EDUC25436 Curriculum Theories and Approaches in ECEC
Research Paper: International Curriculum Frameworks – 25%
Choose an international curriculum framework to research from the folder on SLATE. Note that this is NOT a paper about a country and its ECE program – but rather a paper about a specific framework. Please note that if you choose to write about a country that is not listed, please check with your professor first since not all countries have a clearly identified framework and if you instead write generally about ECEC in that region, you will receive a poor grade.
Your paper will include:
Your first paragraph should tell the reader an outline of the topics that you will address in the paper. Provide an overview of the country that describes important cultural, political, demographic or historical information related to the ECEC curriculum framework. What kind of government does the country have and are there any political factors that influence ECEC? Describe the population, whether there are indigenous populations or minority populations. Do not provide “tourism” information about the country.
2. ECEC Framework Description
Describe the framework: the name; the way it is organized; a summary and discussion of the values and goals, and other important considerations; and provide a summary of the important ideas. Use your own words to summarize rather than copying large sections of the framework.
3. ECEC Framework Analysis
a. Image of the child: what image of the child is described or implied? Provide evidence from the framework that supports your ideas about how they work with children.
b. Infant School vs. Social Pedagogy: discuss the orientation of the framework in relation to the continuum of pre-primary (infant school) or social pedagogy. This is your opinion but you must provide examples that support the theory discussed in class.
Identity the theoretical influences that shape the framework. Provide evidence from the framework and support it with references to your text (or other sources). Do you see evidence of Montessori’s influence? Are Dewey’s ideas represented?
Your brief conclusion will summarize your learning and will contrast what you learned about ECEC in your selected country to what you know about ECEC frameworks in Canada /Ontario. How does it compare to How Does Learning Happen? Similarities, differences? What were your significant learnings?
The paper should be about 8 pages, and meet APA standards and format. You may choose to use the five headings above to help you organize your paper. The writing should be your own, with your own “voice” (style) evident. The paper may contain excerpts quoted directly from the framework document which is permissible as long as they are cited correctly. This paper should briefly highlight the research but it is also important to share your views and opinions in each section and in the conclusions. You are required to research other information in addition to the framework itself. This may be an article or the OECD report or UNICEF report card that provides some comparison. Look at the Course Resources on SLATE as well as http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/early_learning_for_every_child_today.aspx#appendix1 and other sources to help get you started.
Name: ___________________________________ Date Submitted:_____________________
Criteria Need improvement Meet Expectations Exceptional
Introduction: /4 0-2 marks
Limited or unclear introduction. Overview includes too little or irrelevant information. Little context for the paper is provided. 2.5-3 marks
Provides an overview description of the country with some important information regarding cultural, political, demographic information with minimal historical information relevant to ECEC. Some information is irrelevant. 3.5-4 marks
Describes the purpose and topics covered in the paper. Provides a clear and meaningful overview description of the country or province that highlights important cultural, political, demographic and historical information relevant to ECEC and provides a context for understanding.
ECE Framework Description: /5 0-2.5 marks
Description of framework is unclear, is missing critical elements without explanation. Does not provide a summary of the important ideas. 3-3.5 marks
Provides a description of the curriculum framework: the name, the driving factors behind its development; the way it is organized, a summary and discussion of the values and goals, including other important considerations, provides a summary of some of the important ideas. 4-5 marks
Provides a clear and complete description of the curriculum framework: the name, the driving factors behind its development; the way it is organized, a summary and discussion of the values and goals, including other important considerations, providing a clear, concise summary of the important ideas.
ECE Framework Analysis: /6 0-3 marks
Provides minimal analysis of the framework that demonstrates understanding of:
a) Image of the child: does not identify the image of the child (identified or implied) AND / OR demonstrates little understanding of the image of the child.
b) Infant school vs. Social pedagogy: does not identify the orientation of the curriculum framework or is confused or unclear. 3-3.5 marks
Provides an analysis of the framework that demonstrates understanding of:
a) Image of the child: identifies the image of the child (identified or implied) Demonstrates some understanding of how this image is supported in the framework.
b) Infant school vs. Social pedagogy: identifies the orientation of the curriculum framework in relation to this continuum and provides some evidence to support the theory discussed in class. 4-6 marks
Provides a clear, concise analysis of the framework that demonstrates in-depth understanding of:
a) Image of the child: identifies the image of the child (identified or implied) Demonstrates clear evidence and insightful description of how this image is supported in the framework.
b) Infant school vs. Social pedagogy: identifies the orientation of the curriculum framework in relation to this continuum and provides clear evidence and understanding to support the theory discussed in class.
Theorists: /2 0 marks
Little or no discussion of influence of theorists found in framework. No evidence. 1 mark
Some discussion of influence of theorists found in framework but little or no evidence. 1.5 – 2 marks
Clear and insightful discussion of influence of theorists found in framework supported by evidence.
Conclusion provides a very brief summary of the student’s learning. Demonstrates a limited understanding of the contrast from your selected country to what you know about the ECEC in Canada. Little or no contrast to Ontario’s framework How Does Learning Happen?. 2-3 marks
Conclusion provides a brief summary of the student’s learning. Demonstrates some understanding of the contrast from your selected country to what you know about the ECEC in Canada. Simplistic comparison to Ontario’s framework How Does Learning Happen?. 4 marks
Conclusion is clear and concise, summarizing the student’s learning. Demonstrates a clear understanding of the contrast from your selected country to what you know about ECEC in Canada. Comprehensive comparison to Ontario’s framework How Does Learning Happen?.
Writing: /3 0-1.5 marks
Paper is 2 marks
2.5 – 3 marks
Does not follow APA style
Note: Papers that do not provide proper in text citations and references will be considered plagiarized and receive a grade of 0. 0
APA followed but some errors in APA style and/or writing issues 1
APA style followed with no (or few minor) errors in style or writing.
The Jamaica Early Childhood Curriculum
For Children Birth to Five Years
A Conceptual Framework
Dudley Grant Memorial Trust in Collaboration with the Ministry of Education
Rose Davies, Ph.D.
The Jamaica Early Childhood Curriculum For Children Birth to Five Years
A Conceptual Framework
Published by The Dudley Grant Memorial Trust
5 Gibraltar Camp Way, U.W.I. Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica W.I.
Copyright © 2008 by The Dudley Grant Memorial Trust
All rights reserved
Editors: Cecille Maye-Hemmings and Masie Wint
Graphic designer/Page layout: Suzette Royal – Suzi Design
The Phoenix Printery Limited, 139-141 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica
Financial support for this project was provided by the Ministry of Education, Jamaica; the CHASE
Fund; UNICEF; and the Social Conflict and Legal Reform Project.
1. Introduction to the Early Childhood Curriculum 1
Purpose and Definition of Curriculum 1
Rationale for the Curriculum 1
Considerations Influencing the Curriculum Development and Design 2
The children 3
The early childhood practitioners 3
The learning environment 4
The parents/community 5
Lessons learned from international models of best practices 5
2. The Guiding Principles of this Curriculum 7
Learning Through Play 7
Sequenced Learning 9
Individual Learning 9
The Practitioner’s Multiple Roles 11
Inclusion of All Children 14
Integrated Curriculum and the Domains of Development 15
Skills in the affective domain (personal, social-emotional skills) 16
Skills in the creative/expressive domain (the aesthetic skills) 17
Skills in the cognitive domain (intellectual, language & literacy skills) 17
Skills in the psychomotor domain (physical/motor skills) 17
Integrated learning for infants, toddlers and preschoolers 18
Thematic curriculum content 19
The Learning Environment 20
Developmentally appropriate learning environments 20
Learning environments for infants and toddlers 21
Learning environments for preschoolers 21
Special considerations for adapting the learning environment 22
Assessment in Early Childhood 23
Involving Parents and Community 24
3. Developmental Goals and Learning Outcomes For Children Birth to Five Years 26
Learning Outcomes for Young Children 26
Effective communication 26
Valuing culture 27
Intellectual empowerment 27
Respect for self, others and the environment 27
4. The Role of the Curriculum in Supporting Children’s Achievement of 29
Developmental Goals and Learning Outcomes
Theoretical Influences on Early Childhood Curriculum 33
Background to Early Childhood Curriculum Development in Jamaica
The care and education of young children in group settings emerged in Jamaica in response to the need
of working parents in the post-World War II era of rapid industrialization and employment opportunities
away from home. Early childhood informal “schools” were usually set up by home-based grandmothers,
aunts or neighbours, on verandahs, in backyards or other available spaces and provided largely custodial
care of children and limited educational content, e.g. rote learning of rhymes and Bible verses.
The first recognizable “basic school” as we know it today, was established in 1938 by Rev. Henry
Ward in Islington, St. Mary. As the number of these schools increased throughout Jamaica, so did the
need for organized training of the mostly untrained teachers. In 1967, Mr. Dudley Grant of the Institute
of Education, University of the West Indies at Mona, initiated the Project for Early Childhood Education
(PECE) with support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The aim of this project was to develop a
curriculum manual for use with four- to five-year-olds in basic schools and to provide complementary ongoing
training of teachers in the use of the curriculum and its accompanying resources.
