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Educational Approaches in the ECCE Sector Ireland

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 3283 words Published: 22nd Nov 2017

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  • Marie Grey
  1. Aistear the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework.

Aistear is the national curriculum framework set in place all around Ireland. It is for early education from birth-6yrs. There is not one specific programme or curriculum to follow. It was put in place to help in schools, pre-schools, crèches, and within the home. By working closely with parents, teachers and practitioners Aistear provides a safe and enjoyable learning experience. Aistear is all about learning through play. Its four themes are as follows:


This is about the overall well-being of the child. Such as physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I have used this aim as an example of what Well-being is. Aim 3: “Children will be creative and spiritual.”(National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), 2009).

Identity and Belonging-

Is to know themselves as a unique individual, to belong as part of a group and part of the world. Not to feel left out, to feel accepted and equal. I found this aim explains Identity and Belonging very well. Aim1:Children will have strong self-identities and will feel respected and affirmed as unique individuals with their own life stories.”(NCCA, 2009)

Exploring and Thinking-

Feeling confident to explore, try new things, be curious, use imagination, have a mind of their own, own opinions, views and thoughts. Learn to solve problems using their own initiative. This aim shows how this particular theme can be used. Aim 4:Children will have positive attitudes towards learning and develop dispositions like curiosity, playfulness, perseverance, confidence, resourcefulness, and risk taking.” (NCCA, 2009)


Being able to communicate openly/freely. Language development, listening skills. To socialise as part of a group. By taking a look at the aims you can see how they are used. Aim 2: “Children will use language” (NCCA, 2009)


The HighScope curriculum was developed for day-cares, play groups, nurseries and crèches. It involves a lot of free play. Learning through play. It’s not as structured as others. Children have their own choices about the activities they wish to do, adults have to make sure they follow through on their decisions. By using recyclable materials and labelling shelves and areas where everything goes, they learn to tidy up when they’re finished and gain confidence by making their own decisions. Children learn about science, maths, technology, reasoning, language and the world around them. HighScope offers support for parents and lots of involvement from them. Using methods like plan-do-review, HighScope offers the children opportunities to plan their activity, proceed with it and come back to review and reflect with the adult. The child can express what they did, how and why, if they enjoyed it, or if doing art they show the adult what they made and can feel proud of their hard work. “HighScope teachers arrange and label classroom interest areas and stock diverse materials to give children a broad range of experience and help them begin to understand how the world can be organised.” (Epstein, pg13, 2007)

  1. Aistear and HighScope Aims and Goals.

Aistear vs. HighScope


  • Aistear has four themes- HighScope has fifty eight Key Developmental Indicators. (KDIs).
  • They both have learning goals. For example a learning goal from Aistear’s Well-being- Aim 1: Be confident and self-reliant. Example of HighScope’s five ingredients of active participatory learning or learning goals- Choice: Children are free to use the materials however they choose when doing plan-do-review.
  • They both plan for the same overall outcome to support the child’s holistic development and also the best interest of each child.
  • They both centre their curriculums on learning through play and the environment.


  • Aistear’s four themes are: Well-being, Communication, Identity and Belonging, Exploring and Thinking. Here are a few of HighScope’s (KDIs): Initiative, Social Relations, Creative Representation, Movement & Music, Language & Literacy, and Mathematics & Science.
  • HighScope is a more structured curriculum than Aistear.
  • There is a lot more Aims and goals in HighScope than Aistear.
  • Aistear is an Irish founded curriculum HighScope is an American founded curriculum.

Aistear’s themes can be very easily incorporated into the HighScope curriculum. By using the main four themes and knowing the aims and learning goals the HighScope method can then be reviewed alongside Aistear. That way a new or updated curriculum can be conducted. For instance when using plan-do-review in HighScope, Aistear’s theme of Thinking and Exploring can be used. How I would do this in an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).By letting the children go and plan their own activities and use their intuitive to explore the world around them. They would be then using both curriculums together. Any or all aspects of Aistear’s four themes can be used or incorporated into HighScope’s method of plan-do-review. Another example would be if the child planned to do art. This would cover Aistear’s identity and belonging, Thinking and exploring and communication. Why I say communication, the child would be communicating their feelings through their creativity and individuality.

