As the Curriculum is one of the most essential factors in quality early childhood education, it is never out of topic. Let's dig deeper with the help of US National Association for the Education of Young Children and Finnish National Agency for Education!
What is a curriculum?
According to USA National Association for the Education of Young Children:
Children learn more when there is a well-planned and implemented curriculum, therefore it is important for every school and early childhood education center to have its curriculum in written form.
The curriculum consists of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and understandings children are to learn, plus all the plans through which those gains will occur.
Implementing a curriculum always yields outcomes of some kind—but which outcomes those are and how a program achieves them are critical.
The curriculum helps young children achieve goals that are developmentally and educationally important.
The curriculum does this through learning experiences (including play, small group, large group, interest centers, and routines) that reflect child development in general and the interests and skills of these children in particular. Furthermore, about the sequences in which children acquire specific concepts, skills, and abilities, building on prior experiences.
Teachers use the curriculum and their knowledge of children’s interests in planning relevant, engaging learning experiences; and they keep the curriculum in mind in their interactions with children throughout the day.
In this way they ensure that children’s learning experiences—in both adult-guided and child-guided —are consistent with the center’s goals for children and connected within an organized framework.
At the same time, developmentally appropriate practice means teachers have flexibility—and the expertise to exercise that flexibility effectively—in how they plan and implement curricular activties in their classrooms.
In Finland, the National core curriculum is every teacher's guidebook. Learn more how the curriculum guides early childhood education in Finland.
Finnish national core curriculum for ECEC obligates
According to Finnish National Agency for Education:
All the providers of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Finland have drawn up their local curricula based on the National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (2018).
The new curricula for ECEC respond to the needs of the changing world. The curricula address changes that have taken place in society and in the ECEC operating environment as well as the newest information provided by research. This does not mean that everything old that still works should be changed or reformed. However, it is necessary to update the ways of thinking and operating, and this is what the Finnish ECEC curriculum provides tools for.
The purpose is to create equal preconditions for the holistic growth, development and learning of the children participating in early childhood education and care. An individual ECEC plan is drawn up for each child.
The Finnish ECEC curriculum has three tiers, it consists of:
- The National Core Curriculum for ECEC
- Local (city) ECEC curricula
- Children’s individual ECEC plans
The general principle of ECEC in Finland is that the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration.
Other values in the Finnish national core curriculum for ECEC are:
- Intrinsic value of childhood
- Growth as a human being
- Rights of the child
- Equity, equality, and diversity
- Diversity of families
- Healthy and sustainable way of living.
The child has a right to high quality ECEC
Research has shown that ECEC has favourable effects from the point of view of both the child and the society. Just any ECEC does not, however, provide the desired results - the quality of education must be high.
Sensitive interaction, taking the child’s interests into account, building learning environments together with children, responsible care, and enabling play and learning are central aspects in the implementation of effective ECEC.
The Curriculum for ECEC is a quality handbook that determines the framework for the implementation of uniform and equal ECEC. Curriculum ensures that every child receives the same quality of ECEC.
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Early childhood education and care builds transversal competences
ECEC lays the foundation for children's transversal competences and in the Finnish core curriculum those competences play a big role.
Transversal competence is an entity consisting of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and will. Competence also means an ability to apply knowledge and skills and act in a given situation.
Transversal competences include multiliteracy, taking care of oneself, and other everyday skills. They also include cultural competence and interaction skills, which are needed in the increasingly diverse world. Good ECEC gives a strong foundation for the development of these skills and knowledge.
♦ Thinking and learning as such are important skills for the future. There is indeed a lot of discussion about lifelong learning that requires courage, enthusiasm, trust and openness to new things.
♦ Cultural competence, interaction and self-expression are emphasised in the diversifying world. ECEC creates a foundation for respecting other people and learning interaction skills.
♦ Learning to take care of oneself and to manage daily life are an essential part of ECEC activities. Children learn to take care of their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others in safe interaction. The principles of a sustainable way of living are also implemented in all ECEC activities.
♦ Multiliteracy and ICT competence play an increasing part in children's life, and practising ways to act in different digital environments is the task of ECEC.
♦ Participation and involvement skills and the motivation to learn new things strengthen when children can themselves have a say in what is done and how. It is important that ECEC provides children with the opportunity to participate and practice their own possibilities to influence.
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