The first written Jamaica pre-school curriculum was completed in 1973 through the collaborative
effort of a team of teacher trainers led by Mr. Grant himself. The “PECE Manual”, as it was called, was
a very detailed instructional guide comprising 24 volumes totaling 4,988 pages. It provided a step-bystep
approach for presenting content from traditional subject areas. The detailed format was considered
necessary because the teachers were inexperienced and lacked in-depth knowledge of essential child
development and education principles and practices. Regular fortnightly workshops by the teacher trainers
were established to develop the teaching skills of the para-professional teachers, while familiarizing them
with the use of the curriculum manual.
In 1979, a survey carried out by the Early Childhood Unit of the Ministry of Education, revealed that
the on-going fortnightly training workshops were reaping rewards as teachers were becoming increasingly
better trained and better qualified for their teaching roles. The teachers themselves called for the PECE
manual to be reviewed and rewritten in a format that was much less prescriptive and allowed greater
flexibility in interpreting and implementing the curriculum in their individual classrooms. Subsequently,
the curriculum was redesigned and redeveloped in 1983 into two volumes: Readiness Programme for
4 Year Olds and Readiness Programme for 5 Year Olds. The new “Readiness” curriculum replaced the
subject-based structure of the PECE manual with an integrated curriculum approach. This model placed
more emphasis on skills development across the child’s developmental domains through an integrated
programme of appropriate activities organized around themes familiar to the children. While some teachers
welcomed the more flexible format of the revised curriculum, others thought that too many of the resource
ideas contained in the PECE manual had been lost to the cause of producing a smaller document. This was
seen as a disadvantage for newer and less experienced teachers.
In 1990, a survey commissioned by the Early Childhood Unit in the Ministry of Education was
undertaken by the University of the West Indies-based Centre for Early Childhood Education (CECE),
which later became the Dudley Grant Memorial Trust, to establish the extent to which both the PECE
and the “Readiness” manuals were being used in pre-primary schools throughout Jamaica. The survey
also gathered ideas and recommendations for redesigning the Readiness curriculum to represent a better
balance between the detail of the older PECE manual and the flexibility of the “Readiness” manual. This
is one of the considerations that informed the current re-design of the curriculum.
In Jamaica, organized programmes for children from birth to three years only emerged after the
development of a curriculum for four- to five-year-olds, as children in this age group were mostly cared
for within the home setting. In the 1950s the Child Welfare League operated a few day care centres that
provided mainly custodial and health care for infants. Over the decades of development of the Jamaican
early childhood system, day care provisions have lagged behind that of basic and other pre-schools in
coverage, public financing and resources, caregiver training and adequacy of learning environments.
Services for the birth to three-year-old age cohort are still largely provided by private owners. Day care
centres experienced their highest peak in development during the 1970s when the incumbent government
instituted policies in support of organized, publicly funded day care centres to facilitate working mothers.
However, only a few day care centres in the country are publicly funded.
Although this much needed attention brought about improvement in the quality of facilities and
training of personnel at the time, there was no national focus on curriculum for birth to three-year-olds, and
institutions operated independently of each other in this regard. The situation with regard to curriculum for
birth to three-year-olds remains the same today, in spite of the growing recognition of the importance of
the first three years of a child’s development, and the variety of programme models that now exist, such as
centre-based programmes, home-based nurseries, and other early stimulation programmes. The re-design
of the curriculum will result in the development of the first national early childhood curriculum for birth
to three-year-olds, and a revised curriculum for the four and five-year-olds.
The Jamaica Early Childhood Curriculum for Children Birth to Five Years is comprised of four
Document 1 is the Conceptual Framework which outlines the purpose, rationale and guiding philosophical
principles of the curriculum and also the developmental goals and learning outcomes desired for Jamaican
children. It provides the rationale for the development of the curriculum guide for birth to three years,
and the review of the four- and five-year curricula. A synopsis of child development theories that have
influenced the curriculum development process is presented in the Appendix.
Document 2 is the Scope and Sequence which comprises the developmental objectives that children would
be expected to achieve by the end of each age phase. The document is divided into two parts.
Part I – For children Birth to Three Years. Part II – For children Four and Five Years. The development
of skills in the four (4) developmental domains – cognitive, affective, creative and psychomotor – are
reflected in the learning outcomes within this document. The learning outcomes are detailed under the
headings: wellness; effective communication; valuing culture; intellectual empowerment; respect for self,
others and the environment; and resilience.
Document 3 is the Curriculum Guide which early childhood practitioners will use in the planning,
preparation and implementation of daily programme activities. The guide is divided into two parts.
Part 1 – Birth to Three is Key presents foundation curriculum for the birth to age three stage. It explains
the developmentally appropriate concepts, skills and activities for children at this stage. Part II – Four and
Five: Getting Ready for Life builds on this foundation, and includes important elements of appropriate
curriculum for the four and five year olds. The component parts and structure of the curriculum are
explained in each guide to facilitate easy interpretation and use by practitioners. Also included are aspects
of daily curriculum implementation processes such as scheduling the day, thematic unit planning and
lesson planning, organizing for instruction, and helpful strategies for practitioners and parents.
Document 4 is the Resource Book which acts as a supplement to the Curriculum Guide and provides
additional developmentally appropriate activities for the various age groups.
The Dudley Grant Memorial Trust, as the lead coordinating agency for the national Early Childhood
Curriculum Project, wishes to acknowledge with great appreciation the contribution and hard work of all
the participating individuals, groups and agencies.
The task involved the revision of the existing curriculum guide for the four- and five-year-old age
groups and the development of a guide for the birth to three-year-old age cohorts. Development of the
supporting documents such as the Scope and Sequence and the Conceptual Framework for the age-range
birth to five years was also a vital part of the process.
Many Early Childhood professionals have contributed to the development of these documents. While
it would be difficult to mention everyone by name, we must acknowledge some key individuals and
groups who made significant inputs into the production of the documents.
We acknowledge the leadership, coordination and curriculum writing contributions of Dr. Rose Davies,
Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Education, University of the West Indies and chief consultant to the
We thank especially the following outstanding contributors:
• Mrs. Joyce Jarrett for her vision and enormous generosity in sharing her time and expertise in the
revision and development of the birth to two-year-old section of the Curriculum Guide;
• Mrs. Eugena Robinson for her significant contribution in the development of the Curriculum Guide;
• Dr Donna Chin Fatt for her special contribution in reviewing the Scope and Sequence document and
writing aspects of the Curriculum Guide;
• Mrs. Lorna Thompson for her commitment, leadership and expertise in the areas of curriculum
development and numeracy;
• Mrs. Jennifer Silvera for her commitment, contribution and expertise in the area of literacy;
• The Education Officers and Administrators of the Ministry of Education, in particular partners in
the Early Childhood Resource Centres and in the Early Childhood, Core Curriculum and Special
• The parents, early childhood practitioners and children who provided pictures and gave valuable
feedback throughout the pilot phase of the curriculum development process.
• The Early Childhood Commission; HEART/NCT-VET; Social Conflict and Legal Reform Project;
UNICEF; McCam Child Development Centre; Shortwood, Sam Sharpe and St. Joseph’s Teachers’
Colleges; Ministry of Health; PALS; CHASE Fund and the Barita Foundation;
• Members of the George Brown College, Toronto, Canada for their assistance in reviewing the
• Members of the Review Teams for their guidance and time;
• Members of the Lead Group for their leadership in, dedication and commitment to the process;
• Members of the Technical Monitoring Committee for their support and leadership.
1 INTRODUCTION TO THE
EARLY CHILDHOOD CURRICULUM
Purpose and Definition of Curriculum
A curriculum acts as a dynamic force in the development of young children and must be reviewed
periodically to remain relevant and effective in preparing children for life in a rapidly changing world.
Current early childhood curriculum practices throughout the world are increasingly influenced by new
knowledge emerging from the growing body of research on brain development and early learning, and the
type of learning environments that best promote children’s development and learning in ways that are age
The primary purpose of the early childhood curriculum is to provide a ‘blueprint’ or ‘master plan’
of the why, what and how of care giving and teaching based on a philosophy of how children develop and
learn. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) [USA] defines curriculum
as “an organized framework that delineates the content children are to learn, the processes through which
children achieve the identified curricular goals, what teachers do to help children achieve these goals and
the context in which teaching and learning occur” (NAEYC, 1991, cited in Catron and Allen, 2003).
The effective curriculum provides specific guidance that gives clear direction to the user but
allows for flexibility in adapting to special situations as needed. A written curriculum document generally
incorporates the guiding philosophy of the programme; goals, learning objectives and desired outcomes
for children’s development; teaching/learning activities incorporating appropriate content knowledge;
examples of supporting resources; assessment strategies; and guidelines for planning the learning
environment and relating positively with children.
Rationale for the Curriculum
Recent research studies on the development of the human brain highlight the fact that the early years are
the most important for the “wiring” or building of brain capacity. The “wiring” of the brain is affected by
the environmental circumstances in which children develop from birth and continues through the early
years. Nutrition, health, physical care, relationships with parents or caregivers, and the level of mental
stimulation received are some of the environmental factors that can affect the building of brain capacity.
