1970s, when nurses were hired to work with babies. She also notes a misplaced sense of teaching when learning was equated with the idea of forcing children to become smarter as a result of intervention:

... a few centres embraced the notion of infant stimulation ... 'the-more-the-better' approach – that is, the more mobiles, language stimulation (as opposed to natural conversation), educational learning materials (as opposed to toys or play materials) all in primary colours, the smarter these babies were going to become. In these places peek-a-boo was re-labelled 'a Piagetian based perceptual cognitive activity to facilitate the development of object permanence in the sensori-motor stage'. (p.10)

The pushdown effect of ideas more suited to older children undermines the image of an already competent child as outlined in Te Wha-riki (Nyland & Rockel, 2007) who is capable of enquiry. In contrast to the notion of 'stimulation' evident in the 1970s, Stonehouse's beliefs involve relationship-based care. She advocates a culture of thinking, reflection, debate and dialogue, a deep and broad knowledge of child development and learning, with a respectful approach that acknowledges the active role babies play in their own learning. She states that 'supporting learning is not a matter of stimulating babies, and certainly not a case of 'the more the better' (2003, p.13). This notion is supported by Elliot (2007) in her statement:

... when caregiving is a task to be done, rather than an engagement with individual babies in unique contexts, it robs babies of their individuality and caregivers of their agency. (p.127)

Perspectives from Aotearoa/New Zealand

New Zealand educators can draw upon indigenous philosophy for pedagogical understandings of a bicultural curriculum; for example, the Maori philosophical concept of Ako, which refers to the co-constructivist nature of the teaching and learning process, built on reciprocity and acknowledgement of 'other' (Pere, 1994). The Maori kaupapa (philosophy) that underpins Te Wha-riki (Reedy, 2003) gives a rich understanding of socio-cultural perspectives that involve spirituality and language at the heart of a culture

The emphasis on early childhood narratives as part of the assessment process for teachers (Ministry of Education, 2004/2007) is also opening up many local stories of learning and teaching for deeper thought and consideration (Lawrence, 2005). The Learning Story narratives from teachers in early childhood centres will reflect many philosophies unique to the bicultural New Zealand identity (Walker, 2008).

Emeritus Professor Anne Smith's (2007) ongoing advocacy for the rights of the child has impacted on changing views of children's agency in their own learning. The social acceptance in New Zealand of infants and toddlers in the education sector has its influence in global trends for an educated workforce as parents engage with the labour market. Yet this acceptance must be countered with the challenge of considering how childhood is represented: in terms of parental convenience, as part of a service industry, or with regard to children's rights? The pedagogy of care will involve thoughtful analysis of these issues in relation to social justice, dignity and freedom, which are prompted when sociocultural theory is considered (Nuttall, 2005).

Final thoughts

In Lally's (2005) discussion on children's rights and society's responsibilities, he endorses the notion of viewing care as educational and involving social enrichment, which honours the child in the present. He concludes that 'failing to provide appropriate services to children in their earliest, most vulnerable years is a violation of their fundamental human rights' (p.46). This statement powerfully exemplifies how pedagogy moves beyond rigidly prescribed views of care and reconceptualises the view of the child from birth as a competent learner eager to express his or her own desires (Ministry of Education, 1996). The notion of young children as agents in their own everyday lives is provocative and requires pedagogy as opposed to rigid expectations of children's obedience and conformity. If the discourse of care is prioritised within an education paradigm, then the notion of 'routines' could be replaced by a pedagogical discourse of care.

The inclusion of curriculum for infants and toddlers has challenged teachers to rethink their practice and leads to several questions. For example, 'what has the adoption of curriculum meant for the professional identity of adults with infants and toddlers? Should this identity create a new discourse?–that of teacher rather than caregiver? What will a pedagogy of care mean for teacher–education programs?' It is intended that this article open up these questions for debate.

New Zealand has gained a positive sense of direction through an early childhood curriculum inclusive of infants and toddlers that explicitly states 'The care of infants is specialised and is neither a scaled-down three- or four-year-old programme nor a baby-sitting arrangement' (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.22). However, such an infant/toddler specialism in the curriculum should be clearly evident in undergraduate and postgraduate teacher–education programs (Powell, 2007; Rockel, 2007). There is urgency to provide professional development programs for infant–toddler teachers. Unqualified teachers could then break out of the time warp of task-based care in order to confront their personal practice, with the opportunity to explore rich histories, philosophies and research in care and education. Care need not be regarded as 'ordinary' but as 'extraordinary' moments in life (Brownlee, 2004; 2008) for both children and adults.

Pedagogy incorporates caring and learning, with consideration of theoretical, ethical and philosophical aspects of teaching. It is a process where teachers continually 're-examine their values, practices, personal histories, and cultural world-view, as part of their image of themselves' (Nuttall, 2005). A pedagogy of care involves the notion of an ethic of care which takes the image of caring beyond efficient completion of tasks to the ethical perspectives involved in the larger picture of how a society cares for its youngest citizens. Infants and toddlers require empathic and knowledgeable teachers who appreciate the learning and teaching possibilities that surprise us all, and who will honour the child.

Infancy is a period of vulnerability and very young children could spend a lot of time with adults who lack a pedagogy of care that includes values held dear by those close to the child in family and community. There is a new image of shared care in contexts outside the home that complements the image of the child learning at a mother's knee. The principles of Te Wha-riki complement that vision, but curriculum is only a guide or a book on a shelf – it requires teachers to mediate the content with pedagogy to put ideas into action.


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Australasian Journal of Early Childhood – Volume 34 No 3 September 2009, pp. 01–08.

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