This week I had great conversations with Jenny from Australia about which issues related to excellence and equity are at the forefront of professional discussions in her country. Unfortunately I had not heard back from my other contact Jen from New Zealand however when I do, I will update this post as it still remains relevant and insightful.
Jenny had mentioned a few issues been discussed in her country at the moment, namely:
- Maintaining and reflecting on the QIP – Quality Improvement Plan which helps providers self-assess their performance in delivering quality education and care and to plan for future improvements. In this plan providers document the strengths of their services and recognise areas for improvement. QIP also helps providers reflect on the unique circumstances of their service and its community, where educators, children, families and the community should also be involved in the self-assessment process. Jenny had said that the QIP is new and it has only been in place for a few years, however since implementing the QIP it has helped government to finally recognise that there is such a thing as early childhood education. Therefore I had asked Jenny why is this so and she simply answered that preschools were previously not taken seriously and it has now become so serious that it has become an election issue- which reminds me of last week’s learning about politicians influence in early childhood education.
- Jenny had also mentioned that the Australian government are changing their funding process, as city areas are well funded in comparison to rural areas, where Jenny currently teaches. I asked Jenny why is this so and she explained that education funding in Australia is done by a ratio of the number of children and how many hours the government think children should attend preschool. She further added that due to the fact that the government still have not worked out how many hours are suited for children to be in preschool and that rural areas are not as populated as city centres they are penalised and lose funding, as they do not meet the criteria.
Now how ridiculous is this?
I finally heard back from Jen in New Zealand and surprisingly it seems as if the issues they are currently speaking about in New Zealand are the issues we have studied and learnt about in our module.
Jen had mentioned that there is an ongoing discussion, amongst early childhood educators, academics and the government about ‘school readiness’, academic standards and assessments. The early childhood curriculum of NZ/Aotearoa is Te Whariki, which has been in place since 1996. It is a holistic document, underpinned by socio-cultural theory. The framework for assessment is via learning stories which focus on children’s learning dispositions. Both the curriculum and assessment framework have been challenged in recent years. Jen also mentioned that there has become an increased focus on accountability and measurement in early childhood education in New Zealand, for example National Standards (focusing on reading, writing and mathematics) are now the formal assessment measure for Primary School aged children. However Jen mentioned that they have drawn criticism and praise alike and currently there is a move to introduce similar assessment measures into the early childhood education sector which has been met with concerns that it will undermine the holistic nature of Te Whariki, and the play based learning which currently exists, which early childhood academics and educators fear that this a “push down curriculum” and deficit based model of assessment.