Early Childhood MattersF
t h e b u l l e t i n o f t h e B e r n a r d v a n L e e r F o u n d a t i o n O C T O B E R 1 9 9 8 N O . 9 0
Culturally or contextually appropriate?
Culture or context: what makes approaches appropriate?
Samenspel: playing/taking action together
And a young child shall lead them
The new community publishing
Motivating in challenging contexts
Early Childhood Matters continues the
Newsletter. It is published three times a year
in February, June and October, by the
Bernard van Leer Foundation
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Cover photo: Partnership in Learning Project, Kopanang
Consortium (Republic of South Africa)
Photo: Phia van der Watt
Photo inside front cover: Vormingscentrum voor de
Begeleiding van het Jonge Kind (Belgium)
Belgian boy and Turkish mother and child
Photo back cover: COMED (Nigeria)
Children perform the Edo dance
Culturally or contextually appropriate? 3
Culture or context: what makes approaches appropriate? 6
Samenspel: playing/taking action together 15
Roel Copier and Marinde Hurenkamp
And a young child shall lead them 20
Sesame Street: Kids For Peace
Zimbabwe: the new community publishing 27
Motivating in challenging contexts 37
The consultant combed throughdocumentation about 11 projects thattake into account particular culturalattributes of the communities withwhich they work. These projectsrecognised the importance of culturalrelevance in their approach, in theirmethodologies and in the content ofthe programmes that they developed. Inorder to tease out some of theunderlying similarities and differences,projects that work in a broad spectrum
of quite different settings weredeliberately chosen. The geographicspread covered Australia, Botswana,Malaysia, Guatemala, Argentina,Germany, The Netherlands, the UnitedStates of America, Colombia, and Israeland the Palestinian AutonomousRegion. The chosen projects work withindigenous peoples in their traditionalsettings, with migrants, and in multi-ethnic environments. Some of theprojects operate in areas that can only
be reached by foot or on horseback;others work with migrants inmetropolitan centres like Berlin orRotterdam.
Culture in context
In the article that presents the results ofthese deliberations (page 6) MarindeHurenkamp highlights some of the 11projects in showing that effectiveculturally appropriate approachesmeans mapping the whole context. Thatincludes discovering what the essentialfoci of the work should be, ascribingrelative importance or priority to eachof these, and identifying the kinds ofresources that are available. After thatits a question of finding out what
ingredients have to be mixed to producewell developed and appropriateprogrammes.
To justify this, Marinde Hurenkampexplains how she came to realise that,although it is possible to isolateelements that can be labelled culturallyrelevant, few of these are uniquelyabout culture. She also saw that allelements that projects acknowledge andwork with are interlinked. Takentogether they represent the particularcontext that determines why the projectis there, what it is doing, and how it isdoing it. To isolate some of these andtry to discuss them out of their contextsis therefore of limited value.
B e r n a r d v a n L e e r Fo u n d a t i o n 3 E a r l y C h i l d h o o d M a t t e r s
Culturally or contextually appropriate?
This edition of Early Childhood Matters is centred on an analysis of culturallyrelevant approaches in early childhood development (ECD) recently undertaken bythe Foundation. A consultant, Marinde Hurenkamp, conducted the analysis inconjunction with a small Working Group of Foundation staff. The broad objectivewas to learn from the accumulated experiences of 11 selected projects, as they arereflected in our archives. One aim was to explore how projects that work in culturally appropriate ways have to pay special attention in their work withchildren and parents to factors such as language, cultural norms, childrearingpractices, familial relationships, and so on. The second aim was to highlight theways in which projects working in different contexts handle relationships betweencultures. The analysis is a subjective reading of hundreds of documents authoredby almost as many people over many years.
To explain this, she uses the analogy of a filter and alens. If you want to look at something through afilter, then you choose the filter that suits yourpurpose in this case a filter that only allowsculturally appropriate elements to show through.Looking through a lens instead allows you to do twothings: first, to observe the entire picture; andsecond, to tighten your focus and look at gradationsand relationships gradations in the significance thatis given to any element; and relationships between allelements in a given context.
Her article also explores a number of threads thatcommonly recur in projects that work with ethnic orcultural groups, or in multicultural settings. In doingthis, she also the variety of approaches and responsesthat projects demonstrate. One of these threads ischildhood and childrearing. That there aredifferences in the ways in which childhood itself isconceptualised is well understood. What isemphasised here is the fact that, in many cases,childrearing takes place in conditions of change,changes that result from migration, from theencroachment of outside values, or from attempts byan ethnic or cultural group to find a secure placewithin a multicultural society. This implies newcircumstances to which families must adjust,circumstances unfamiliar enough to affect andthreaten perhaps even damage or destroy keyareas such as perceptions of childrens places in their
families, traditional practices and values, supportsystems for children and families, and so on.
A second thread is language and culture. (see box onpages 13 and 14) The article acknowledges thatlanguage is one of the fundamental vehicles for thetransmission and sustaining of culture; and showshow all projects stress the importance of the mothertongue. Beyond this, language is often linked to therelationship between minority and majority cultures.Noteworthy here is work of the Peer EducationProgramme in the United States of America thatincludes articulating internalised messages ofoppression, racial scripting and unspoken messages.In addition, three more of the projects work directlyon issues such as cultural differences, prejudice,discrimination, solidarity and anti-racism.
A third thread is responses to contexts. Looking backas far as the 1970s, a general movement is clear. Thisruns from a community development approach thatconcentrated on ensuring children a healthy physicalenvironment in which to live, to approaches that giveequal weight to the psycho-social needs of childrenand their physical health, nutrition, drinking waterand shelter. The article goes on to stress a widediversity that demonstrates responsiveness to generalproblems such as isolation, while also showing theimpact of local factors.