The more stimulating the environment and experiences that children are exposed to, the more likely
they are to develop greater brain capacity. Research also shows that inadequate care and stimulation
or stressful and traumatic experiences can undermine or impair a child’s brain function, given that
under-stimulated brain cells thin out and are lost over time. Children from poor families living in
deprived surroundings are those most at risk of having underdeveloped brains. However, international
studies have shown that deprived children, when they have the benefit of good early childhood programmes,
achieve cognitive gains on par with their better-off peers. The quality of the curriculum offered in early
childhood programmes is a major factor in determining developmental outcomes for children.
This curriculum is designed to promote and support children’s development in a broad range of
programme types for children birth to five years in the various early childhood institutions (day care
centres, basic, infant, and private preparatory schools as well as kindergarten departments). Basic schools
account for the largest proportion of the over 98% coverage rate among the three- to five-year-olds enrolled
in pre-primary institutions in Jamaica. It is widely known that these basic schools cater to the country’s
most disadvantaged children. Day care facilities cover a much smaller percentage (approximately 15%)
of the eligible children in the birth to 36-month age group. The quality of care delivered in many day care
centres varies with the cost charged for the service. Families with fewer economic challenges enrol their
children in higher quality and more costly private day care facilities, while families with greater challenges
use less expensive facilities where the quality may not be as good, given the generally strong emphasis on
providing mainly custodial care. For all of the above reasons, this new curriculum embraces the concept of
holistic development for all young children including those with special developmental challenges, within
enriching learning environments that promote developmentally appropriate practices.
Considerations Influencing the Curriculum Development and Design
Four important considerations have guided the development and design of this curriculum. These include
the need to:
1. provide early childhood practitioners with a curriculum guide that is current, based on
sound principles of child development and learning, easy to understand and interpret for easy
transfer of knowledge into practice;
2. emphasize holistic development and integrated curriculum approaches that allow children
to express themselves creatively, using all their senses to acquire new knowledge, skills and
competencies and engage in independent learning;
3. provide an enriching learning environment that can significantly reduce or eliminate the
disparities that are apparent among children from different socio-economic backgrounds
when they reach the Grade 1 level;
4. emphasize and reinforce pro-social cultural values and practices that are important to
children, their families and the wider community.
An effective curriculum is characterized by the “rightness” of fit between several elements:
children’s needs and interests; parental values and expectations; teacher characteristics and abilities;
and community traditions and culture. The curriculum design therefore must take into account the
special characteristics of:
a. the children who will benefit from it;
b. the early childhood practitioners who will implement it;
c. the learning environment (indoor and outdoor) within which it will be implemented;
d. the parents and community who will support it;
e. the lessons learned from international models of best practices in early childhood development.
This curriculum is designed for use with children from all social strata of the Jamaican society. It seeks
to reinforce and build on the developmental and behavioural strengths that Jamaican children have been
shown to have. Research done on Jamaican children (Grantham-McGregor and Back, 1971) shows that
motor skills development occurs earlier and is more advanced than for equivalent peer groups of children
in the U.S.A. Jamaican children, from a fairly early age, demonstrate a high level of motor coordination
and physical prowess in walking, running, dancing and other physical activities.
Opportunities should be provided in the daily curriculum activities to practise and refine these skills to
the highest level of achievement within the ability range for respective age groups. Research has also
shown that compared to children in the U.S.A., Jamaican children are generally more self-reliant (taking
care of self, going on errands
independently, etc.) at an
earlier age and are more
advanced in some cognitive
tasks, such as learning
mathematics and reading,
than their American peers
(Samms-Vaughan, 2004). The
curriculum should therefore
aim not only to compensate
for weaknesses in children’s
development and learning,
but also to simultaneously
identify and reinforce the
strengths that they naturally possess.
The early childhood practitioners
Generally, the practitioners who will use this curriculum are better trained than their counterparts of earlier
years. In the present early childhood system, practitioners range in age from 18 to 60-plus years and their
Playing with balls at an early age helps in gross motor development
skills and abilities range from pre-trained to many years of experience as trained teachers. The practitioners’
understanding and interpretation of the curriculum is critical to its effective implementation. They must
understand and agree with the underlying philosophy of the curriculum and have adequate knowledge
of child development and of how children learn. Therefore, this curriculum is presented in a format to
facilitate understanding, interpretation and transfer into practice by the least experienced among its users.
The guiding philosophy, goals and approaches to practice are clearly outlined and will serve as a guide for
training practitioners to use the curriculum. A practitioner’s attitude and behaviour are critical influences
on the achievement of curriculum goals, as it is the quality of the adult’s interaction and relationship with
children that promotes the young child’s emotional well-being and positive sense of self. This aspect of
developmentally appropriate practice is strongly emphasized in the curriculum.
The learning environment
Conditions in Jamaican early childhood settings vary in quality, depending on the resource base of the
facility. Local research studies have noted inadequacy of appropriate play equipment (indoor and outdoor)
and teaching/learning materials as two major weaknesses of many Jamaican early childhood programmes
(McDonald and Brown, 1993). In addition, large groups and crowded spaces do not allow much opportunity
for children to move about freely and independently to pursue their individual interests. These circumstances
may frustrate practitioners, the children and the achievement of the overall curriculum goals. For example,
curriculum emphasis on independent and self-directed learning demands a wide array
Preschoolers enjoy exploring the outdoor environment
of equipment and materials from which children from as early as a few months old, can make individual
choices and engage in meaningful, independent learning. A practitioner attempting to achieve this objective
might be completely frustrated when faced with severe limitations of materials and cramped environmental
conditions. This curriculum is designed for easy adaptation to varied early childhood learning settings,
as most of the activities included require low-cost materials that can be collected easily and transformed
into valuable teaching/learning aids. Emphasis is also placed on making use of the “great outdoors” that
attract children so naturally, as well as adapting and making the best use of available indoor space to
accommodate meaningful, developmentally appropriate activities and experiences.
The curriculum places emphasis on development of appropriate skills at the infant and toddler stages
and on enhancing the preschool child’s total development and readiness for primary school. Practitioners
should therefore provide warm, caring and stimulating learning environments that engage children in
The parents and community
Parents are the child’s first and most important teachers, hence, a significant feature of effective early
childhood programmes is the strong partnership that exists between early childhood practitioners and
the parents. Research has shown that the stronger the level of parent involvement in a programme, the
greater the benefits to the child. Positive relationships and interaction between parents and practitioners
help to build trust and to make children, in particular infants, secure and supported in the group setting
as both parties work together in the best interest of the child. Jamaican parents generally place a high
value on early education for their children. Among poor families, adults believe it is especially important
for children to achieve academically in order to have a chance of becoming more successful than they,
the parents. Although Jamaican parents are becoming more sensitized to the value of play in the early
years, they are still more inclined to support early childhood programmes that benefit their children’s
development overall, but are also strong in advancing the academic skills. This curriculum strives to
maintain an appropriate balance in the importance placed on children’s development in all the domains
of learning, in keeping with its underlying philosophy of developing the whole child. Emphasis is also
placed on increasing parents’ understanding of and support for the curriculum process by encouraging
active involvement in their children’s learning from infancy onward.
Lessons learned from international models of best practices in early childhood
An additional source of influence on the design and development of the curriculum derives from lessons
learned from a review of early childhood development theoretical perspectives and of local and international
programme models exemplifying developmentally appropriate practices. These lessons are integral to the
nine fundamental principles of the curriculum and are summarized below.
• Play is central to curriculum practice, allowing children to be active learners, interacting with a
wide variety of materials and engaging with projects and learning centres in the process. Varied
approaches to play and different methods of learning are encouraged, with information technology
as a visible part of the process.
• Learning is guided by planned, integrated curriculum with identified developmental outcomes
that are age and stage appropriate and take into account the development of the “whole” child;
the creative and affective skills are highlighted; the invisible and visible curriculum are equally
important and culturally relevant content is emphasized.
• Adults and children share positive, caring relationships; children’s individuality and uniqueness
are acknowledged; children with special developmental needs are fully included; adults serve as
models for children’s learning and skills development and provide scaffolding to help children
advance in their various learning activities.
• Parents and families are approached as important partners in children’s development and learning
• Assessment of children’s learning is appropriate and authentic and involves little or no standardized
2 THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF
Quality in early childhood development is measured by evidence of developmentally appropriate practices
in all aspects of a programme. Developmentally appropriate practices are based on sound theoretical
principles of how children develop and learn. This curriculum is eclectic in approach, in that it weaves
together elements of selected theories of development and internationally acknowledged best practices
in early childhood programming, into a framework that is appropriate to the needs and learning contexts
of Jamaican children in the birth to five age range. The guiding principles of the curriculum and the
theoretical influences are outlined below.
Learning Through Play
Principle #1: Children learn best through their play and interaction with the environment.
(Principal guiding theorists: Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey, Montessori. See Appendix)
Children learn best through play
Play is central to constructivist, developmentally appropriate curriculum practices as it is during play
that children engage in “hands-on” interaction with objects and act out real life experiences. As young
children of different ages manipulate things, interact with people and participate in various events, they
are able to engage in critical thinking and construct their own understandings and knowledge of the world.
During play, children refine their motor skills, learn how to deal with their own feelings and emotions,
think critically about a range of new experiences, interact sociably with others and resolve conflicts in
appropriate ways. Children also develop their imagination and creativity as they experiment, discover and
dramatize what they see happening around them.
