2014 Volume 81 Issue 4 Pages 460-472
All countries recognize that early childhood education and care (ECEC) is worth investing in for their future development. In this paper, the author analyzes best practices in early childhood programs nominated by OECD, as well as methods and policies of evaluating early childhood programs.
As examples for good practices in early childhood education, those in Reggio Emilia (Italy) and New Zealand were introduced. Both practices involve project-oriented activities of children, and adopt documentation as their method of evaluation. The quality of ECEC is likely to shift from academic teaching to such a project-oriented inquiry model of children’s activities.
Evaluation of ECEC also shifted its focus from structural quality to process quality. External evaluation systems such as NAEYC accreditation and England’s OFSTED inspections tried to include more elements of self-evaluation. ECERS and ITERS focused more on the structural quality of facilities for young children, but SICS in Belgium tried to evaluate children’s well-being and involvement in their daily activities in the facilities. In doing so, each teacher/caregiver becomes involved in improving their own practices. Examples from New Jersey (USA) and the EPPE Project (UK) were described as good practices for improvement of quality in ECEC.
Based upon the analysis of such practice, evaluation methods, and policies, the following recommendations are made for the Japanese educational research community; 1) to work to convey messages to the general public drawing attention to the importance of investment in ECEC; 2) to establish a new system for improvement of ECEC quality; and 3) to promote collaboration between ECEC and researchers in pedagogy for longitudinal studies to prove the effectiveness of ECEC.