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Training students in post-modern pedagogies in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) reconciling the old with the new

Author Gerardine Neylon
Abstract In the National Children's Strategy (2000) the Irish state has committed to a post-modern Relational Pedagogical (RP) approach. The strategy promotes the idea that 'children are respected as young citizens with a valued contribution to make and a voice of their own' (Ireland, Department of Health and Children, 2000, p.32). In Europe the origins of Relational Pedagogy can be traced to the Reggio Emilia area of Northern Italy. The Reggio Emilia approach has influenced European and Nordic practice over the past sixty years (Dalberg and Moss, 2005, Edwards and Gandini, 1998, Gardner, 1991). New Irish quality and curriculum frameworks Siolta (translates as seeds) and Aistear (translates as journey) are informed by RP philosophy. In the new frameworks the child is regarded as an advocate in his or her own learning. In order to implement RP, Irish practitioners require contemporary ECEC training, to become reflexive practitioners and develop collegial practice in keeping with European and Nordic approaches. When Ireland is compared to European and Nordic states in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) with regard to policy and pedagogy fundamental structural differences arise, such as training and governance. In order to explain the extent of these differences this paper traces the informal start-up of Irish ECEC services. In tracing ECEC growth over four decades a uniquely Irish mixed market model of service provision is revealed. ECEC services are found across family run, state, commercial and voluntary provision. It is this mixed market stakeholder base which is now targeted by the state for professional training to implement Relational Pedagogical practice. The paper discusses the ECEC teacher education debate. It highlights the Reggio Emilia philosophy, traces the expansion of ECEC in Ireland and explains the policy processes that have led to the current training dilemma. The paper explains how Ireland's attempts in training and structural improvements in keeping with progressive international trends are stymied as the building blocks on which quality ECEC services are built have not been established. The paper concludes that due to historical policy and pedagogy governance issues, the implementation of RP pedagogies onto current Irish practice is easier said than done.
Keywords Keyword 1, Early Childhood Care and Education, 2, Pedagogy, 3, Siolta and Aistear 4, Local Government, 5, Ireland - Reggio Emilia
Published In ICEP Proceedings 2011
Date 2011
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