Infants enjoy interactive play and develop a sense of security with the caregiver
Play is the main vehicle through which children integrate knowledge in a meaningful way, learn selfexpression
and gain a sense of competence. Play is enjoyable activity and therefore fosters a positive
disposition and love of learning in children. The activities outlined in this curriculum represent a rich
resource of developmentally appropriate ideas that practitioners can use to interest and engage children in
learning through play.
Principle #2: Children develop and learn in an orderly sequence, moving from simple to more
complex knowledge and skills and they do so at their own individual pace and timing.
(Principal guiding theorists: Gessell, Piaget, Montessori. See Appendix)
Children grow in a predictable and sequenced way. Changes take place in the different domains (physical,
affective, cognitive, creative) in a similar pattern for all children throughout the world. However, different
cultures might attach different meanings to these changes and respond differently to them. For example,
some cultures might interpret the typical behaviour of the “terrible twos” as “bad” behaviour that must
be punished and controlled early, while other cultures are more tolerant and permissive of children at
that stage. The developmentally appropriate curriculum is guided by a scope and sequence framework of
the skills children develop at different stages from birth to age five years, and the appropriate level and
sequence of content they can learn from the traditional knowledge disciplines. Children are introduced
to these skills and content as appropriate for their age and stage of development. Recognition is also
given to the fact that children are individuals with their own timing and pace of development. Not all
babies, toddlers and preschoolers demonstrate the same level of skills and knowledge expected for their
age. Some may be more advanced than their average peer group and others less so. Therefore, activities
provided should move from simple to complex and from the known to the unknown. The curriculum
makes allowance both for children who are gifted and developmentally challenged.
Principle # 3: The individual child’s needs, interests, style and pace of learning must be respected and
not sacrificed to group demands. (Principal guiding theorists: Erikson, Dewey, Vygotsky,
Gardner, DAP Framework. See Appendix)
Although, universally, children follow the same recognizable stages with typical behavioural patterns of
development, there is wide variation in the actual age at which the individual child arrives at each successive
stage. Each child is a unique individual who enters the world with a different mix of genetic ability,
personality, temperament, learning style (Intelligences) and pace of development. Gardner’s Multiple
Intelligences theory (see Appendix) suggests that children learn in different ways and have different
strengths. They learn through response to music, visual stimulation, physical activity and intellectual
exercise. Furthermore, each child experiences different conditions of growing up within families and
communities. Each child who enrols in an early childhood programme, therefore, comes with differences
in his or her individual strengths, needs, interests, family background, values and demands.
Toddlers are provided the opportunity to choose their activities
A developmentally appropriate programme supports individuality and makes plans to ensure that children
are not always subject to the considerations of the large group. This is particularly important in day care
settings. Therefore group size and adult-to-child ratio should be maintained at a level that allows the adult
to give the individualized attention that each child requires on a daily basis.
The learning environment provides a range of activities appropriate to the developmental levels
of individual children, so that their needs can be addressed. The child should be made to feel accepted
for who he or she is and should never be compared to others or pressured to achieve beyond his or her
natural ability. Some practitioners work in challenging circumstances with more children in a group than
is desirable. However, in such circumstances, making each child feel that he or she is a special individual
is not an impossible task. Getting to know each child well allows the practitioner to devote time relative
to a child’s particular need. Some children are happy with a simple acknowledging touch or smile from
the adult, whereas others need further reassuring hugs and conversation. Recognizing and responding to
children’s individual needs is particularly important for young infants, toddlers and children with special
developmental and learning needs. Also, practitioners must be mindful of the gender differences in how
children learn, their interests and performance levels. They must be sensitive to the difference in the
learning needs and styles of boys (who generally tend to have lower achievement rates than girls) and try
to keep them focused and motivated to learn. However, girls and boys alike must be encouraged to pursue
their individual interests and engage in learning activities without the limitations imposed by gender
The Practitioners’ Multiple Roles
Principle # 4: Children thrive and learn best in environments with warm, nurturing and caring adults
who perform a variety of roles to ensure that children grow and develop healthily and
feel safe, respected, loved and happy.
(Principal guiding theorists: Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson, DAP Guidelines. See
Practitioners who work in early childhood settings have a critical role to play in helping children achieve
the developmental goals and outcomes as outlined in the curriculum. This is so because children receive
significant messages from adults in seemingly simple ways such as: how adults position themselves to
speak to children; how adults interact with children during routines or learning periods and transitions; how
adults respond to children’s efforts and how adults make them feel about themselves. The more positively
children are made to feel about themselves, the more likely they are to achieve their developmental goals.
Early childhood practitioners perform many different roles as discussed below.
The early childhood practitioner must have a love for and enjoy being with children, as his or her key
role is to be a nurturer of children. Young children need to be touched, hugged, cuddled and rocked
appropriately in order to feel loved, comforted or reassured. This is particularly important at the infant
and toddler stages, as new research evidence points to the positive effects of touch on children’s early
social-emotional development (Carlson, 2006). Adult nurturers must model what “good touches” are by
the genuine and positive ways in which they physically respond to young children in their care.
It is important to have practitioners who are sensitive to the needs of children
Protector and planner
Children thrive best in environments in which they feel protected and safe. Protecting children’s best
interests go hand in hand with planning. The practitioner has to be a planner who organizes and arranges
the physical environment to ensure children’s safety at all times. The practitioner plans the daily schedule
so that children have adequate time to interact with a variety of play materials, learn and carry out personal
and self-help tasks as they are able, benefit from rest and nourishing meals, engage in self-selected and
independent play activities and participate in periods of organized play or systematic instruction as
appropriate for age. The practitioner also has to be able to plan appropriate physical spaces and provide
interesting and developmentally appropriate materials and props to support learning through play at the
different stages of development. These are aimed at developing the critical readiness skills needed to
succeed in later schooling.
Facilitator and observer
The practitioner should be a facilitator and supporter of children’s learning. Although we know that
children can learn much on their own, adults sometimes have to intervene, especially if children’s
natural curiosity and initiative have not been sufficiently stimulated. The practitioner must be a
keen observer of children in order to know their individual levels of ability and what activities do
or do not challenge them.
The practitioner must be able to achieve a balance between helping children too much and helping
them too little as they engage in their different activities. Being able to “scaffold” children’s learning
means being able to detect when a child has the potential to reach the next level of understanding with
a little help, and providing that help to the child. For instance, the adult can demonstrate to a child how
to carry out a particular task that poses a challenge, then allow him or her to practise the skill until it is
mastered, as opposed to leaving the child to struggle alone to the point of frustration and abandonment of
the task. The observant practitioner identifies the “teachable” moments during children’s play, by asking
a question or introducing an idea that can help children to achieve higher levels of thinking and learning.
The practitioner facilitates children’s play and learning by also being playful. Children enjoy when their
adult caregivers can share some humour, laugh and have fun with them.
As guide, the practitioner helps children learn how to manage their emotions and behave in pro-social
ways by adopting a positive guidance approach. In the process of growing up and maturing, children make
many mistakes and misjudgments in their conduct and many of these are interpreted as “mis” behaviour.
Toddlerhood is a particularly challenging time when the child’s desire for independence comes into conflict
with the adults’ charge to protect him/her from danger. Practitioners will need to show understanding and
patience and try to divert the toddler’s attention from undesirable activities or behaviours. As children
grow and become more mature, they will continue to need positive guidance from patient, caring and
respectful adults, who will listen to, reason with and explain to them the course of action to be taken when
they make mistakes. Physical punishment of children is illegal in early childhood institutions according
to the Early Childhood Act 2005. The purpose of the positive guidance approach is to help children build
internal controls that will help them to behave appropriately without external punishments and threats
from an adult. The role of guide also extends to helping children learn to cope when they face stressful
and frightening situations. In addition to regular family difficulties such as divorce or death of a parent
or close relative, other stressful experiences result from the dislocation caused by natural disasters such
as hurricanes, flooding and earthquakes. Violence is also a significant stress factor on young Jamaican
children. The practitioner can help children to cope with their challenges by providing the necessary play
props that they can use to act out their particular experiences. For example, if a child’s parent or close
relative has to be hospitalized for injury caused by violence, accident or a natural disaster, props that
children can use to engage in “hospital” play will help them to act out their fears about the situation and
be better able to cope with it.
The practitioner’s role as communicator involves speaking with, speaking about and speaking for (on behalf
of) children. Many young children entering preschools are fluent in Jamaican Creole (patois). English is
the language of education and business in Jamaica, hence one of the primary goals of education at all
levels is for children to achieve some level of proficiency in using the English language. In communicating
with children, this situation presents certain challenges, as in some instances the use of Jamaican Creole
is frowned upon by some adults and children are constantly corrected in their speech. Children will only
develop confidence in self-expression if they feel that the way they speak is respected. The practitioner can
encourage children to express their feelings, opinions and needs, and must affirm their use of Creole if
that is what the children are most comfortable with. However, the practitioner also has a responsibility to
teach children Standard Jamaican English speech patterns and expressions that are the equivalent of those
used in the home language, by consistently modeling speech patterns that they want children to learn.
Practitioners should refrain from using “baby talk” with infants as they are able to understand adult forms
of language long before they can speak it themselves.