B e r n a rd v a n L e e r Fo u n d a t i o n 4 E a r l y C h i l d h o o d M a t t e r s
Partnership in Learning Project, Kopanang Consortium (Republic of South Africa)
Photo: Phia van der Watt
To complement Marinde Hurenkamps article, I haveincluded articles that go into more depth about theapproaches and work of two of the projects thatMarinde Hurenkamp studied. The first is theSamenspel project based in The Netherlands that hasdeveloped a highly flexible methodology for workingin culturally appropriate ways with children and theirparents. It depends on certain procedures, structuresand bodies of knowledge, but its flexibility derivesfrom the absence of set patterns for either theapproaches or the work itself. The flexibility is suchthat the methodology is successful with specificcultural or ethnic communities, and withmulticultural groups as well. (page 15)
The second article deals with a project that is radicallydifferent from any other included in the analysis. It isthe Sesame Street: Kids for Peace project, a newmember of the famous Sesame Street family oftelevision programmes for young children. It has beendeveloped for Palestinian children and Israeli Jewishand Arabic children, to counter the messages ofdivision and confrontation that they receive every day.The article reviews the complexities involved inproducing programmes that can effectively promoterespect and understanding. (page 20)
To further complement Marinde Hurenkamp'spresentation, I have also included two articles thatextend our understanding of how projects can developculturally and contextually appropriate approaches totheir work.
The first is from Zimbabwe and features the work ofthe Africa Community Publishing and DevelopmentTrust (ACPDT), that specialises in a range ofdevelopment activities under the title of communitypublishing. Put very simply, this is a combination oftwo concepts: community development andpublishing. By drawing on ACPDTs ChiyubunuzyoProgramme, the article shows how it sets out totransform poverty into prosperity in remote, severelypoor areas of Zimbabwe. The core is an integratedeconomic, environmental, social and organisationaldevelopment process. One main strategy iscommunity-based research and writing coupled withthe stimulation of all forms of creativity. (page 27)
The final article is about the Early Learning ResourceUnit (ELRU) in South Africa and its CommunityMotivators project. In multicultural settings that arealso characterised by poverty, impermanence andviolence, the project has found entry points and hassupported communities in identifying people who canwork to develop ECD activities. The article also showshow ELRU meets the training needs of the CommunityMotivators and provides continuing support for theiractivities. (page 37)
The next edition of Early Childhood Matters will bethe first in a series that looks at Effectiveness forwhom? We are going to tackle the most difficult areasfirst: how do we know that what we do is effective foryoung children? And what ways do they have of tellingus? The essence of this is finding out what children
really are seeing and thinking; and how they areresponding as they grow and develop in their families,in their pre-schools and their primary schools, withtheir friends and so on. I hope to feature articles thatexplore how children themselves can tell us theirstories. If you have something to contribute in thisarea that is drawn from your work with children, Ilook forward to considering it for publication.
B e r n a r d v a n L e e r Fo u n d a t i o n 5 E a r l y C h i l d h o o d M a t t e r s
Centro Infantil Colibri (Nicaragua)
Photo: Dolores Sandino
Culture or context: what makes approaches
I was asked to undertake a piece of research andanalysis for the Foundation into cultural relevance in earlychildhood development (ECD) approaches. This was to be
based on archive material that the Foundation holds about11 projects. In their respective contexts, these projects were
all concerned with the relationship of children with theirhistory and heritage.
B e r n a rd v a n L e e r Fo u n d a t i o n 6 E a r l y C h i l d h o o d M a t t e r s
From reviewing the 11 chosen projects,I felt that I could produce a list of whatseemed to be significant elements in aculturally relevant approach. With thatin mind, a natural grouping of theprojects suggested itself:
- projects for indigenous children(Intelyape-lyape Akaltye EarlyChildhood Project, Australia; Childrenof the Earth/San Child DevelopmentProgramme, Botswana; Lessons Fromthe Countryside, Malaysia; GrowingUp, Malaysia; Nios IndgenasDesplazados, Guatemala; and YachayProgramme Argentina).
- Projects for migrant children/parents(Intercultural Parent Support,Germany; and Samenspel, theNetherlands).
- A project for disadvantagedAfricanAmerican children (PeerEducation Program, USA).
- A project for disadvantaged childrenin an isolated rural area (ChocHome Learning And CommunityProject, Colombia).
- A television project for Israeli Jewishchildren, Israeli Arabic children andPalestinian children. (Sesame Street:Kids for Peace)
My brief was to identify approaches toECD that reflect cultural values; define inwhich ways these approaches areconsidered effective; describe projectdimensions that constitute culturalrelevance; and formulate a workingdefinition of cultural relevance basedon theoretical and programmaticexperience, that helps place culturalrelevance within a conceptualframework.
Initially I felt that it might be possibleto create a grid or checklist of culturallyrelevant approaches that was drawnfrom the elements identified in theprojects. However, I soon discoveredthat it was impossible to develop acoherent structure that could cover allthe cultural settings that the 11 projectsoperate in. In consultation with aWorking Group of Foundation staffmembers, I therefore abandoned theidea of developing the grid. But we werestill concerned with selecting orisolating cultural elements associatedwith the projects. To attempt this, Iidentified elements that seemed veryobviously cultural. What I could thensee was that each project appeared tohave specific ingredients that could belabelled culturally relevant, including
indigenous language; kinship andfamily; relationship with the land;heritage and history and gender roles.
After further reflection and discussionswith colleagues, it became clear thatsome of these elements were notnecessarily only culturally relevant. Isaw...