Article

Early Childhood Education in Europe

Valerie Sollars

in Education

ISBN: 9780199756810
Published online January 2018 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0193
Early Childhood Education in Europe

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Europe has a rich history and legacy in early childhood education, resulting from the beliefs, theories, and contributions of key European pioneers considered the founding fathers of the discipline. Martin Luther (b. 1483–d. 1546) promoted the importance of education for all children, with parents’ involvement and support from the wider community. John Amos Comenius (b. 1592–d. 1670) emphasized sensory training, while John Locke (b. 1632–d. 1704) highlighted the importance of a well-equipped sensory environment and children’s interactions with it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (b. 1712–d. 1778) focused on children’s social and emotional development, acknowledging the child as the central figure in his or her own educational curriculum and learning path. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (b. 1746–d. 1827) attributed importance to the child’s family in educating children. Robert Owen (b. 1771–d. 1858) believed in early education as a means to make up for potential deficits in the environment. Friedrich Froebel (b. 1782–d. 1852) set up the first kindergarten, believing early childhood education to be a formal process that could occur in an organized setting. Maria Montessori’s (b. 1870–d. 1952) focus on observations led to the first attempts at inclusive education, and she promoted the view that the best education was one that supported a lifelong love for learning. Jean Piaget (b. 1896–d. 1980) argued in favor of the critical role of the environment in children’s acquisition of knowledge for active engagement. Lev Vygotsky (b. 1896–d. 1934) formalized the notion of scaffolded learning through the zone of proximal development, giving importance to the social environment within which children learn, grow, and develop as members of a community. Susan Isaacs (b. 1885–d. 1948) valued the nursery school for its benefits toward children’s development, where opportunities in indoor and outdoor areas potentially engage children in self-directed activities. Although these theories and beliefs have survived and contributed to the foundations of early childhood education, social contexts and the worlds inhabited by children have evolved, as have current thinking and practices associated with good-quality provision in early childhood. Despite this rich inheritance, politics, policies, and practices in Europe are as diverse as the countries making up the continent. Differences can be attributed to cultural divergences; geopolitical forces; historical and technological developments; provision of varied services; and adults’ perspectives, beliefs, and expectations about children and childhoods. Evolving policies and practices highlight the diversity and complexity of the field, pointing to a need for multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches among stakeholders engaged in different institutions and agencies, and contributing to a coherent understanding of early childhood education. This annotated bibliography offers snapshots of how key issues and challenges in early childhood education are being addressed in Europe, either through research in specific countries or through a comparative approach.

Article.  13595 words. 

Subjects: Education ; Organization and Management of Education ; Philosophy and Theory of Education ; Schools Studies ; Teaching Skills and Techniques

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