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[Australia] Early Years Learning Framework in Australia

Summary:
This article provides an overview of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF); contextualised to the Australian setting in which it is taught. The EYLF is discussed from a theoretical view point and is then demonstrated through practical application. While the program is unique to Australia, the author has gone to great lengths to demonstrate the flexibility of the learning structure and in particular, how it can be applied to various learning models used in early childhood education. The author demonstrates how the EYLF can compliment the existing frameworks as opposed to working in conflict. This will be achieved through an analysis and discussion about how the framework is currently taught. A case study, provided by an Australian Trainer who is employed with CHARLTON BROWN®, a leading international Vocational Education College; based in Brisbane, Australia will be provided. CHARLTON BROWN® trains graduates who are ready to work in the global early childhood industry. Each graduate has an understanding of the EYLF and the ability to contextualise the framework and adapt it to a local setting.

Key words:
Childcare, Childhood, EYLF Early Years Learning Framework, Vocational Education, Community Services, CHARLTON BROWN®
Belonging, Being and Becoming

The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on 2 July 2009. It is the first early learning framework to be nationally endorsed for use by educators in a range of early childhood settings. The Early Years Learning Framework (also referred to as 'the Framework') is a guide for early childhood educators, yet it speaks to all Australians - to children, to families, to community members and to other professionals who work with young children and their families. It acknowledges the diverse nature of Australian society and strongly supports inclusive practices.

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is part of the Council of Australian Governments' reform agenda for early childhood education and care. It is a key component of the Australian Government's National Quality Framework for early childhood education and care and it underpins universal access to early childhood education.

The EYLF outlines the key principles and significant practices that underpin and guide the work of all early childhood educators and clarifies current understandings about how young children learn.

The EYLF:
♦ outlines the kinds of environments in which children's learning is facilitated
♦ highlights the desirable knowledge, skills and attitudes held by early childhood educators
♦ addresses ways children's learning opportunities may be enhanced.

The goal is to enrich children's learning experiences through purposeful actions by educators in collaboration with children and families. The early learning environments the Framework applies to are services that cater for children in the birth to five age group, such as preschools, kindergartens, family day care, home-based care, occasional care, playgroups and long day care. It also encompasses home care, mobile services and multifunctional Aboriginal children's services.

The word 'curriculum' is sometimes used alongside the term 'framework'. The glossary in the Early Years Learning Framework document defines curriculum as: 'All the interactions, experiences, activities, routines and events, planned and unplanned, that occur in an environment designed to foster children's learning and development.' (p 45)

That is, curriculum in early childhood settings refers to all the things that children experience. What children experience may be the result of something intentional or planned. However, children have many experiences that are unplanned - they occur informally and often spontaneously. While the Framework does have a structure underpinned by a vision for children and their development during the early years, the structure is quite flexible to enable educators to respond to the wide range of children's learning needs. The goal is to enrich children's learning experiences through purposeful actions by educators in collaboration with children and families.

The development of the Early Years Learning Framework is timely for a number of reasons. These include:
♦ an increased understanding of early brain development
♦ a heightened appreciation of the importance of the early years as a foundation for longer-term development
♦ greater insights into how young children learn best
♦ increasing numbers of young children who are now participating in early childhood settings
♦ more informed families who have higher expectations about 'child care' provisions
♦ an accumulation of international research providing evidence to support professional practices
♦ the current Australian political climate in which policy decision-makers are giving increased attention to early childhood education, and there is a greater appreciation of the nature and importance of the early years.

The Framework was developed following extensive consultation with educators and leaders in the early childhood field, as well as being resourced by current research and understandings drawn from extensive reviews of the literature. The consultation process included two national symposiums, national public consultation forums, focus groups, an online forum and case-study trials. A draft document was trialled in a range of early childhood settings at 28 sites across the country. Educators were also encouraged to provide written feedback through submissions and an online forum. Educators have been enthusiastic in their responses to having a national Early Years Learning Framework. The energy captured within these comments suggests that the Framework is a relevant and nationally important document with the potential to make a substantial contribution to Australian society.