Here are some of the learning goals that Aistear and HighScope use:


  • Children will show good judgement when taking risks. Identity and Belonging Children will appreciate the features that make a person special and unique (name, size, hair, hand and footprint, gender, birthday)”. (ncca.ie 2014). In my opinion these two curriculums work very well together, and support the teachers and practitioners in their understanding of why they need to provide these opportunities for children.

“Basic Principles and Goals of the High/Scope Approach Communicating Children will develop counting skills, and a growing understanding of the meaning and use of numbers and mathematical language in an enjoyable and meaningful way. Exploring and Thinking Children will gather and use information from different sources using their increasing cognitive, physical and social skills. In partnership with the adult, children will

  • demonstrate growing confidence in being able to do things for themselves
  • make decisions and take increasing responsibility for their own learning
  • Act on their curiosity, take risks and be open to new ideas and uncertainty”. (ncca.ie 2014).

It is in my opinion very important to support each individuals learning opportunities and experiences at this early stage in their lives.

“The High/Scope program strives to develop in children a broad range of skills, including the problem solving, interpersonal, and communication skills that are essential for successful living in a rapidly changing society. The curriculum encourages student initiative by providing children with materials, equipment, and time to pursue activities they choose. At the same time, it provides teachers with a framework for guiding children’s independent activities toward sequenced learning goals”. (Education.com High Scope: A Constructivist Approach 2009).

3. Theorists views linking with HighScope and Aistear.

Margaret McMillan

Known for her theories on free-play and outdoors, she links to most of the day to day outdoor activities children experience in an ECCE setting such as exploring the garden, seeing different types of bugs and exploring the outdoor environment. Also playing freely in nature. Which cover Aistear’s themes communication, identity and belonging, well-being, thinking and exploring. It also covers most of HighScope learning goals of exploring the environment and world around them and also risk taking and problem solving.

“McMillan believed that children learn by exploring, first-hand experience and active learning. Also they learn through free-play, especially with craft and water activities.” Early learning (2014) she cared for children from 18 months to 7yrs old.

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky”. “Inspirational Posters Early learning (2014)

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Theory of Play:

Play is in a relaxed environment where learning can occur easily.

Play is not the same as learning, cognitive development requires both assimilation and adaption, and play is assimilation without accommodation.

Piaget is mostly known for this four stage theory:

Sensory-Motor Stage birth – 2yrs.

Pre-operational Stage 2yrs-7yrs.

Stage of Concrete Operations 7yrs -11yrs.

Stage of Formal Operations 11yrs -16yrs.

Both curriculums support the development of this theory in HighScope children have the choice to choose their own learning. Thus giving them independence and free thinking at a young age. By using Jean Piaget’s theory of Cognitive play each child will have great benefits in their learning combined with the support and independence HighScope is providing and the freedom and support of their identity and well-being Aistear is providing. Overall the three used together would give great support and work well to help the child holistically within their development. While also giving them a better understanding of themselves and the world. Although Piaget suggests in his theory play is not the same as learning I disagree, children learn through play.

Piaget suggests "Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves." ('The Century’s Greatest Minds,' Time, 1999) Jean Piaget Quotes

Piaget’s other theories are: Play and Imagination, Play and Reason, Piaget suggests there are four types of play:

For example symbolic play and doing puzzles which promotes thinking and exploring and communication which are two of Aistear’s themes. As for HighScope problem solving is one of their learning goals so as you will see in the quote below children use their imaginations to replay something they may have witnessed or experienced, maybe even seen on a T.V show through their play or role play. At this time they may be resolving the conflict or situation in a way that they would have liked it to be resolved. Which again is using both curriculums and the theories of Piaget.

Sensory- Motor or physical, play

  • When the child repeats an action like swinging their legs/arms just for the fun of it.
  • Symbolic Play
  • Imagination

“It is primarily affective conflicts that appear in symbolic play. If there is a scene at lunch, for example, one can be sure that an hour or two afterward it will be recreated with dolls and will be brought to a happier solution. If the child has been frightened by a dog, in a symbolic game things will be arranged so that dogs will no longer be mean or children will become brave”. Jean Piaget quotes (2014)

4. Learning Opportunities and Holistic Development.

In my opinion Aistear offers each child the opportunity to fulfil their potential as an individual learning about themselves, where they belong within their family, community and the world. What I mean by this, by exploring their environment and having fun, safe and fulfilling learning experiences in a fun, child orientated with support from adults but not over powering or controlled by adults and a friendly, stimulating environment. They will learn how to socialise, make decisions, solve problems, and build strong bonds or relationships.

