What is Aistear?
Aistear is an Irish early year’s curriculum designed specifically for childcare practitioners, parents and infant class teachers planning learning experiences for children aged from birth to 6 years of age. It is designed for use in all early childhood care and education settings including the home, crèches, nursery, play-schools, preschools (for example, High Scope, Montessori or Froebel approaches), Naionra and Junior Infant classes.
Parents play a key role in their children’s education. Effective early childhood settings and schools take account of the influence of the home on children’s learning and they build on the experience children bring to the setting or school. Establishing strong links with parents helps make children’s education as successful as possible.
The NCCA developed Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (2009) in partnership with the early childhood sector. Parents played a key role in this.
Aistear states that: “Parents are the most important people in children’s lives. The care and education that children receive from their parents and family, especially during their early months and years, greatly influence their overall development. Extended family and community also have important roles to play”. (Principles and themes, p.9)
What does Aistear consist of?
The two main parts of Aistear are the Principles and Themes Guidelines for Good Practice. Other elements to Aistear include The User Guide and Key Messages from the Research Papers.
The Principles and Themes:
Aistear is based on 12 principles presented in 3 groups which are crucial to and underpin early learning and development. They are:
- Children and their Lives in Early Childhood
- The Child’s Uniqueness
- Equality and Diversity
- Children as Citizens
- Parents, family and community
- The adult’s role
3. How Children Learn and Develop
- Holistic Learning and Development
- Active Learning
- Play and Hands-on-experiences
- Relevant and Meaningful Experiences
- Communication and Language
- The Learning Environment
Early Learning and development is presented in 4 inter-connected themes in Aistear:
2. Identity and Belonging
4. Exploring and Thinking
Aistear moves away from the compartmentalised view of early learning such as Physical, Intellectual, Emotional development etc. and approaches learning from a more holistic way. The themes describe what children develop and learn such as dispositions, attitudes, values, skills, knowledge and understanding. The 4 themes are broken into 4 aims which are further broken into 6 Learning Goals. All 4 themes contain a section which outlines sample Learning Opportunities according to 3 wide age groups: babies, toddlers and young children.
The Guidelines for Good Practice outline 4 sets of guidelines
- Building Partnerships between Parents and Practitioners
- Learning and Developing through Interactions
- Learning and Developing through Play
- Supporting Learning and Development through Assessment
The 4 sets of guidelines describe how the audit can support early learning and development across the themes and outline a wide variety of sample learning experiences within the themes and guidelines.
For more information and lots of useful resources go to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Aistear Toolkit at www.ncca.ie