4.3. Educational guidelines
The key national documents that shape teaching and learning in preschools are the Early Learning and Development Standards (adopted in 2009) and the Curriculum for Early Learning and Development (adopted in 2014). Both documents are binding. The standards set out the expectations that preschool-aged children should meet in various domains of development (motor development, socio-emotional development, cognitive development, etc.), whereas the curriculum regulates the theoretical foundations and principles for early learning and development, and provides goals for learning, examples of activities, expected results and cooperation with parents or guardians.
The Early Learning and Development Standards were developed in 2009 by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners.
Areas of learning and development
Two key national documents shape learning and development in preschool.
The Early Learning and Development Standards specify what children from birth to the age of 6 years should know and be able to do across six development domains: (1) physical health and motor development, (2) socio-emotional development, (3) development of approaches to learning, (4) language development, (5) literacy and communication and (6) cognitive development and general knowledge acquisition.
The Curriculum for Early Learning and Development is based on the Early Learning and Development Standards and implemented by the class teacher. The curriculum covers the social, emotional and sensorimotor development of the child; general knowledge; literacy, language development and mathematics; and health and safety. In every preschool, teachers and caregivers (i.e. teaching assistants) have monthly meetings for coordination and to plan the curriculum.
The Ministry of Education and Science ensures the competencies of the educational workforce and the relevance of the pedagogical approaches. There is a specific department for preschool education, a part of the Bureau for Development of Education, which is responsible for pedagogical aspects of the work: supervising, counselling, teacher education issues, pedagogical documentation preparation, teacher preparation and teachers’ professional development.
The curriculum based on the Early Learning and Development Standards is intended to be strictly followed by all providers. However, teachers are encouraged to individualise their approach in delivering materials in order to fit each child’s interests and abilities. Hence, it is expected that, in the course of their implementation, the standards will be used with some flexibility. Both the curriculum and the standards mention a variety of pedagogical approaches and specific structured and unstructured activities that can be performed by the child with or without the help of an adult. Activities are designed to encourage the motor, linguistic and cognitive development of the child and to create conditions for learning through play, interaction (child–child and child–adult), research and discovery, and problem-solving.
As part of the curriculum, child progress has been monitored through a teacher-compiled child development portfolio since 2014. This includes assessing children’s achievement of required outcomes as defined in the Early Learning and Development Standards, documenting the child’s strengths, abilities and interests. The portfolio for children aged 2–6 years covers the physical, cognitive, language and social development domains. It helps identify children experiencing developmental delays, and teachers may be able to adjust their teaching strategies accordingly. It is noteworthy that only children who attend preschool have a child development portfolio, so it does not cover the whole population of children in the country.
Transition to primary school
The child development portfolio is used by teachers not only to adjust the curriculum and their teaching methods but also to see how prepared children are for the transition from pre-primary education to primary education. The portfolio is the only instrument used to assess the readiness of children for primary education.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy is currently piloting the Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO) instrument for preschool children (aged 3–6 years). The MELQO comprises two sub-instruments: the Measure of Early Learning Environments and the Measure of Development and Early Learning. The Measure of Development and Early Learning focuses on assessing child development and learning (including items indexing early literacy, mathematics, executive functioning and socio-emotional development). The Measure of Early Learning Environments focuses on measuring early learning environments (seven constructs and examples for indexing them: pedagogy, play, inclusion, personnel, interactions, environment and parental engagement). Used together, the tools are intended to provide a starting point for generating nationally relevant, usable data to guide policy decisions and strengthen programme implementation with a view to improving pre-primary schooling for young children aged 3–6 years. Once implemented, MELQO is expected to enable feasible, accurate and useful measurement of children’s development and learning at the start of primary education.