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They will also benefit holistically in their development by doing fun and age appropriate, challenging and inspiring activities which will support them in their physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social development. (P.I.L.E.S).Aistear’s approach is one that allows the child to lead their own activities with support of adults only when the child needs or requests it. The adults are mostly there to ensure the materials provided are appropriate to support each child’s needs.

Also to provide a warm, safe, hygienic, stimulating and challenging environment for each child to reach their potential and their own natural learning pace. Nothing is forced or a child does not have to be able to do a certain thing, they learn at their own pace. Saying that the adult is there to observe and ensure the child is meeting or reaching their developmental milestones. If a delay is identified the adult will observe further and suggest but not the child to do different activities to suit their learning needs.

HighScope on the other hand give children the opportunity to learn symbols or letters as everything is labelled, children begin to recognise letters or markings and understand these symbols are the names of the materials or items. As the HighScope method gives more opportunities for children to learn with natural or realistic materials such as within the home area real kettles or pots and utensils are provided for learning. This offers the children the learning opportunity of life skills. Which I feel is beneficial for children especially this day and age as many parents are always working children need to learn skills such as pouring themselves a drink.

This can be used at home as well children can use mathematic skills in the shopping centre with parents or at home packing the shopping away or the washing counting stockings or pegs. HighScope also recommends parental involvement and although Aistear does require observations HighScope is stricter on observations and record keeping as daily observations are required in some cases. I do however feel both curriculums offer lots of different learning aspects, goals and opportunities. Both together can work extremely well and cover the child’s holistic environment and also support them in other factors of their environment such as culture and social also family and community.

In my opinion either Aistear or HighScope would benefit a child’s holistic development if used properly, correctly and to its full potential. Using them combined would in my opinion offer more learning opportunities for each child and offer a lot more freedom and exploration learning opportunities for the children. As Aistear will support HighScope in the areas of the children’s overall well-being. HighScope will support Aistear offering the children with more choice and independence which will also support the child’s thinking and exploring and their identity and belonging, alongside their holistic development by doing activities and exploration.

As both curriculums link to each other and are similar in many ways most of the learning goals are the same Aistear does however encourage lots more involvement from parents. HighScope offers lots of opportunities for independence, growth for confidence, self-esteem and decision making. Using the KDI’s as guidelines for learning opportunities as Aistear uses its four themes, aims and learning goals or outcomes. “Both sets of KDIs are arranged to correspond to the National Goals for Education in the USA. They equally relate to Aistear, the early childhood curriculum framework in Ireland”. ‘The High Scope Approach to Early Learning’. Geraldine French. (2012) (arrow.DIT.ie)

References and Bibliography

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). (2009). ‘Principles and Themes’. NCCA:

Epstein, Ann S. (2007). ‘Essentials of Active Learning in Preschool - Getting to know the HighScope Curriculum’. HighScope Press: Michigan, USA.

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). (2009). ‘Principles and Themes’. NCCA:

Epstein, Ann S. (2007). ‘Essentials of Active Learning in Preschool - Getting to know the HighScope Curriculum’. HighScope Press: Michigan, USA.

‘Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework’ cited on:

http://www.ncca.ie/en/Curriculum_and_Assessment/Early_Childhood_and_Primary_Education/Early_Childhood_Education/Aistear_Toolkit/Activity_Exploring_Aistear's_learning_goals_.pdf Accessed online [7th of June 2014]

‘High Scope: A Constructivist Approach’ Excerpt from Early Childhood Education Today, by G.S. Morrison, 2009 edition, p. 149-155. Cited on:


Accessed online [7th of June 2014]

Melanie Klein project (2014) “Play Therapy” [Online], available at:

https://sites.google.com/site/melaniekleinproject/work/play-therapy accessed online [17th January 2014]

Early learning HQ (2014) “Inspirational Quotation Poster” [Online], available at:

http://www.earlylearninghq.org.uk/latest-resources/inspirational-quotation-poster-margaret-mcmillan/ accessed [17th January 2014]

About psychology (2014) “Jean Piaget Quotes” [Online], available at: http://psychology.about.com/od/early-child-development/a/jean-piaget-quotes.htm accessed [20th January 2014]

‘The High Scope Approach to Early Learning’

Geraldine French (2012)


Accessed online [7th of June 2014]

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