Learning how to speak with children is also a skill that practitioners must develop. Adults should
speak to children in very clear, simple statements that emphasize what they “can” do rather than what they
“cannot” do. For example, “Please walk when you are inside the classroom” is a more positive statement
than “Don’t run in the classroom”. During communication between adults and children, children will
know that their feelings and views are respected when adults position themselves at the child’s eye level.
The adult should also maintain eye contact and focus intently on what the child is saying, or on what they
are saying to the child.
Practitioners sometimes need to speak for children, not only to advocate for them or defend their
rights, but to help them to express what they want to say when they are not able to. Sometimes when
toddlers throw tantrums, they do so because of the built-up frustration of not being able to express what
they want to say in words. Practitioners play a vital role when they speak for a child by saying in words
what they think the child is feeling at a particular moment. Over time, this strategy helps children to learn
how to express their feelings in acceptable ways.
The practitioner can help the child learn to communicate by encouraging him or her to speak
about his or her work. For example, when a child does a drawing or painting, the practitioner should allow
the child to describe what he or she has done. The practitioner should never judge the quality of a child’s
production, but should give positive feedback on the effort. When adults speak about children or their
work it should be with honesty, since children can tell when comments are honest. If a child does not have
trust in the adults who care for them, behavioural problems are likely to arise.
Practitioners can pass on valuable knowledge, values and attitudes to children through their role as
communicators. They can convey attitudes of national pride by the way they talk about Jamaica’s strengths
such as music and sports, and engage children in discussions about national heroes and famous Jamaican
musicians, sportsmen and sportswomen and other local heroes. Practitioners can also model inclusive
behaviours by communicating attitudes of tolerance and kindness toward persons who are different in any
way or who are from different cultural backgrounds. The role of communicator can be effectively used to
help children come to value themselves, their country and their cultural heritage.
Inclusion of All Children
Principle # 5: The curriculum ensures that the rights of all children, including those with special
needs, are fully respected and appropriate adaptations made where necessary to ensure
inclusion of all children in all activities. (Principal guiding theorists: Piaget, Vygotsky,
Montessori, Gardner. See Appendix)
Jamaica’s legislative framework for the operation of early childhood facilities supports full integration
of children with special needs into regular programmes, according to the Early Childhood Act 2005. The
law requires that all new early childhood facilities be built to accommodate children with special needs.
Inclusive early childhood programming recognizes that all children have the right to quality early care and
educational opportunities as mentioned in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
Planning for inclusive programming requires the collaborative efforts of parents, practitioners, medical
and educational specialists working in the interest of the child as an individual. Inclusion means that
young children, whether challenged or gifted, can participate in the same early childhood programme.
Inclusion means that staff and parents together set goals to meet the individual child’s particular
developmental needs and work together in supporting the child to achieve these goals. Inclusion means
making an effort to provide flexible learning environments that can be readily adapted to respond to the
different kinds of developmental challenges or giftedness of young children. Outdoor and indoor play
areas must be made accessible for children with disabilities. Such areas must be designed and arranged to
encourage the children to explore and interact with others.
Inclusion requires that practitioners receive training to increase their knowledge and understanding
of childhood giftedness, disabilities and developmental challenges. They should be able to provide a wide
range of curriculum activities and opportunities that accommodate the interests and needs of all children
within a particular group.
Integrated Curriculum and the Domains of Development
Principle # 6: Children learn best when the curriculum integrates content from various disciplines
and skills from the developmental domains in a way that is consistent with their
holistic view and experience of the world. (Principal guiding theorists: Dewey, Piaget,
Vygotsky, DAP Framework. See Appendix)
The integrated curriculum approach is one in which the developmental goals for children address learning
in all the domains of development. Equal emphasis is placed on the development of personal, socialemotional
skills and spirituality (affective domain), aesthetic/expressive skills (creative domain), intellectual
and language skills (cognitive domain), and fine and gross motor skills (psychomotor domain). All the
domains of development are closely related and inter-connected and the way the child functions in one is
likely to affect how he or she functions in the others. Children who are physically ill or undernourished
are unlikely to feel very good about themselves emotionally and feelings of self-doubt are very likely to
impact negatively on a child’s cognitive and creative functioning.
The figure below provides a graphic illustration of the domains of development relative to the child.
The Domains of Development
(Fine and gross motor
(Intellectual skills )
Skills in the affective domain (social-emotional skills)
Development in the affective domain covers the range of skills children use to cope with their internal
emotional drives and personal needs (intra-personal) and those they use in establishing relationships with
others (interpersonal). Moral and spiritual development also fall within the affective domain.
Intra-personal skills include:
• personal care skills, such as dressing, toileting, and eating, which build feelings of competence
and self confidence;
• persevering at tasks;
• demonstrating resilience to “bounce back” from failure;
• coping effectively with emotional frustration, i.e. learning to control antisocial impulses and
finding acceptable ways of getting what is desired;
• demonstrating confidence in making independent choices and decisions;
• differentiating between right and wrong behaviour;
• taking responsibility for one’s own actions;
• showing appreciation for the natural environment and beauty of the universe.
Interpersonal skills include:
• cooperating with others at play;
• sharing and taking turns;
• sharing in classroom discussions and duties;
• extending help to others when needed;
• showing trust in, respect, sympathy and affection for others;
• respecting the property and rights of self and others;
• showing respect for other persons’ traditions and cultural heritage;
• showing respect for religious worship where required and where there is no conflict with
personal or family beliefs and traditions;
• showing respect for others who may be different in any way.
Skills in the creative domain (the aesthetic skills)
In the curriculum, fostering children’s creativity is given special focus and is recognized as a special
domain of development to ensure balance with the cognitive domain. This does not mean, however,
that creativity is not an inherent aspect of all the other domains as well. For example, children express
themselves spontaneously and effectively through speech, when they make up rhymes and verses; through
dance, when they use their bodies to imitate or represent various formations of human, plant and animal
life; through drama, when they portray happenings and events in their environment, as well as their own
personal experiences and inner moods and feelings. Through their interaction with technology and by
using computers and other multimedia children may make designs, enhance story-telling or create songs
and rhymes. In addition when children solve problems in the cognitive domain, they are also demonstrating
critical thinking by the creative use of their intellect.
Skills in the cognitive domain (intellectual skills)
In this domain, children learn the skills that help them to organize and make logical sense of the world.
These skills involve using all the senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, to perceive and
process information and come to understand the meaning of things, events and relationships. Cognitive
skills involve mental activities such as critical thinking, matching and discriminating, ordering (seriation),
imitating, sorting and classifying, understanding and interpreting. Language development is usually
associated with the cognitive domain as it involves much mental activity. Children gradually learn
language by listening, imitating sounds, deciphering meaning, speaking and producing relevant sounds in
context. Language is best learned by the young child in “language-rich” and “print-rich” environments.
The youngest infant responds to words and sounds with a turn of the head even when she or he is unable to
reproduce an equivalent sound. The more interaction children have with language, the more quickly they
will learn to understand and use it. The language that is used by the child is called expressive language,
while the language that is understood by the child is called receptive language. The integrated curriculum
approach provides numerous opportunities for children to practise and develop their cognitive skills as
they acquire and relate new information about their environment.
Skills in the psychomotor domain (fine and gross motor skills)
Physical development is a very important aspect of young children’s growth and maturation. It is most often
associated with a child’s good health even though we know that mental and emotional health are equally
important indicators of total well-being. Development in the psychomotor domain involves learning to
coordinate gross and fine motor movements and demonstrating physical capabilities appropriate to the
child’s stage of development. Fine motor development is of particular significance in helping children
acquire the readiness skills for literacy and numeracy competence. Many of the skill areas of the creative
and physical-motor domains overlap, such as dance, movement and physical exercise. Overlapping of
activities of the different domains is a characteristic feature of the integrated curriculum. Children from
birth onward must have opportunities to engage their muscles while developing their gross and fine motor
skills through play in well-planned spaces, both outdoors and indoors.
Integrated learning for infants, toddlers and preschoolers
For infants and young toddlers, integrated learning happens every moment that they manipulate and interact
with age-appropriate play materials, engage in simple games with playmates and adults, and have any
sensory experiences. Older toddlers and preschoolers can begin to appreciate learning through exploration
of interesting themes and projects that are meaningful to them. The integrated thematic approach is widely
used in early childhood curriculum practice as it makes the curriculum more meaningful for young children.
“Integration is a strategy that allows learners to explore, interpret, and engage in activities surrounding a
topic within their range of experience while drawing on goals from one or more subject matter disciplines”
(Krogh and Morehouse, 2008). This curriculum supports the integrated thematic approach for toddlers
and preschoolers as it enables children to make meaningful connections across the subject disciplines and
advance their skills in the developmental domains. For example, from the theme “Transportation”, children
are exposed to social studies concepts about the many ways people can travel, including by foot, bicycle,
truck, car, plane, boat and using animals. The children can practise their sorting skills by putting models or
pictures of vehicles in groups such as ‘trucks’ or ‘cars’. At the same time, they strengthen their language
skills in speaking, listening,
identifying letters, and describing
and interpreting pictures relevant to
the theme. They become acquainted
with mathematical non-numeral
concepts such as “bigger than” or
“longer than”, and can practise the
skill of counting and understanding
numbers, e.g. 1 steering wheel, 2
windshield wipers, 4 wheels, etc.
