ECEC is receiving increased policy interest in the Czech Republic, as improving quality in the ECEC sector is a subject of growing importance. The Czech Republic considers improving quality through curriculum as a priority, as it can ensure even quality across different settings. It can also help staff clarify their pedagogical aims, focus on the most important aspects of child development and respond adequately to children’s needs. It can also ensure continuity between ECEC and primary schooling. Additionally, the framework helps parents learn about child development and encourages them to ensure a good home learning environment. It can also act as a bridge between staff and parents for information sharing about what children do in centres and facilitate needs-based interventions.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) has becoming a growing policy priority in many countries. A growing body of research recognises that it makes a wide range of benefits, including social and economic benefits, better child well-being and learning outcomes as a foundation for lifelong learning, more equitable outcomes and reduction of poverty, and increased intergenerational social mobility. But these positive benefits are directly related to the "quality" of ECEC.
What does research say?
Curriculum and standards can reinforce positive impact on children’s learning and development. They can: i) ensure even quality across different settings; ii) give guidance to staff on how to enhance children’s learning and well-being; and iii) inform parents of their children’s learning and development. Countries take different approaches in designing curriculum. There is a need to think beyond curriculum dichotomies (e.g., academic-oriented vs. comprehensive approaches, staff-initiated instruction vs. child-initiated activities, etc.) and consolidate the "added value" of individual approaches.
Where does the Czech Republic stand compared to other countries?
The Czech Republic’s Framework Education Programme for Pre-school Education (FEP PE) is a cogent document regarding the orientation and aims of ECEC. The framework covers a broad spectrum of subjects including academic and socioemotional learning areas; sets out learning competencies and expected inputs from staff and management; recognises the importance of parental engagement; and emphasises the importance of good leadership and management for effective curriculum implementation. Capitalising upon its strengths, the Czech Republic could further enhance quality through its curriculum. Other country practices would suggest such options as: 1) reflecting on the coverage of the framework; 2) improving alignment with primary schooling; 3) reflecting upon content areas to respond to societal changes, such as revisited attention to health and well-being, the use of ICT in ECEC, and improved attention to cultural diversity and age-appropriateness; and 4) further improving the communication skills of staff for effective implementation and dissemination of the curriculum.
What are the challengs and strategies?
Common challenges countries face in enhancing quality in ECEC curriculum are: 1) defining goals and content; 2) curriculum alignment for continuous child development; 3) effective implementation; and 4) systematic evaluation and assessment. The Czech Republic has made several efforts to tackle these challenges by, for example, explaining the expected tasks and purposes of preschools; encouraging family engagement and participation in ECEC to improve the alignment between learning at home and in the preschool; including example activities, actions and practices for staff in the framework; and implementing selfassessment practices used for improving staff quality. To further their efforts, the Czech Republic could consider strategies implemented by New Zealand, Norway and Scotland, such as developing age-appropriate content based on children’s needs; having a common framework covering the entire ECEC age range; improving working conditions or providing practical tools to stimulate effective implementation; and evaluating the implementation of the curriculum framework.
Annex. Definitions and methodology
A curriculum framework (guidelines or standards) is a tool which can guide the content of and approach to children’s care and learning.
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