I learned that the best term to use in describing preschools in Iceland is the term playschools and in Icelandic this is: leikskóli. While I have been so grateful everyone has spoken English, I have come to realize that not all concepts and terms are easily translated. Bryndis, the Preschool Education Department Chair loaned me this book, Nordic Childhoods to help me gain more insights into these concepts and ideas that are rooted in culture.
Reynisolt: In addition to having the large play area that other playschools had, this school also had a fenced in forested area. They explained that due to the trees breaking the wind – the children can use this area during windy weather. Parents volunteer to keep it up. I especially liked the outdoor circular group gathering area.
This is an area where a fire is built and children sometimes cook food outdoors.
Arora and Helena
I noted some excellent ways they documented children’s skills. In the picture below you will see a page for each child and on the page, they take pictures of the child attempting (at their level) writing their name, they scan in the child’s attempt and also write down all of the things the child says during this activity. A portfolio of child’s work and picture of the child ‘in action’ are kept by teachers and given to parents when the child leaves leikskóli.
THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM Iceland has created a National Preschool Curriculum that is built on six pillars. This comes directly from the guide as translated into English:
These fundamental pillars are:
- health and welfare
- democracy and human rights,
Each of the fundamental pillars derives from laws on preschool, compulsory school and upper secondary school. There is also reference to other laws which include legal provisions for education and teaching in the school system, such as in the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men, No. 10/2008. In addition, government policy in various issues is taken into account, as, for example, published in Welfare for the Future regarding important policy issues on sustainability. International conventions to which Iceland is a party are taken into consideration, for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the policy of international institutions of which Iceland is a member
It was easy to relate to the pillar of literacy as it is also a priority in our country. Sustainability was one that I would desire all preschools around the world adopt. Here is how it is described in the Icelandic National Preschool Curriculum:
Education towards sustainability aims at making people able to deal with problems that concern the interaction of the environment, social factors and the economy in the development of society. 18 The Icelandic Curriculum Guide for Preschools 2011 The most common understanding of the concepts sustainability and sustainable development involves that we leave the environment to our descendants in no worse condition that we received it, and that we endeavour to meet the needs of the present without reducing the possibilities of future generations to meet theirs.
Another pillar that I thought was admirable is Democracy and Human Rights. Here is how this pillar is described:
When a matter of ethical opinion arises in a democracy, people take a stand and, moreover, they take an active part in shaping society. In a democracy the citizens enjoy human rights and decide on all major issues collectively. The prerequisite of democracy is collective responsibility, consciousness and activity of the citizens and this makes them capable of participating in shaping their society and influencing it, both at home and away. Respect for the human value and health of children and youth involves both respect for their human rights and acceptance of their talents and possibilities for development.
It is interesting to note that the United States has not endorsed the United Nations Rights of the Child. There is a very deep root commitment to equality and the notion that all must participate here in Iceland..
On Thursday night, I met with a group of graduate students who are in the Parent Education license program. The PE program is new in Iceland and came about when their professor Hrund studied for her PhD in MN. Here you see six of us meeting and five were participating via the computer. We had a wonderful time discussing how a program like ECFE could be embedded into programs in Iceland. Note, several students plan to come to the MN Association of Family and Early Education in April 2019! Icelandic people are no strangers to travel all over the world.
I am already missing Iceland and the many people who have been kind and generous with me. Thank you so much for all you have shared!
Next I travel to Trondheim Norway where I will be visiting Queen Maud University. Queen Maud has 1200 students who are all studying early childhood education.