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ChildrenChildren are the Products of their Society and Culture

Educators deliver cultural traditions to learners through teaching style and curriculum content. Across different countries, Early Childhood Curriculum for educators is context-specific despite their similarities. Dr Yang Weipeng shares his view on the Early Childhood Curriculum and discusses the role of culture in early childhood curriculum development.

What are your views on the Early Childhood Curriculum?

Early childhood curriculum (ECC) is the core of early childhood care and education (ECCE). The presence of a well-planned and coordinated curriculum is crucial to prioritise learning settings and provide learning goals and content for early childhood educators and centres. ECC can act as a tool to improve early childhood educators' professional development as well as adequately supporting children's continuous growth in the early years.

"The presence of a well-planned and coordinated curriculum is crucial to prioritise learning settings and provide learning goals and content for early childhood educators and centres."

Dr Yang Weipeng, Lecturer, Early Childhood Education Programme

What are the areas of ECCE research that you are interested in and have been working on?

My research focuses on curriculum design and professional support for early childhood educators to scaffold young children's learning and promote their social-emotional development. My work with young children (especially those who are socially disadvantaged), teachers, parents, and communities aims to explore effective and sustainable ways of enhancing curricular and pedagogical practices in early childhood settings and to assess their effects through research.

Could you share about early childhood curricula in other countries? How are they different from Singapore’s?

As children are the products of a given society and culture, their learning may have different trajectories due to the different experiences and values of their different communities. In 1987, developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) was first adopted in a position statement proposed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), in the United States. Since then, it has become one of the most influential theoretical ideas in the field of ECE throughout the world. Children's agency had been commonly valued to recognise its essential role in effective learning, which was constructed in play, social interaction, and community participation. Research shows that despite the mutual interactions and similarities, ECC policies and practices have been developed in context-specific ways across countries. For example, Australia's and New Zealand's ECCs emphasised the development of the culturally competent child on top of the holistic development of a capable child, without segregating children's learning into domains.

How could the differences in culture affect the development of the ECE curriculum?

Research on the cultural aspects of curriculum tends to regard the educator as a bearer of dominant cultural ideologies who delivers the local traditional culture to learners through teaching styles and curriculum content. For example, Chen et al. (2017) studied the 'Hong Kong style' of the Project Approach and found that the underlying mechanisms were contextually and philosophically driven. Contextually, there were real challenges, such as time pressure and curriculum demands, parental expectations for academic success, professional competence, emotional tensions and culturally driven pedagogical beliefs. Philosophically, these challenges were confounded by a set of different cultural beliefs about early education and a long-held tradition of practising teacher-directed Chinese pedagogy.

However, there is still a dearth of research on how culture may influence curriculum development in Singapore's childcare centres and kindergartens. It remains to be addressed whether culturally relevant and diverse content has been used in ECC, and what kind of 'culturally sensitive curriculum development' has happened in Singapore.

Featured Publications by Dr Yang Weipeng:

Yang, W., & Li, H. (2019). Changing culture, changing curriculum: a case study of early childhood curriculum innovations in two Chinese kindergartens. The Curriculum Journal, 30(3), 279–297.

Yang, W., & Li, H. (2018). Cultural ideology matters in early childhood curriculum innovations: a comparative case study of Chinese kindergartens between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 50(4), 560–585.

Yang, W., & Li, H. (2020). The role of culture in early childhood curriculum development: A case study of curriculum innovations in Hong Kong kindergartens. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 1463949119900359.

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