Science concepts might include
speed or movement of vehicles, or
push and pull. Creative activities
could involve dance, music, drama,
and the visual arts, by relating to the
different modes of transportation.
Meal time provides opportunity for integrated learning
The integrated approach to learning is interesting and engaging for young children as it is in
keeping with their holistic view of the world. In summary, this approach to curriculum is developmentally
appropriate for use with young children as it:
• helps children make the connections and linkages across traditional subject disciplines and thus
subscribes to the holistic nature of knowledge about the world;
• promotes children’s active involvement in planning and implementing curriculum activities;
• makes allowance for a range of activities, skills and levels of performance as children engage in
exploring various themes;
• lends itself to many opportunities for children’s creative expressions, allowing for individual
learning styles and multiple intelligences;
• facilitates the flow of meaningful activities across blocks of time in the daily schedule. Scheduling
that supports integrated learning is organized in large blocks of time rather than in the short
periods used in the subject-based curriculum approach.
Children can pursue more meaningful learning when they are able to complete a task and not be
forced to endure regular transitions from one discrete lesson to another, such as leaving a science
lesson unfinished to move on to a mathematics lesson.
Thematic curriculum content
Although it is important to emphasize the development of critical skills in the different domains at the
early childhood stage, children can and should learn valuable content and concepts about things and
events that are relevant to their daily lives. In the birth to twenty-four months curriculum the emphasis
is on providing non-thematic activities focused on the development of different skills. In the curriculum
for the two- to five-year-olds, children are appropriately introduced to thematic integrated curriculum
units. Appropriate coverage must be given to the content so that it increases children’s awareness about
their world, their country and culture, and enhances their sense of well-being and self-empowerment.
The selection of curriculum content must take into account what children need to know to become selfsufficient,
to take care of and manage themselves appropriately and confidently in different situations that
they will encounter. In this curriculum, topics on Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) aim to promote
positive attitudes, healthy habits and good nutrition practices as well as to increase children’s awareness
of threats to their health and safety. Information on eating habits, child abuse, violence prevention, HIV/
AIDS, water, sanitation, hygiene and the like will be carefully and appropriately interwoven into thematic
content so that children can effectively receive the messages intended. Content is also incorporated to
increase children’s knowledge of special features of their country and people, such as tourism, protecting
their environment, and living harmoniously with others.
The Learning Environment
Principle # 7: Effective early childhood learning environments are planned and organized to
provide good balance in the children’s learning activities and to encourage children
to pursue their individual interests as they interact with developmentally appropriate
materials in a non-threatening environment. (Principal guiding theorists: Montessori,
Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, DAP Framework. See Appendix)
Developmentally appropriate learning environments
Understanding the elements of practice that are represented in the term “developmentally appropriate”
is a critical requirement for the practitioners who will implement this curriculum, as it is their practices
in working with children that ultimately create the quality learning environments that are supportive of
developmentally appropriate practices. In this curriculum, the term “learning environment” refers to
all elements of the environment, both the visible and invisible elements, that influence children’s wellbeing
and ability to learn. The visible elements include the learning materials and range of activities
and routines planned for children, such as the balance between indoor and outdoor activities; quiet and
energetic activities; adult-initiated and child-initiated activities; and individual, small-group, and largegroup
activities. The visible elements also include the arrangement of the physical environment and the
approaches to assessment of children’s progress, such as teachers’ observations, portfolios, checklists and
the like. The invisible elements, by definition, are those that are not as obvious to the untrained eye, but
are indeed very important in terms of their effect on children. The role of the adults in setting the socialemotional
climate is perhaps the most critical aspect of the invisible element of the learning environment.
Also included in this category are the relationships with parents, and the strategies for managing and
guiding children’s behaviour.
Developmentally appropriate curriculum practice is supported by learning environments that:
• are child-centred and child- and parent-friendly;
• foster children’s active exploration and discovery through play and interaction with a wide variety
• support holistic, integrated curriculum practices;
• allow children to learn at their own pace and in their own style (but with close supervision and
monitoring by the practitioner to facilitate individual development planning as necessary);
• facilitate children’s acquisition of critical readiness skills required for success in later learning;
• include warm, loving adults to guide and nurture children;
• enable children to develop positive self-concepts and high self-esteem;
• enable children to develop intrinsic discipline and self-control;
• provide many opportunities for children to use their critical thinking skills;
• allow children to express their tremendous creativity in a variety of ways that are not gender
• support children’s development of personal and interpersonal skills as they interact with peers and
• are conducive to children making the transition from one developmental learning stage to another;
• allow children to communicate effectively in both their home language and English.
Learning environments for infants and toddlers
Infants and toddlers need physical environments that are well ventilated, attractive, colourful, hygienic
and safe. The floor space should be clean and adequate for lying, rolling over, crawling and walking. Only
when they are asleep should children be confined to cribs and sleeping areas. Play materials should be age
appropriate, safe and clean, since babies will naturally put these in their mouths as their way of learning
about the things they encounter around them.
Toddlers are more independent and move about with high energy as they get accustomed to using
their limbs and bodies more skillfully. Their natural drive towards autonomy leads to increased interest in
self-determined activities. The supportive environment provides both space for toddlers to practise their
gross motor skills freely as well as toys and play equipment to satisfy these needs. Materials and toys in
the toddler environment should be organized on low, accessible shelves in order to encourage children to
make their own decisions and choices about their play interests. Interest areas such as block area, book
area, quiet corner with soft toys and cushions, and table-top activities should be established to encourage
children to explore, investigate, experiment and discover on their own. In working with children at this
stage, practitioners must demonstrate attitudes of love, patience, kindness, helpfulness and encouragement
towards the children in their care.
Learning environments for preschoolers
For the three- to five-year-old age group, the curriculum promotes the concept of interest or learning areas
as a way of providing children with interesting hands-on activities and integrated learning opportunities
through which they can develop initiative and learn concepts and skills in mathematics, science, social
studies, the arts, literacy and technology. Interest areas are designated for activities with a special focus.
The range of interest areas available for children to learn from depends on factors such as physical
classroom space, availability of appropriate materials and equipment, practitioner resourcefulness and
interest, among others. Some interest areas frequently provided in preschool classrooms include: home,
shop, market, manipulative toys, blocks, library, science, discovery, music/sounds, art and construction,
sand play, water play, computers, and special interest areas that are seasonal, e.g. celebrations, festivals
and the like. Where space is limited in a learning setting, the practitioner must decide on how many
interest areas can be comfortably accommodated at the same time in order to avoid overcrowded and
Learning corners need to be attractively arranged with objects/materials
that are relevant to the theme and are age appropriate
Practitioners can make creative adaptations to the environment to allow for at least three interest areas at a
time to be available. These can be changed periodically. The excuse of “lack of space” is not an acceptable
reason for not providing children with interest areas in the learning setting. There are many creative ways
by which this objective can be achieved and practitioners should aim to apply them consistently.
Special considerations for adapting the learning environment
Practitioners must understand the developmental stages in children and be able to detect any disabilities
they may have. Therefore, practitioners should adopt flexible classroom strategies to accommodate
children with special needs and who, increasingly, are being mainstreamed into regular classrooms. All
young children must be treated as children first and not in relation to any special needs they may have.
Care should be taken to provide or appropriately adjust furniture and some equipment to encourage these
children to participate in exploring, interacting and solving problems.
Children with special needs should not be made to feel excluded from regular activities because of
their physical or other limitations. A variety of play materials should be provided or equipment adapted to
meet the needs of all the children. Time should be taken to support and facilitate the children’s use of these
materials. In addition, play areas should be made accessible to all children.
“An individualized, integrated early childhood programme enables all young children to learn from
each other, from caring adults, and from the environment in order to grow in all areas of development.”
(Catron & Allen, 2008).
Assessment in Early Childhood
Principle # 8: Assessment of children should be carried out for the primary purpose
of providing adults with the information they need to plan more appropriately for
children’s ongoing development and should involve strategies that support rather than
threaten children’s feelings of self-esteem. (Principal guiding theorists: Montessori,
DAP Framework, Vygotsky, Piaget. See Appendix)
Assessment of curriculum effectiveness is an integral aspect of early childhood programmes. Developmental
goals and learning outcomes are set for children and these must be monitored to see how well they are being
achieved. Continuous assessment helps the practitioners to know the children’s level of development at
the beginning of a programme year, and informs them on a continuous basis of the children’s progress and
achievements. Assessment also increases awareness of each child’s specific needs, strengths and learning
difficulties, and this knowledge helps adults to plan effectively.
It is important for the early childhood practitioner to understand the important difference in meaning
of the terms assessment and testing. Assessment is an essential feature of curriculum and instruction and
involves a process of observing, recording, and documenting the work children do and how they do it,
as a basis for making educational decisions for the individual child. There are many forms or methods of
assessment that a practitioner may choose depending on the children’s age range, stages of development
and levels of performance. Testing is only one form of assessment and usually involves a systematic
way of sampling a child’s behaviour and knowledge and awarding a score to these. Best practices in the
assessment of young children support approaches that are continuous, based on children’s performance
in familiar environments, and that engage them in activities with which they are comfortable. At this
developmental stage, testing should not be used as a form of assessment.
