Quality by Design working document:

Elements of a high quality early learning and child care system. [pdf, 8pp, 241KB]

A conceptual framework that includes…

· A clear statement of the values that underpin the system

· System-level goals for children and families

· Educational philosophy related to the values and goals

· Curriculum defined as a short general statement

A high quality ELCC system should begin by articulating the ideas that will define it. The ideas will be contained in a conceptual framework that begins with a statement of the values held by the society and what it wants for its children. The values statement is based on implicit societal values and beliefs about the nature of the child and childhood. It is coloured by the history, circumstances and context - economic, social and cultural - in which the society exists.

Different societies often have different perceptions about children, childhood and the purposes of early learning and child care. While these sometimes produce significant variations in ideas about quality in ELCC programs, countries with different histories and circumstances share many common ideas too. As Debbie Cryer (USA) points out: “the core quality elements… appear to cross international borders.”

Long-term system-level goals break down the values statement into more detailed pieces. These should include goals for children - what kinds of attitudes, skills and propensities we want to encourage. These could, for example, include developing respect for diversity; ability to work cooperatively with others; love of learning; self confidence and creative expression. They should also include goals for families, for example, confident parenting and participation in the workforce; and goals for the community and society, for example, a well-educated citizenry, gender equality and social inclusion.

The conceptual framework should also include an educational philosophy and framework to support practice at the individual program level. “Educational” is used here to mean what is sometimes called “pedagogy,” which can be translated as “education-in-its-broadest-sense”. Moss and others have described this as development of the child through active involvement with the environment and with others by exploring, questioning, experimenting and debating, rather than as a prescriptive plan for instructional activities.

How programs should be organized to support the goals and philosophy is sometimes called a curriculum. This should be a short statement that outlines the processes by which the stated outcomes for children are to be achieved, for example, through experiential learning, play-based programming, involvement with adults and other children.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an explicit educational philosophy and general curriculum serves several purposes: (1) promotion of an even level of quality; (2) provision of guidance and support for staff in their daily practice; and (3) facilitation of communication between parents and staff. The educational philosophy and curriculum should be flexible so that it can be adapted at the level of the individual program by well-trained and respected early childhood educators while still being consistent with the broad vision.

Program standards such as child-staff ratios, staff training qualifications and parent participation support the philosophy and curriculum.
Finally, the importance of an ongoing participatory process that includes discussion with a range of stakeholders about the conceptual framework and the other elements of the quality system should not be overlooked. According to Irene Balaguer: “Defining quality is a process, important in its own right; and the process should be democratic and continuous. ”



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Children in Europe, March 2004 (Issue 6): Celebrating 40 years of Reggio Emilia
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