Each Childcare Centre in Australia develops its own strategy to implement the framework. The EYLF describes the principles, practices and outcomes that support and enhance young children's learning from birth to five years of age, as well as their transition to school.

The Framework was developed by the Australian and State and Territory governments with input from the early childhood sector and early childhood academics. The Framework has incorporated feedback from a consultation process, including two national symposiums, national public consultation forums, focus groups, an online forum and case-study trials.

The outcome of this review was the current EYLF. The EYLF puts children's learning at the core and comprises three inter-related elements which outline the world which educators in Australia are required to shape for children:

  1. Principles - the goals for the care e.g. secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships.
  2. Practices - these are actually guidelines for how to achieve the goals set out in the principles.
  3. Outcomes - five overall goals, each with sub-goals which contain a list of the things that the child needs to achieve to meet the overall goal. These serve as an easy reference points for the teacher's assessment of the child.

All three elements are fundamental to the early childhood pedagogy and curriculum decision-making. The curriculum encompasses all the interactions, experiences, routines and events, planned and unplanned, that occur in an environment designed to support and foster children's learning and development. The emphasis in the framework is on the planned or intentional aspects of the curriculum. Children are receptive to a wide range of experiences. What is included or excluded from the curriculum affects how children learn, develop and understand the world.

Like all nations, Australia needs to have a training package which is responsive to pedagogical changes. The challenge for Vocational Education Colleges is that they need to ensure that graduates understand the difference between a set of rules - which must be followed - and a framework; which provides guidance. The second option allows for flexibility and what is called, intentional teaching, to develop a child-centric curriculum.

A case study has been provided to demonstrate the learning process that a CHARLTON BROWN® Early Childhood student undertakes to ensure that they not only learn about the EYLF but that they can also adapt the framework to a work place setting.

Established in 1985, CHARLTON BROWN® is a private International Registered Training Organisation and employment Agency that trains and places graduates and qualified staff in employment locally, nationally and internationally. Students wishing to undertake part time or casual work while studying can register with our Agency.

The college trains in a range of Community Services industries including: Early Childhood Education and Care, Aged Care, Home and Community Care, Disability Care, School Aged Education and Care and Community Services Work, Welfare, Justice Studies and Youth Work.

CASE STUDY ONE

The observations and comments presented in this article were captured from Teresa Thoms, an Early Childhood educator and current CHARLTON BROWN® Trainer. Through the case study you will learn about Teresa's ability to adapt and implement the EYLF to fit the context of learning in a child care centre, in a family day care centre (home run business) and in out of school hours care (care which takes place outside of regular schooling time frames).

Teresa's responses to the above situations are then linked to the EYLF. This will in turn provide evidence of the intentional teaching which contributes to the learning outcomes of the students.

Teresa's story

Teresa feels the best way for the students to learn and understand the principles is to develop their understanding of the reciprocal and responsive relationship they have, with not only the children they care for but the wider community. She educates them to understand the importance of providing opportunities for new learning to be fostered. Students also need to reflect on alternative ways of doing things; make connections across time and place; establish different kinds of relationship; and encounter different points of view.

These experiences will enrich teachers/students and children's lives and provide them with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to tackle new challenges when learning in different environments.

FOR EXAMPLE: When meeting, for the first time, students who are working as trainees in childcare centres, Teresa will build relationships by spending time talking to them and learning about their backgrounds, learning about the centre's environment / philosophy etc. She then takes into account the different learning styles students have and spends time making individual study goals. She works within the learning environmental setting to create learning outcomes for the students which meet the requirements and needs of the employer.

Teresa really enjoys teaching students social skills. She gets her students to sit on the floor and provide them with ways to interact with children. She provides them with resources and encourages them to use eye contact and explain to them how children learn through people, places and things. Teresa is providing them with the skills to communicate with children and they can use these skills in context.

