Editorial

This edition of the journal arrives at a time when, once again, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector is faced with change, future uncertainties, challenges and, hopefully, some progress. With an election seemingly on the cards, the directions taken in the May 2018 Federal Budget are a taste of what is about to become the major political discussion. Early childhood does not seem to be high on the agenda. There were wins and potential losses in the Budget, with some programs only getting funding for the next year or so. Also, from the beginning of July, the new Child Care Package comes into effect.

These are uncertain times for education at all levels. So, it is pleasing to bring you an issue of AJEC that puts forward seven primary research articles representing a range of contributions to our knowledge and practice. A number of these papers argue for the importance of evidence-based practice. This selection of research articles contributes to the evidence-based knowledge we need to advocate for ECEC services in Australia. The articles touch on issues significant for present practice like the use of digital technology; how parents can support children’s engagement with technology; better and more inclusive understanding of nutrition and physical activity; and how educators can monitor children’s language use during play so individual and cultural gifts are recognised.

The authors of these papers use a mixed selection of research methodologies and methods. The first paper uses document analysis to analyse policy changes, and the last paper takes a historical view of the development of playgroups and the playgroup association.

Given the comments above about a possible election, it is timely that the article by Hard, Lee and Dockett explains the process and complexities of using document analysis to examine how ECEC policy happens. The authors define education policy and discuss the broader ramifications of context, influence, introducing policy and implementing change in different interpretive environments. This is a useful methods paper for researchers looking at a significant source of data, and unpacks an example question to illustrate ways of organising and categorising document data as well as analysing this data in the context of a specific question.

The article by Zabatiero, Mantilla, Edwards, Danby and Straker addresses the difficult and ever-changing issue of digital technology. I write this thinking about my two-year-old niece. She dances around the room to ‘Mr Maker’ and asks to watch ‘LaLa’ on YouTube, because she knows it is not on her television at present. Guided by energetic parents, she makes mediated choices of what to watch and she interacts with the content. She can also do clever things with the remote that are beyond her family, like turning a colour show into a black and white one. Shades of Rogoff she also does ‘work’ on a nonoperational keyboard (Rogoff, 2003). This paper on digital technology is part of the research conducted by the ECA Digital Policy Group as ECA develops a relevant policy on the use of digital technology (Statement on young children and digital technology) in a world where growth and change are the nature of the beast. The authors point out that much of the technology research to date has been constrained by a narrow focus, and here they report on a survey that is part of a multi-component research project. This survey examines adult perspectives of young children and technology use within the education and care sector.

From Canada there is a report by Peterson, Eisazadeh, Rajendram and Portier on a research project that investigates children’s language use during play periods, and describes the assessment tool developed as part of the research. This project took place with young children in northern rural and Indigenous communities in four Canadian provinces. This is a six-year action-research project that aims to support oral language development in children, and enhance educator’s pedagogical practices. In this paper we read about the development of the OCUL (Observing Children’s Use of Language) tool.

The next paper by McKinlay, Irvine and Farrell focuses on early childhood teachers and the question of the difficulty of retaining degree-qualified teachers in long day care centres. The answer we are all familiar with is that it is wages and conditions that turn employees and potential employees away from the sector. This is affirmed in the findings of the research, but the authors have also studied the workplace as an ecological system and discuss areas where there may be windows of opportunity to encourage the development of a highly trained workforce.

Another paper on digital technology by Lusted and Joffe follows. This time the emphasis is on parent–child interactions and the development of social and communication skills. A quantitative study based on survey data, this paper contains interesting findings that need further consideration. One finding is that screen viewing time for young children may now be higher than previous research has suggested. This paper is a contribution to the evidence base needed to develop relevant digital technology policies for an Australian context.

Nutrition and physical activity are examined in the next paper by Cleland and colleagues. Once again survey data is drawn upon, but this time, pre- and post-questionnaires of educators who participated in a LEAPS (Learning, Eating, Active Play and Sleep) program are contrasted. Important issues of confidence in one’s own knowledge and actual knowledge are explored.

Townley’s paper takes a look at playgroups and their role in the history of ECEC services in Australia. This fascinating story starts in the 1970s—a significant time for the development of ECEC. In the late 1970s, as director of a number of successive community kindergartens in Adelaide, I hosted playgroups on the kindergarten premises. The author of this paper mentions some of the tensions that existed between the different models of service, and I can attest that the politics was ferocious at times. They were lively times for ECEC and this paper suggests it would be worth re-visiting the playgroup model and viewing it as a more integral part of the
ECEC sector.

This issue presents an eclectic group of papers, with some overlap in content and methodology. All are primary research articles and have the potential to make a valuable contribution to ECEC knowledge and practice in Australia.

Berenice Nyland
RMIT University

Reference
Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 43 Number 2 June 2018.

Don’t forget, the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals.