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Pedagogy - the invisible child in early education?

Ever heard of the children’s fairytale by Tove Jansson about the Moomins? In one of their adventures, the friendly Moomin-characters meet with an invisible child. In the tale, the child had turned invisible over time as she was raised by an aunt who neglected her. The child vanished into invisibility as she was not seen or heard in anyways.

Is early childhood pedagogy heading the same way? Early childhood education pedagogy is an everyday concept, but do we really hear and see it? Now is the era of pedagogy! declared Early Childhood Education Teacher´s Union of Finland in 2018. Years have passed and what is the role of pedagogy in early education today? I asked this question from my fellow kindergarten teachers in our active social media discussion groups. And got no answers. Does this mean that no one has seen or heard pedagogy in practice?

I took up the challenge and started my search for pedagogy, the concept and the practice, only to notice that it wasn’t easy at all. In Finland our early childhood education policy states e.g. that “The Finnish ECEC is based on an integrated approach to care, education and teaching, the so-called “educare” model, with particular emphasis on pedagogy”. Well, there it is. Pedagogy should clearly be in the center of early education, but I nevertheless feel I did not get the answer to the question: What and how pedagogy is seen in early education in practice?

A report by Alila and others (2014) states that the discussions in our society lack the perspective of how to develop and nurture pedagogy in early education. This has led to inconsistent views and progress in pedagogy. In Finland, the early childhood education curriculum was renewed in 2018 and at that time pedagogy was raised as the centrepiece of our early education. Yet, quite a number of years later in 2021, the central union of child welfare (18.2.21) states that there is an evident need to clarify pedagogy in early education more clearly.

Currently, there is a heated discussion around early education in Finland, and what are the hottest topics? The structure of personnel and education level among personnel in early education, group sizes and the stressfulness of the work on the employees. It is about the policies on work and employment and even family policies, but do we see pedagogy as part of this discussion? Once again, I feel that pedagogy has vanished into invisibility.

Evidently, early education has many important social duties, but the responsibility to develop pedagogy is or should be equally important. Developing pedagogy means that the personnel continuously aim to assess and improve the quality of early education and their own professional skills. It would not be an understatement to say that pedagogy plays a major role in employee wellbeing and as well as the well-being of the children within early education. Can't help but to wonder if pedagogy really is the centrepiece of early education or is pedagogy neglected like the invisible child in the Moomin fairy tale?

Elina Fonsèn says (27.8.19) that “Driving early education pedagogy calls for great leadership”. The manager at the kindergarten has a demanding job with many duties. The manager is also the pedagogical leader in kindergarten, but what if the manager is running out of time? How to drive pedagogy, if the manager never experiences or sees the learning activities in the groups, has time to listen to the personnel or talk with the children? And in addition to being the pedagogical leader, the manager leads the whole kindergarten and creates the school/kindergarten culture.

Lately, the media have underlined the fact that kindergarten managers should lead early education, not just focus on administration and bureaucracy. But how to lead something that is invisible?

In the Moomin-fairytale the invisible child was encouraged and supported by the Moomins, and finally, she mustered enough courage to turn back to visibility. For me, a person who is passionate about pedagogy, this is good news. The secret of quality early education lies in pedagogy which can be seen and heard and can be clearly defined and followed in practice. I’d love to sit at those tables, where early education pedagogy has a seat as an equal member.

I will continue my search for lost pedagogy and love to have you on board this journey.

In my next blog, I will explore the assessment and development of pedagogy - and hope to see pedagogy more clearly together with you.

Heidi Kajan

MA in Education, a pedagogical expert at TinyApp

#early childhood

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