Teresa focuses on the practice of education. She does this by working with the students to build their confidence, individuality, self esteem, social skills and respect for themselves and others - they need all of these traits to deliver quality early learning experiences. Through a holistic approach and intentional teaching, Teresa meets the learning outcomes required and ensure that the students develop a disposition for learning, a broad range of adaptable and transferable skills and the ability to transfer knowledge to those in their care.

CASE STUDY TWO

The observations and comments presented in this article were captured from Carmel Harrison, an Early Childhood educator and current CHARLTON BROWN® Trainer. Through the case study you will learn about Carmel's ability to adapt and implement the EYLF to fit the context of learning in a child care centre and the classroom.

As a Lead Trainer, Carmel accompanies CHARLTON BROWN® children services' students when they are participating in offshore practicum placements to Sri Lanka and India. Under her guidance, the students learn first hand how to contextualize the EYLF in a cultural setting different to their own.

Carmel's story

Carmel believes that fundamental to the EYLF, is the educator/student's ability to observe and get to know the children so that program planning, implementation of plans and interactions with children are appropriate and enhance children's understanding of their world.

Carmel requires her students to use their practicum time to observe and record children's play. When students return to the classroom; using role plays, group discussions and lectures, students are taught how to analyse and interpret their observations so they can use this information for future planning.

The EYLF supports the view that children view their lives as 'belonging, being and becoming' - the overarching themes of the framework. Students are encouraged to have some understanding and the skills to help children construct their own identity and understanding of how they belong, who they are and how they can become active and involved learners.

In the classroom Carmel asks the students to tease out the meaning of these themes.

FOR EXAMPLE: Carmel asks the students to think about all the possible ways a child can belong and what does it mean to belong. Ideas and activities for exploring these themes with children are workshopped in class. Students take this understanding into the playroom during their practicum and incorporate their ideas into their everyday practice. On returning to the classroom, the students are asked to reflect on their practices and relationships with children. Reflective practice leads to more effective teaching.

Qualified educator's story

In my opinion as a qualified educator, for the maximum development of a child's potential, an educator must implement a study program that incorporates the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

No two individuals are alike in their thinking process or in what triggers them to like or dislike any particular teaching method. For example, a child is playing in the home corner but there is no guarantee that the child will play there the next time when an educator implements the same routine for the same child.

Due to my experience as an educator, in the early childhood education and care industry, I believe that the EYLF provides the most flexibility for educators to act instantly and adapt as an individual child's needs require through out the curriculum.

In summary, I sincerely believe that the implementation of the EYLF provides tremendous support for both new and experienced educators to have confidence in themselves when implementing an educational program for children.

Conclusion

The EYLF presents a process for educator decision making that promotes intentional teaching and contributes to Learning Outcomes. Many early childhood educators may see intentional teaching and thoughtful curriculum decision making as being at odds with a child-focused approach.

Three important considerations support the intentional teaching in the context of the case studies.

Firstly, building trust is an important action in establishing effective learning environments. Secondly, intentional teaching needs to respond to both children's interactions and broad curriculum goals. Finally, acknowledging the difference between child-centred and educator goal-oriented approaches can be starting points for new professional learning.

Profile

Kay_Ganley.jpg Kay Ganley, CEO of CHARLTON BROWN® attended Kedron Park Teachers College and worked as a teacher for the deaf across Queensland. Kay Ganley was the director of the Queensland board of ACPET (Australian Council for Private Education and Training) for nine years, and was the National Chair of ACPET until 2011.

Kay’s leadership, and tireless representation of Queensland as a quality education destination, has received recognition in the form of the 2013 Zonta Brisbane Woman of Achievement Award. Kay was also a finalist in the Leadership in VET Quality category at the 2011 Australian Training Awards. Kay served on the board of QETI (Queensland Education and Training International) and is a member of the Fortitude Valley Economic Development Board. Kay is also dedicated raising awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence in Queensland, winning the 2007 CEO Challenge Race.

As CEO of CHARLTON BROWN®, a Community Services Registered Training Organisation and employment agency, Kay has worked tirelessly to ensure that the continued care of the vulnerable in our community has been provided for, through quality training for community services professionals.
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