Choose Educa. World Leading Early Childhood Educators Do
Q. Pair early childhood educators with Educa online portfolios and what do you get?
A. World leading early childhood education.
It’s an early education dynamic duo. Firstly, New Zealand is an acknowledged heavyweight in the field of Early Childhood Education, with its innovative approaches to teaching, curriculum, learning and assessment. Secondly, factor in Educa, preschool software for documenting and sharing learning, with 120,000 users in 83 countries who love telling us how we’ve improved their lives.
Now, consider this partnership. New Zealand brings best practice in early childhood education and Educa brings software that enhances early learning. Both are leaders in their field. How exactly do they complement each other? Where can you see benefits for your early learning service/program?
Let’s have a look. I’ll ask again at the end.
New Zealand invests in children and early childhood care and education.
Public investment in early childhood education (ECE) matters. New Zealand is currently ranked 4th in the world for investment in pre-primary education according to children’s charity Theirworld. As a nation, New Zealand knows the benefits of early childhood education for future success.
In 2007, New Zealand introduced 20 free hours of early childhood education for every child from the age of 3 until they start school. Sound like a dream? It’s real!
It’s well known that funding and access affects PreK enrollment. This is obvious if you compare New Zealand with the United States. In the US preschool programs are non mandated and funding isn’t provided as a matter of course. In both countries, cultural, socio-economic factors and parental education impact PreK enrollment.
But in the US, more than half (52%) of 3-4yr old children are not enrolled in any form of early education. Contrast these figures with New Zealand where 96.2 percent of children starting school in 2015 attended some form of ECE service/program.
However, there is call for change in the US with bipartisan support at both State and Federal levels. The recently released study, No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State recognizes that quality early childhood education is an essential foundation in high-performing countries. The US wants to emulate these factors to improve their education system.
So let’s explore what a ‘strong early education system’ looks like.
New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum - Te Whāriki - is a bi-cultural and bilingual document (English and Maori) founded on the following aspirations for children:
… to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.
Designed for years 0-6, there are five 'strands' defined in the New Zealand curriculum that are in the major interests of infants, toddlers and young children: Well-being, Belonging, Contribution, Communication and Exploration.
The New Zealand curriculum takes a different approach to the developmentally based curriculum map of: physical, intellectual, emotional and social skills, which has traditionally dominated Western curriculum models. Instead, it is a holistic curriculum that situates the learning experiences of children in their broader socio-cultural context (Rogoff, 1990, Vygotsky, 1978). Educators in New Zealand use Educa for immediate access to Te Whāriki, making it simple and easy for educators to create high quality lesson plans, learning experiences and observations.
With Educa, early learning services can also customise their curriculum library to include philosophies and curriculums (eg a nature curriculum) unique to their service.
Links Between Home and Early Childhood Services
Strong links between home and early childhood education programs have a dramatic impact on children’s learning, and Educa enhances these partnerships.
“The environment, routines, people, and happenings within and around a home provide opportunities for the spontaneous learning which should be a feature of all early childhood learning contexts.” Te Whariki
Families and whanau in New Zealand are integral to early childhood education. Best practice in early childhood education includes using photos, Learning Stories and work samples to show parents, teachers, program staff and directors how children are progressing.
Learning Stories allow educators to document early learning through narratives, describing what children can do and what they are learning. With Educa, an educator writes a story, publishes it and parents can access it via the app or online - whatever is easiest for them. These stories are at the heart of Educa online portfolios. Families (including extended family members) receive learning stories about children anywhere and in real time. They can also comment on Learning Stories, opening up bi-directional communication and enhancing the connections between home and preschool. Educa enhances family engagement in a myriad of ways
Learning stories represent learning as a dynamic, ongoing process. They focus on positive aspects of each child’s learning rather than using assessment centric reporting. Learning stories recognize that each child is a unique individual who interacts with the world around them and learns differently.
Unstructured Learning: It’s Never Just Play
Play isn’t an adjunct to learning, or something that can be constrained into ever diminishing recesses like it is in the US education system. The best early childhood educators have an integral understanding of the value of play for development and learning. At Educa we love play based learning!
Play-based learning encourages exploration, negotiating, risk taking and increases understanding. In their article Why Children Need Play, academics Deborah J. Leong and Elena Bodrova note that:
“play is linked to growth in memory, self-regulation, oral language, and recognizing symbols. It has been linked to higher levels of school adjustment and increased social development”.
Educa supports play based learning by providing educators with a private, secure space where they can share with families images and videos of children playing. But it doesn’t stop there. With a powerful reporting module educators and managers can see instantly where children are demonstrating learning in relation to curriculum and service/program goals.
Simply New Zealand
So what benefits can you identify? Early childhood education for all; a holistic curriculum; trained educators writing positive online learning stories; involved families and lots of opportunities for play. It’s about not over-complicating lives - not the lives of the children who are playing to learn or the lives of early childhood educators who need easy to use, powerful software that delivers functionality to enhance learning.