WE KNOW THAT QUALITY experiences in the early years (in the home and in all other environments in which young children participate) lay the neuro-physiological foundations for positive child outcomes (Meaney, 2010; Sims, 2009; Waldegrave & Waldegrave, 2009). This means the provision of high-quality, culturally appropriate and accessible early childhood programs is essential for national wellbeing. A high-quality service is one which ensures that the rights of all children and families in the program community are met. The particulars of how these rights are met differs across different constituencies. For example, a quality program in a remote area of Australia will look very different from one operating in the centre of Singapore and different again from a Te Kohunga Reo operating in Auckland. Are there universal principles underpinning all these services? I believe so and maintain that these universal underpinnings are linked to children’s rights. Using Maslow’s framework as a guide, I argue that we must ensure that children’s rights to (Level 1) food, warmth, nutrition, (Level 2) safety, (Level 3) love, (Level 4) being valued, (Level 5) and achieving one’s potential are met. HOW we go about meeting those rights varies, and as early childhood professionals, we need to open our minds to many different pathways we can tread to reach our goals. This edition of AJEC offers us suggestions as to some pathways we can explore.
Kitson and Bowes share with us Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing which are essential for us to understand if we are to provide culturally appropriate care for Indigenous children in Australia. Kitson and Bowes, two non-Indigenous researchers in partnership with Indigenous colleagues, have been part of a research team investigating the experiences of Indigenous families and their attitudes in relation to their childcare choices. Targowska, Saggers and Frances share their insights gained from a national consultation with Indigenous communities about Indigenous child care. For many Indigenous communities, child care is seen as inseparable from family support. They argue that regulations often act as a barrier for culturally appropriate Indigenous child care and suggest a form of developmental licensing.
The transition to school of children from diverse cultural backgrounds is discussed by Fluckiger using a sociocultural framework. She contends that the transition to school can be viewed as a process of culture switching and world building. Such a process is undertaken by Bangladeshi children transitioning to school as illustrated by Sanagavarapu. Part of new world building for new migrants is connecting to community and developing a sense of place in the new community. This process is discussed by Riggs who illustrates the experiences of migrant and refugee children in developing friendships in a new school community. Becoming part of any community requires an understanding of community rules and modes of behaviour. Developing this understanding is not easy for many children and we have a role to play in supporting children in achieving this. Boyd Bialas and Boon discuss the experimental approach they used (involving checklists with picture prompts) to support children develop self-monitoring skills in relation to classroom behaviours. In contrast to developing skills to feel part of the human community, Lewis claims that children are losing connections to the natural world and that early childhood professionals must take up the challenge of reconnecting children to this world. This has become a key component in the education for sustainability movement. Children who are disadvantaged provide many challenges to early childhood services. Whilst children in poverty are traditionally thought to be less ready to learn than children from more advantaged backgrounds, Hilferty suggests that we need to consider not only the child, but the intersection of child, process and context to understand readiness. In other words, readiness is not a component of the child alone but an interaction of multiple factors on which poverty impacts. Our approach needs to take into account these multiple impacts in order to ensure children’s rights are met.
Our children now live in a highly technical world, and we cannot begin to imagine the technology that will be available to them as adults. Certainly in my family it is my grandchildren on whom I call to program my video or digital alarm clock! Terreni discusses how the use of new technology (such as interactive whiteboards) can support children’s creativity in the visual arts. Technology can also be used in the education of early childhood workers. Farrell and Walsh share some strategies used with early childhood pre-service teachers. They found that students studying online gained more knowledge and confidence in relation to a case study of a child who was physically abused than did on-campus students. In contrast, the face-to-face experience of mentoring was important in Graves’ study of cooperating teachers and pre-service teachers.
Children’s agency is a key component of the children’s rights focus. Hardwood argues that we need to move our vision of children away from one where children are seen as objects of research, dependent and vulnerable, towards a vision that positions children as partners in our research. In other words, we need to undertake research WITH children rather than research ON children.
I commend this edition to AJEC to you and hope that you enjoy exploring the different pathways these articles open up for us.
University of New England
The EYLF Professional Learning Project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
References Meaney, M. (2010). Epigenetics and the biological definition of gene x environment interactions. Child Development, 81(1), 41–79. Sims, M. (2009). Neurobiology and child development: Challenging current interpretations and policy implications. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 34(1), 36–42. Waldegrave, C., & Waldegrave, K. (2009). Healthy families, young minds and developing brains: Enabling all children to reach their potential. Wellington: Families Commission Ko-mihana a- wha-nau.
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood – Volume 35 No 4 December 2010
Don't forget, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals
Vol. 35 No 4 December 2010
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