This latest edition of AJEC is encapsulated within the title of our first paper ‘embracing everybody’. The series of 13 papers call upon the reader to consider early childhood education and care from a number of perspectives, contexts, understandings and political climates. This particular academy of early childhood authors continue to challenge our thinking about a number of social, cultural and policy questions. It invites serious contemplation on the complexity and nuances that are evolving as the early childhood profession settles into the new millennium.
We begin with Mackenzie, Cologon and Fenech who investigate educators’ attitudes towards the inclusion of a child labelled with autism in a mainstream early childhood education and care setting in Australia. The notion of ‘embracing everybody’ in their title denotes the focus the authors give on the range of perspectives from which the notion of inclusivity can be understood. However, they point to a social relational understanding of disability as being the one where educators can best view inclusion as usual practice. Again in the Australian context, Blackmore, Aylward and Grace then explore the complexities of choices parents consider as their child (with a disability) transitions into an early childhood setting. As was acknowledged in the previous paper, educators can be more effective through forming a social relational understanding of inclusive practice. This study revealed that families identified the importance of the social milieu of the typical early childhood setting, despite the many challenges they still face. Based on a study that examined the perspectives of both educators and families, Warren, Vialle and Dixon focus their reporting here on the findings from Australian educators as they attempt to increase the participation of children with disabilities. Notions of relationships again surface as one of the primary drivers for success.
In any country, the regulatory landscape is bound to be contested on a number of fronts, depending on the perceived impact it has on stakeholders. Tayler reviews the recent reform agenda that has been undertaken in Australia and, at the same time, reminds us of diversity of the early childhood landscape in this country. A number of significant arguments have been put forward as to the import of these changes, but the author reminds us also of the change-fatigue that the early childhood community is experiencing. And across the Tasman, we are invited to consider another reform agenda that has impacted a particular approach to early childhood education. Freeman, Pickering and Dalli have discovered a revitalisation of the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy as a result of regulatory change, which at first was viewed by practitioners with negativity. As a result of the regulatory changes in New Zealand, and the subsequent critical reflection, a certain enlightenment has steered those who follow Montessori onto a new and invigorated pathway. This example bodes well for all early childhood communities undertaking seemingly overwhelming change.
In the spirit of ‘embracing everybody’ we now turn to the perspectives of those who experience early childhood education each day. Carter invited young children in Singapore to contribute to the ongoing conversations that include children’s viewpoints. This paper acknowledges, once again, the competence young children have in forwarding their opinions on matters that concern them, in this case on the social norms of rules. Children’s demonstrated competence as informants on rules then leads us to the next paper by O’Neill who offers an insight into children’s competence as risk takers. The author explores the notion of ‘safety risk intelligence’ and argues that when children are given the right opportunities they are able to develop skills and attitudes that support their understanding of how to self-manage their own safety in everyday life. Moving to a parent standpoint, Breathnach, O’Gorman and Danby raise some important issues for critical reflection by the proponents of play-based learning in early childhood contexts, particularly as children make the transition to school. Much like the earlier papers on inclusive practice, the authors highlight the significance of relationships as a cornerstone for successful shared understandings of how play supports young children’s growth and development which lays the foundation for later learning. To complete the 360 on perspectives, Kangas, Venninen and Ojala take us to Finland where they examine the experiences of educators as they implement the mandate of the holistic approach to early childhood that includes education, care and teaching and what this looks and feels like in everyday practice. A provisional framework for this approach is put forward as a proposition for the international community to consider—this could be a useful consideration for those experiencing the regulatory change addressed in earlier papers.
We then step into the classroom with the next two papers. Zhang and Birdsall take us to New Zealand and focus on the topical issue of science education and concerns raised about educators’ reluctance to view themselves as science educators in early childhood settings. The authors contend that understanding the integrated nature of science education would enable educators to transform their knowledge and therefore impact the way in which young children engage with science. O’Neill, Banoobhai and Smith then offer insights into the pedagogical practice of dramatic storytelling in South Africa and attest to the previous notion that educators’ engagement with, and understanding of, effective techniques and strategies in dramatic storytelling can vastly improve young children’s skills in literacy—particularly in a country with 11 official languages.
Our final two papers consider the notion of transitions. Hopps-Wallis, Fenton and Dockett focus on a strengths-based approach to communication when children are transitioning to formal schooling, but with an interesting disjunction in interpretation between the givers and the receivers. Moving toward a contexualised approach is mooted as a more productive and effective way of positioning strengths-based reporting. Knaus, Warren and Blaxell’s study also found positive outcomes for children as they made the transition to kindergarten in Western Australia through the use of supported playgroups as a conduit to supporting both children and families in the transition process.
I am sure you will agree that this series of papers has offered a rigorous examination of issues from around the globe that demonstrate the richness and diversity of early childhood education and care. Your task is to engage with the opportunities for reflection and action offered by these papers to inform your research, practice and thinking!
Australian Catholic University
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 41 Number 2 June 2016
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