EDUCATION FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
Appeal from OMEP (Organisation de Mondiale lducation Prscolare) abouteducation of children for a sustainable world.
On behalf of OMEPs 65 member countries I would like to take thisopportunity to focus on our youngest children, that is, the age before schoolingand the earliest stages in primary school. To begin to educate for a sustainableworld for the next generation means to give ALL children in the world adignified start in life. This can be done by working in accordance with the UNConvention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by all states except USA andSomalia, but it also means taking advantage of research from various fieldswhich shows the importance of early experiences for life long learning andhuman development. As a consequence of this we would like to state that:
ALL counties should develop early childhood education of highquality for ALL children. (And today we know a lot about what makesquality: the skills of the teacher and her way of thinking aboutknowledge, goals of the education, cooperation with parents, numberof children in the group just to mention a few.)
Care, learning and play should be integrated in early childhoodeducation (e.g. not separating day-care from kindergarten so that itappears in one and not the other).
ALL children in early childhood education meet questions and subjectswhich develop their emergent literacy and basic mathematics,environment and nature, as well as norms and values.
The childs intuition and understanding of perspectives in terms ofmeaning making should be central to early childhood education.
ALL children should be given opportunities to develop basic skills,such as, creativity, critical thinking, co-operation, learning to learn etc.
All children should feel that early education is built on the adulttrusting in their competences and earlier experiences.
Young childrens learning should not be split into school subjects, butconstitute the wholeness in the childs lived world.
ALL children should have the opportunity to form friendship withpeers and feel as participants in their own daily life.
Young childrens needs and development have by tradition been a question forwomen, and in view of this the care and education of young children has beengiven a low status. In a world where equality between men and women is highly
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prioritised, young children should no longer be the concern of women only. Thestatus of working with young children has to be up-graded. But it is also aquestion of allowing ALL women an education. Vittaci (1989) said in his bookStolen Childhood: Educate a boy and you will educate a person. Educate a girland you will educate a nation. This means that the status of women in a societyis closely related to the next generation of children.
For the development of an early childhood education and by that a fruitfuland dignified start for all children there is a need for highly qualified teachers.Because of this we also want to direct our appeal to the Universities of theworld, asking them to develop early childhood education as an academic fieldand as a profession. By that the status of early childhood education would raiseand in the next step could be of benefit for the next generations understandingof sustainable development that is, how children can grow up as healthy andstrong individuals who care for other human beings and for our world!
Let me conclude by letting two 7 years old girls voices be heard:Interviewer: Do you learn about nature in school?Marie: A little, about leaves and such things.
I: Did you learn about nature in preschool?
M: Yes, lots, a lot.
I: What did you learn about?
M: What life was like before, during the Stone Ages, and you had we had acave with animals. If you built a cave you must build a cave, you should youmade a tent of leather, you had to work with sticks and such things, go out andfetch sticks, the leather we had inside.
I: Do you think that you learned more about nature in preschool than in school?
M: Much more!I: Would you like to learn more here?
I: What would you like to learn?
M: I would like to learn how animals can live and how trees can live withoutwater if it doesnt rain in the summers.
* * *
Interviewer: Do you learn anything about nature here in school?
Emmelie: When we have some books, well not books but small pictures,perhaps a hare, you will have to read on it and then fill out a large piece ofpaper.I: Did you learn anything about nature in preschool?
E: Yes, we did.
I: What did you learn about?
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E: That the water goes round and round and round. Just like when we made outthe questions for the story about the red apple. It was small life cycles.
I: What do you mean life cycles?E: Well that, I can say that cycle because it is long. The cycle of the tree.First it is a tree, and then it drops a seed and it becomes a tree, and it diesand it has dropped a seed, and so it goes.
I: Do you remember all that? Great!
E: The life cycle of birds is that they lay an egg, and when the kids the birdshave get big they have, the kids get big and can have children just likepeople.
These two children have enjoyed an early childhood education with very skilfuland insightful early years teachers. A teacher who trusts childrens capacity tolearn in early years, but who is also aware of that learning is not a question ofjust knowing pieces and bits of information, but also needs the children to makesense of and grasp certain phenomena in the world around them. It should notjust be the girls who have also developed a skill in comparing, valuing andtaking standpoints. We want ALL children to have such a start in their life!
Prof. Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson (Ingrid.Pramling@ped.gu.se)Department of Education
Gteborg UniversityBox 300
405 30 GteborgSweden