A set of “Universal Principles of Early Childhood Curriculum” were presented by the World Forum Working Group on Curriculum at the 2011 World Forum on Early Care and Education (www.worldforumfoundation.org), which took place May 3–6, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. With more than 40 members, the Curriculum Working Group includes early childhood professionals from regions as diverse as Asia, Africa, North America, Europe, and Oceania. Leading curriculum developers such as HighScope, Creative Curriculum, and Reggio Emilia are also represented in the group’s membership.
The goal of the World Forum’s Curriculum Working Group is to develop a set of agreed-upon universal early childhood curriculum principles. Throughout the year, the group maintains regular communication via a listserv dedicated to this goal. At the 2011 World Forum, the group held a preconference meeting for those who could attend, and many members participated in a curriculum tour of two early childhood programs in Hawaii (see Curriculum Group on Tour photo above).
During the Forum itself, the group held an open meeting of World Forum participants to solicit input from colleagues on the development of early childhood curriculum principles (see World Forum Curriculum Session photo at left). During their session, “CURRICULUM – Universal Principles of Early Childhood Curriculum,” HighScope President Larry Schweinhart presented a summary of the group’s work and presenters Patrick Makokoro and Vishakha Deshpande discussed how these principles applied to their work with children in Zimbabwe and India, respectively.
The following principles, described by Schweinhart as a “work in process,” were presented by the working group at the World Forum. The group will further revise them to take into account the advice they received from their colleagues during the curriculum session.
Early Childhood Curriculum Principles, World Forum on Early Care and Education 2011
Universal Curriculum Principles
A set of early childhood curriculum principles apply in all countries of the world; these principles should be adapted to fit into the various countries and communities, whether or not programs are well funded.
Early childhood is the period of human life from birth up to school entry at 5 or 6 years of age, including infants and toddlers from birth to 3 and preschoolers from 3 to 5 or 6. Some extend it to include the primary grades up to age 8 or 9.
Care and Education
Care and education cannot be separated. All young children learn best in the context of nurturing, responsive relationships, and stimulating, developmentally appropriate experiences.
Respect for Children
The curriculum should encourage adults to demonstrate their respect for young children as individuals and take a genuine interest in what they say and do.
Young Children’s Role in the Curriculum
Young children should have choices that influence their curriculum, appropriate to their stage of development. They learn best from their interactions with others and the environment.
Development is Inter-Related
The curriculum should address and show the inter-relatedness of all aspects of the learning and development of young children, including cognitive (including language, literacy, mathematics, and science), social, emotional, physical, aesthetic, and spiritual development.
Early Childhood Assessment
Early childhood assessment means observation and documentation of children’s development, during everyday experiences, in order to support each child’s learning and development.
The quality and effectiveness of the curriculum should be regularly evaluated and reviewed in order to improve the program as needed.
Parents and Teachers Are Partners
The curriculum should empower educators, parents, and communities to work together in partnership for the benefit of children.
Respect for Culture
The curriculum should promote respect the dignity of each child’s family, home language, culture, customs, and beliefs.
Professional development is critical to every early childhood educator’s personal journey. Professional development experiences should be organized around a comprehensive curriculum and assessment system that has evidence of its effectiveness and is culturally sensitive.