Choose two countries and compare their approaches to early childhood care and education. This essay will introduce and compare approaches to early childhood care and education in Denmark and Ireland. It will specifically focus on comparing the pedagogical approach, curriculum content and the inclusion of ethnic minority children aged 0-6 years attending early childhood settings in both countries. Provision of Services As one of the oldest nations within Europe, Denmark has made the welfare of families with children top priority within government.
Under their Social Services Act, matters’ relating to the care and education of children is broken down. The Ministry of Social Services is responsible for day care facilities – dagtilbud, while the Ministry of Education is responsible for pre-school services – bornehaveklasse, primary and lower secondary and afterschool services and forest kindergartens are also available. These services are based on the rights of children outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (OECD, 2000). In Denmark children are not required to enter the primary school sector until they are seven years old.
In Ireland, there has been very little funding and resources into the development of childcare provisions with many working families relying on family members or child-minders filling the gap. Full day care exists at a cost and sessional services either morning or afternoon are in operation. In 2010, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs introduced a voluntary, universal free pre-school year for children aged three years and two months and less than four years and seven months.
For the year 2010/11, over 94% of eligible children were participating in the scheme (Dept.of Education & Skills, 2011).
While it is compulsory for children to enter the primary education system at six years old, it is relevant to note that many children enter the system in the September, following their fourth birthday due to the lack of childcare provisions available. The Irish welfare state seems reliant on offering cash benefits rather than services especially for the youngest group of children 0-2 years (OECD, 2010). Pedagogy French, 2007 defines pedagogy as the practice or craft of teaching in the interactive process between teachers and learners and the learning environment which includes family and the community.
Under Siolta, the national quality framework it is defined as the range of interactions to support the holistic development of children by embracing both care and education within settings. Denmark has a strong historical background in relation to the training of early care and education practitioners. The first training programme was implemented in 1885 for those working from the frobelian approach in education; this formed a basis for the two year study programme implemented in 1904.
In 1992, an integrated training system was established to combine theory with practice. Those training to be social pedagogues complete three and a half year degree programme learning theoretical, culture based subjects and activity based subjects with stints in placement (OECD,2000). Ireland in comparison has yet to regulate for proper qualifications within the sector with only those working with pre-primary classes having the appropriate qualification – bachelor of education.
In order for the pre-school year to be implemented room leaders must have a minimum qualification of a Level 5 major award in ECCE (Dept. of Education &Skills, 2011). Curriculum French, 2007, states that a curriculum being implemented in settings for children’s learning should contain a ‘body of knowledge with a clear set of goals and objectives’. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in 2004 wrote that curriculum refers to “all learning experiences, whether formal or informal, planned or unplanned, which contribute to a child’s development”.
Denmark’s curriculum for children aged 0-6 years is predominately play based and incorporates the holistic development of children. Children work in partnership with the pedagogues throughout daily life. The main aims of the curriculum are to ensure children learn and experience the natural environment while gaining a true understanding of the Danish and other cultures represented. In 2004, a new law of pedagogical curriculum to “support, lead and challenge the learning of children” was introduced (Starting Strong 2, 2006).
This outlined that all centres had the responsibility to outline their own curriculums with the cooperation of staff and passed by the board of parents and local authorities, the aspect of learning was not to become too structured. Six dimensions of aims as themes are to be represented within the curriculum. These include personal competences, social competences, language, body and movement, nature and nature phenomena and cultural forms of expression and values (Brostrom, 2006).
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