In order to encourage practitioners to be consistent in their assessment of children, assessment
processes should be uncomplicated and easily implemented in any group setting. The following are some
methods of assessing children.
• One simple method of assessment is by using a checklist developed from the curriculum
• The practitioners’ observation of the children is also extremely important; this constitutes a form
of continuous assessment. Very busy practitioners can make a determined effort to observe at least
two or three children per day and record what they have observed. Adults can make mental and/or
written anecdotal notes of the behaviours and skills a child demonstrates on a daily basis, as this
provides insight into exactly how the child is coping and developing. The strategy of observation
might include specific activities planned by the practitioner for children to engage in, for assessment
purposes. Observation and recording information are the most appropriate means of following the
development of young infants.
• Portfolios are another valuable assessment method, as they contain children’s work that reflects
their developmental progress over time. A portfolio should be created for each child to record what
he or she has produced.
Assessment processes should not lead children to experience feelings of failure as that will
reduce their sense of self-worth, but should clearly identify a child’s strengths, i.e. what he or she can do.
Assessment procedures should help a child develop the ability to self-evaluate and recognize personal
strengths and weaknesses. The assessment procedures recommended for use in this curriculum (checklist,
observation and recording, portfolios) are simple ones that even the most hard-pressed practitioner can
carry out. This approach will ensure that each child’s progress is assessed and the information recorded.
This type of planning is important to ensure that the important task of continuous assessment is carried
Practitioners are expected to analyze and use the results of assessment to decide whether to
introduce new learning activities or to allow more time for children to develop and acquire the skills and
knowledge previously introduced.
Assessment provides a basis for communicating with parents and for planning strategies for the home
and the early childhood facility, so that they can work together in the children’s interest. The information
communicated to the parents should serve to strengthen parents’ relationship with their children, and help
them to develop realistic expectations of their children’s abilities. Parents can be informed of how they
too can support and assess their children’s learning and development, as well as encourage their children
to evaluate their own emerging skills.
Assessment instruments should be used so that at the end of each year each child has a cumulative
record of his/her developmental progress from the time of entry. This information should accompany the
child on entry to the next level of schooling, as it provides the receiving practitioner with an overall picture
of the child, i.e. cognitive ability, social skills, personality tendencies and adjustment abilities.
Involving Parents and Community
Principle # 9: Children benefit most from early childhood programmes in which practitioners value
and build supportive relationships with parents, families and the community. (Principal
influencing theorists: Piaget, Vygotsky, DAP Framework. See Appendix)
The strength of an early childhood programme often lies in the quality of the relationship between
practitioners and parents. Close collaboration between home and the early childhood facility benefits
children in many ways. When information about a child is shared between parent and practitioner, both
Parental support is vital for effective curriculum delivery
can collaborate more effectively in working with the child to improve areas of weakness. Facilities benefit
from having interested parents who are willing to offer support in various ways, e.g. volunteer for field
trips, share special skills as curriculum resource persons, help to make toys and other learning aids from
‘junk’, among other activities. Maintaining good parent-school relations is not to be taken for granted.
Practitioners must respect parents and families of the children in their charge, and work at maintaining
mutually beneficial relationships with them. Parents generally desire the best care and education for their
children, therefore assumptions should not be made about parents’ ability to participate meaningfully
because of their socio-economic circumstances. Local research (Davies, 2004) has shown that a high level
of parent support and involvement is possible among parents of low socio-economic status, especially
where the practitioners make an effort to work with the parents at building mutually supportive and trusting
The community, too, should be engaged in the important task of raising children, if we draw on the
age-old maxim that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Parents are, by extension, part of the community
surrounding a particular early childhood facility. However, the community extends beyond the parents of
the early childhood facility; many members of the community (such as business people, skilled persons
and other volunteers) should be encouraged to actively support and assist the early childhood facility,
whether on an on-going basis or for specific events. Getting the entire community to support local early
childhood facilities is perhaps the best guarantee that children’s health, development and well-being will
be fully protected.
3. DEVELOPMENTAL GOALS AND
LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN
BIRTH TO FIVE YEARS
Learning Outcomes for Young Children
The goals and learning outcomes are drawn from extensive review of local, regional and internal
curricula as well as the Learning Outcomes for Early Childhood Development in the Caribbean:
Curriculum Resource Guide (Child Focus II Project, 2005). The six learning outcomes are:
1. Wellness – a child who is healthy, strong and well adjusted;
2. Effective communication – a child who understands and makes his or her needs known;
3. Valuing culture – a child who values his/her own culture and that of others;
4. Intellectual empowerment – a child who is a critical thinker and independent learner;
5. Respect for self, others and the environment – a child who respects self, others and the
6. Resilience – a child who has coping skills.
Each learning outcome is supported by a set of developmental goals or learning tasks to be achieved
by the child. The aim of the curriculum is to provide learning activities that will enable each child to
attain these outcomes. Equitable opportunities for learning should be provided irrespective of the child’s
gender, disability, ethnicity or background.
Wellness can be achieved by helping the child to develop:
• physical strength, agility and mastery in using large and small muscles;
• emotional well-being from having a strong sense of belonging, of personal identity and positive
view of self as having competence and personal worth;
• interest in and ability to maintain personal health and protection of self and others;
• ability to assume responsibility for own actions and behaviour;
• ability to accept own abilities, limitations, preferences and potentials.
Effective communication can be achieved by helping the child to develop generally, the ability to listen,
to understand and to use language to communicate with others and to express thinking and problem
solving skills; and more specifically to develop:
• verbal and non-verbal communication skills;
• skills in listening and understanding language as well as expressing thoughts and ideas
• skills in using language creatively;
• literacy skills.
Valuing culture can be achieved by helping children to develop:
• awareness of their own cultural traditions and those of others;
• respect and appreciation for their local and national cultural forms;
• pride in national and regional identity;
• appreciation for international cultural forms.
Intellectual empowerment can be achieved by helping the child to:
• develop curiosity and an ability to explore, discover and make use of the results to increase
knowledge and understanding of the world;
• develop the ability to observe, inquire, notice similarities and differences and organize things
into logical relationships with each other;
• engage in play and other activities that encourage self-initiated learning and problem-solving;
• develop the critical readiness skills necessary to successfully advance to the formal level of
• develop the ability to advance and enrich own learning and competencies through the use of
• develop sensitivity to and appreciation for beauty as well as the ability to express inner feelings
and creative impulses through the aesthetic arts, e.g. dance, music, speech, art and craft.
Respect for self, others and the environment
Respect for self, others and the environment can be achieved by helping the child to develop an
awareness of spiritual and moral values that promote attitudes such as caring, tolerance, dignity, respect
for self and others, self-discipline and a consciousness of right and wrong; and more specifically to:
• demonstrate strong inter-personal skills for effective interaction with peers and adults;
• express empathy to others;
• show love, acceptance of and respect towards self;
• show love, acceptance of and respect toward others;
• establish and build relationships with family and others;
• understand and appreciate the views and feelings of others;
• recognize and respect own feelings, limitations and strengths;
• know what represents acceptable and unacceptable behaviours;
• appreciate, care for and protect the environment.
Resilience can be achieved by helping children to develop strong intra-personal skills that increase
coping abilities, feelings of competency and autonomy; and more specifically to develop the ability to:
• make independent choices and decisions and stand by them;
• show perseverance in trying situations, e.g. being able to complete an unpleasant or challenging
• use a range of appropriate social skills when coping with challenging situations;
• understand and accept disappointments and failures and try again.
4. THE ROLE OF THE CURRICULUM
IN SUPPORTING CHILDREN’S
ACHIEVEMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL
GOALS AND LEARNING OUTCOMES
In developing a curriculum, identifying goals and learning outcomes for children is a relatively simple
task, as research in the field has established clear developmental milestones for children. The real
challenge lies in providing the consistent levels of developmentally appropriate supports that will
make achievement of the desired goals and outcomes likely for the individual child. Early childhood
institutions and families must collaborate in supporting the child’s development. The child’s family
contributes crucial early learning opportunities that can increase self-esteem, self confidence, identity
and a sense of belonging. The early childhood programme supports the home in this regard, but has an
even more vital role to play in preparing the child for higher levels of education and for coping in the
wider world. This early childhood curriculum provides a holistic approach towards helping children
achieve developmental goals. Both visible and invisible elements work together to enable the child to
acquire a wide range of skills, develop positive dispositions to life and learning and develop a positive
concept of self.
Positive early learning experiences produce happy children
However, the curriculum must be implemented as discussed in this document for the goals to be
achieved. This requires that practitioners:
• have a sound understanding of how children develop and learn;
• understand the guiding philosophies of the curriculum;
• receive specific training in implementing this curriculum;
• become confident in how to conduct the daily activities for children;
• know how they should act toward children in different situations;
• develop skills in how to communicate with children;
• acquire effective techniques in guiding children toward self-control and pro-social
Achieving developmental goals through curriculum processes demands much from the early
childhood practitioner, as the major task of making the curriculum work in the interest of children lies
with him or her. Curriculum effectiveness is contingent on a high level of practitioner devotion and
commitment to the growth, development and well-being of each child in his or her care.
Bredekamp, S., and Copple. C. (eds.) (1997). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood
Programs. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Carlson, F. (2006). Essential Touch: meeting the needs of young children. Washington, D.C. National
Association for the Education of Young Children.
Catron, C., and Allen, J. (2003). Early Childhood Curriculum: A Creative Play Model. 3rd Ed. Upper
Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Catron, C., and Allen, J. (2008). Early Childhood Curriculum: A Creative Play Model. 4th Ed. Upper
Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. Inc.
Child Focus II Project, (2005). Learning Outcomes for Early Childhood Development in the Caribbean:
A Curriculum Resource Guide. Project of the Caribbean Child Development Centre. School of
Continuing Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica.
Davies, R. (2004). “Exploring the pedagogical practices of grade 1 primary teachers from two preservice
programmes: a qualitative narrative case study.” Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. University of the
West Indies, Mona. Kingston, Jamaica.
Dodge, D.T., and Bickart, T. (200-). How curriculum frameworks respond to developmental stages:
Birth through age 8. Source unknown
Early Childhood Act, (2005). Government of Jamaica
Gestwicki, C. (1999). Developmentally appropriate practice: Curriculum and development in Early
Childhood. Toronto: Delmar Publishers.
Grantham-McGregor, S., and Back, E.H. (1971). “Gross motor development in Jamaican infants.”
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. Vol 13, pp 79-87
Grotberg, E. (1995). “A guide to promoting resilience in children.” Early Childhood Development
Practice and Reflections – Number 8. [CITY??] Holland: Bernard van Leer Foundation:
Krogh, S., and Morehouse, P. (2008) The Early Childhood curriculum: Inquiry learnig through
integration. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
McDonald, K., & Brown, J. (1993) Report on the Evaluation of Day Care Services in Jamaica.
Kingston, Jamaica. Caribbean Child Development Centre, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.
Mitchell, A., and David, J., (eds.) (1992). Explorations with young children: A curriculum guide. New
York: Bank Street College of Education.
Samms-Vaughan, M. (2004). The Jamaican pre-school child: The status of Early Childhood
Development in Jamaica. Kingston: Planning Institute of Jamaica.
Standards for the Operation, Management and Administration of Early Childhood Institutions; Standards
2- Developmental/Educational Programmes, Early Childhood Commission, 2007, (To be Published)
Siraj-Blatchford, I. (ed.) (1999) A curriculum development handbook for Early Childhood educators.
Staffordshire, England: Trentham Books:
Wortham, S.(2006). Early Childhood Curriculum 4th Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (1989) www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/uncrc/ or
Theoretical Influences on Early Childhood Curriculum
Curriculum development processes usually involve identifying an underlying philosophy or belief about
what, why and how teachers do what they do. A brief review of some of the theories/philosophies of child
development and learning provides a basis for understanding the underlying principles that have shaped
the variety of contemporary curriculum models we know today. Some of these significant theories are
Maturationist theory (Arnold Gessell, 1844–1924)
Arnold Gessell developed an extensive set of tests and measurements to assess and describe children in
ten major areas of development: motor, personal hygiene, emotional expression, fears and dreams, self
and sex, interpersonal relations, play and pastimes, school life, ethical sense, and philosophical outlook.
His view was that children’s inner abilities, rates of development, and behaviour in the ten identified areas
were genetically determined. This meant that each child developed, matured and learned according to his
or her own internal maturational schedule. Children were masters of their own educational process and
could thrive on their own within a supportive environment.
Psychosocial theory (Sigmund Freud, 1856–1939 /Erik Erikson, 1902–1994)
Erik Erikson’s psycho-social theory provides an explanation of social and emotional development from birth
through old age. This theory derives from Freud’s earlier psychoanalytic theory of human development.
Both theories are primarily concerned with social-emotional and personality development. Freud believed
that children’s behaviour resulted from the focus of their sexual energy at different developmental stages.
Erikson believed that personality was strongly determined by social context and environmental influences.
According to Erikson, human beings go through eight stages of development from birth through old age,
and at each stage they have the potential to learn certain patterns of behaviour, influenced by their social
experiences. Erikson refers to these behaviour patterns as identity crises or tasks that each person must
resolve to satisfactorily move on to the next stage. The three important tasks in the first six years of life
are the development of trust versus mistrust (birth to 1 year); autonomy versus shame and doubt (ages 2 to
3) and initiative versus guilt (ages 3 to 6). If the child is able to successfully resolve each task during the
specified stage, the outcome is the ability to perceive the world and the self correctly, the development of
a healthy personality, and becoming socialized effectively into one’s culture.
Behaviourist theory (B.F. Skinner, 1904–1990, Albert Bandura, 1925– )
In Skinner’s stimulus-response theory, learning is a process of conditioning the individual to display
expected behaviour and knowledge by using consequences, and reinforcement. Both the process and pace
of children’s development are determined by environmental forces. Developmental progress is achieved
through the application of stimuli from the external environment, hence children’s behaviour and abilities
are shaped and influenced by others. Learning occurs in small steps moving from simple to more complex
actions. Skills are acquired piece by piece cumulatively. All children are capable of increasing their
skills and abilities when exposed to external stimuli in the appropriate setting. No allowance is made for
individual differences in style and pace of learning. Bandura’s theory represents a slight modification of
Skinner’s, whereby children’s own thoughts on their actions are recognized as well as learning through
social interaction. Thus Bandura’s theory allows for individual differences in style and pace of learning
which is also modeled in this curriculum.
Cognitive-Developmental/Constructivist theory (Jean Piaget, 1896–1980, Lev Vygotsky, 1896–1934)
Constructivist theory is by far the most influential of all on contemporary early childhood curriculum
development and practices. From the constructivist viewpoint, children are active constructors of
knowledge and the growth of intelligence results from the child’s interaction with the environment and
his/her efforts to make sense of the world around him/her. The importance of play is a significant feature
of the constructivist approach. Children construct their view of the world within the limitations of their
level of mental functioning at different stages, and continue to alter these understandings as their mental
structures mature further. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky were the chief proponents of constructivist theory
although they differed slightly in some respects. From Piaget’s perspective, young children’s ability to
acquire new and more challenging information depends on their biological and mental maturation or state
of readiness to absorb new and different information. Therefore, certain concepts can only be learned in
a meaningful way when a child’s mental structures are ready to absorb (assimilate) and accommodate the
Vygotsky believed that children learn in active, self-directed ways, but whereas Piaget viewed
children’s learning as largely dependent on the rate of development of internal mental structures, Vygotsky’s
(whose theory is often referred to as “sociocultural,”) believed that children could be helped through social
interaction with others to achieve higher levels of intellectual functioning. He created the term “zone of
proximal development” (ZPD) to describe the point at which new learning can take place for a child.
Simply put, there are two levels of a child’s learning behaviour: (1) what the child can do independently
(independent performance), and (2) what the child can achieve with help (assisted performance). The
ZPD is the point at which the connection between the two levels occurs. Assisted performance includes
the help of an adult or peer who provides direct or indirect support to help the child advance to a higher
level of knowledge. Vygotsky used the term “scaffolding” to describe the assistance provided by the adult
or peer to support the child’s learning. From Vygotsky’s perspective, the role of the practitioner is critical
as he or she can provide the appropriate environment, the materials, instructional strategies and learning
opportunities to “scaffold” or help the child acquire new competencies and continue to move on to higher
levels of functioning.
Multiple Intelligences theory (Howard Gardner, 1943– )
Gardner’s theory differs from many others which present intelligence as solely related to the cognitive
domain. Gardner believes that there are at least seven intelligences or ways in which children learn about
the world: language, logical-mathematical, spatial representation, musical thought, bodily-kinesthetic (use
of the body to solve problems or create things), interpersonal (understanding others) and intrapersonal
(understanding self). Children will demonstrate different strengths in the different areas and their special
abilities should be valued as their way of self-expression and learning. In Gardner’s view, therefore,
the curriculum must offer children opportunities to foster development in all areas of intelligences,
and assessment of children’s development must embrace more than the areas typically associated with
achievement. This theory is in harmony with the concept of the integrated curriculum.
Progressive Education (John Dewey, 1859–1952 )
John Dewey’s philosophy of progressive education has been one of the most significant influences on
public education in America. Dewey believed that the education processes should bring about the formation
of dispositions, ideas or habits which should lead to the all round growth and self-fulfillment of every
member of society. Educational experiences should lead to the realization of a “satisfactory” self and
happiness. From Dewey’s perspective, every educational experience should be a joyful and participative
one, as he felt that education cannot take place by direct transfer of an item (idea, belief, attitude) from
teacher to pupil. The teacher can educate the pupil only by transforming the learning environment in some
way. Classrooms should be organized on democratic principles involving working in groups, cooperative
effort and shared responsibilities and goals. In this environment, the activities offered to children should
be based on their interests, needs, goals and abilities. Children should take responsibility for their own
learning and teachers should involve them in instructional planning. The concept of learning centres is a
central feature of Dewey’s philosophy of learning.
This curriculum embodies some of Dewey’s philosophy, through advocating using learning centers
and giving the child some responsibility for his/her learning.