As part of this assignment, I am going to reflect on the extent to which engaging in philosophy has led me to ‘rethink’ my understanding of the nature and purpose of early childhood education and my role as a childcare practitioner in it.
Early Childhood Education has a huge role to play in the life of children and society, it is an ongoing journey to obtain knowledge, skills, and the ability to be social and be part of society. Because children turn into adults over some time. Children are the beginning of our future society; they are our future politicians, educators, doctors, and other professions that contribute to sustaining society and the world around us. Education is therefore a big part of life to create a society of democracy where all views are respected. Early Childhood Education serves a great purpose in educating children. Kilderry (2004) stresses the importance of Early Childhood Education in building a future society. There is a need for guidance from the Government which could be established by putting appropriate policies in place. Childcare professionals must be able to think critically and able to evaluate their teaching and the child’s learning.
Having completed the module ‘Philosophy in Early Childhood Education’ my knowledge and understanding have changed. I have learned that modern society is changing and steering towards listening to different points of view, learning how to do critically thinking and evaluate, and improving all the time, aiming to do things better. The global society recognizes the importance of lifelong learning. UNESCO (1996) states that life-long education is contrasted on four components, ‘Learning to Know’, learning to do, ‘learning to be’, and ‘Learning to live together’. Learning to know is where the child develops an interest and a taste for learning. ‘Learning to do’ is where what is learned is applied and practiced. Learning to be is where the child learns to embrace who they are and develop the ability to communicate. Developing an understanding of how to live with others is learning about diversity and respect for others even though they may be different within your social sphere. Irish society places great value on children and gives them due respect, they see them as active citizens and acknowledge that children have a voice and their opinions matter. Siolta, The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education CECDE (2006) Recognises and promotes that children have the right to have choices and make their own decisions, and their decisions need to be respected. However, with all the progress in society sometimes things are moving at a slower pace than desired. Sometimes it is hard to make the changes that are needed. The evidence shows that children are still taught about philosophy rather than actively doing it, one reason for this is the size of classes where numbers are too large. Another reason is a lack of training in philosophy. Kilderry (2004) states that within the western society education system, it can sometimes just be about learning to read, write and live in the contemporary world The Education system can be lacking connectivity and respect. Everyone within society both children and adults will always have questions and need help to understand life and make sense of the environment that they are in. From the times of Plato, the Greek philosopher who discussed and explored political philosophy and the philosophy of language philosophy has existed. According to The School of Life Press, the word ‘philosophy’ when translated from Greek means ‘the love of wisdom’. Philosophy is often overlooked and seen as being difficult to tackle and this is due to a lack of knowledge and experience.
Before I started this module, I thought that philosophy was a complicated subject and that it was only suitable for older children and adults. I have learned that young children can also do philosophy. It is simply about doing philosophy with children rather than teaching them about philosophy. Doing philosophy with children could consist of introducing a stimulus to the children in the form of a book, picture, or video, followed by a critical inquiry based on what they have seen using an open-ended question which would lead to discussion or dialogue. Fisher (2007) suggests that philosophy is the exploration and discovery of day-to-day truths the exploration and discovery of the environment they are part of. This builds curiosity within children and teaches them to be analytical and critical thinkers through questioning and exploration. This links in with Aistear the Irish national framework. Aistear has been developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. Aistear has four themes well-being, communicating, identity & belonging, and exploring and thinking. The 4 themes of Aistear provide guidelines and encourage early years childcare settings to facilitate children’s learning about the world around them (NCCA, 2009). Dialogue is a big part of doing philosophy with children as it forms a platform for children to express their views and concepts. They share their concepts and ideas from their mind. NCCA (2009) states that children process their concepts by investigating and analyzing their environment and socializing and exchanging ideas with their peers and adults around them. Another point that I learned from starting to do philosophy with children is the importance of answering with a question rather than just giving an answer as this sparks philosophical inquiry and can lead to different types of discussions that I wasn’t even expecting. Lipman (1988) suggests that the teacher can't know beforehand how children will respond.
There are a lot of benefits for children from doing philosophy. Children learn to think logically as they are involved in discussions and they share their opinions out loud which also promotes their language skills. MacNaughton and Williams (2009) discuss that philosophy promotes problem-solving skills and gives children opportunities to think for themselves and builds on their language skills. Children learn about the differences of others; the different cultures, traditions, and other ways of thinking, this is sparked through group discussions and done from philosophical inquiry in the group. Lipman (2003) suggests that a community of inquiry enables children to think about and consider the thoughts and opinions of others, there can be an expansion of one another’s thoughts which serves to bring a challenge to one another.
My role as a childcare practitioner is very important to teach children how to promote and facilitate philosophical thinking within my setting. One of the things would be to prepare stimulus material that is age appropriate for reflection before a dialogue or critical inquiry occurs. It is vital that children’s views are listened to and they feel they are respected and not judged. The evaluation process after doing philosophy with the children is very important as I can reflect on what aspects of the philosophical inquiry worked and what didn’t. From personal experience, sometimes you have to try different types of stimulus before it works to extent that is desired. Fisher (2007) argues that good philosophy times need the right environment where children feel comfortable and stimulated to share their thoughts and ideas about the world with those around them. This involves a careful selection of stimulus materials and asking appropriate questions.
I have found that gaining new knowledge in how to do philosophy with children and encouraging the children to explore their concepts and theories in different ways has developed new individual learning and children were also able to learn from each other. It has also helped them to respect each other’s points of view. I found that the children gained more confidence and it helped them with their self-esteem. It is also developing their thinking skills as we continue to do more philosophy with children CEDCE (2006) in standard 7 encourages the importance of quality of adult-child interactions which is based on listening and respect. I feel that the children are our future generation and it is important that we help and support them in their learning. I think that I and other childcare professionals need to be constantly aware that we need to give children opportunities to express their views and beliefs and provide learning opportunities for philosophical thinking. By encouraging children in this way, we can help them become independent and confident thinkers and make the world a better place. This links to UNESCO (1996) one out of the four pillars of education is about learning to live together; this process involves exploration and discovering new cultures and ideas from other people, building respect for their differences, and communicating with one another at the heart of his journey of learning to live together. The knock-on effects are that children learn to live respectfully of each other and also the environment and learn the beauty of diversity. Farquhar & White (2016) advocates that it is important for children to learn philosophy from an early age and that philosophy and pedagogy should go hand in hand. They also promote involving and engaging a wider community in teaching children the philosophies of life and the world around them. It is a very fundamental aspect to involve parents, guardians, and the wider community in the children’s learning journey. The promotion of children’s critical thinking occurs through influential figures in their lives rather than childcare professionals and teachers. Parents and Guardians have a greater knowledge of the child and can promote philosophical thinking within them. It is part of the responsibility of childcare professionals to involve parents and the wider community in children's learning. Delors (2013) stresses promotion of philosophical thinking is not just the role of teachers such as childcare professionals and those in formal education but rather the larger community of which they are part.
This module of philosophy has opened my mind to the whole area of philosophy. My thinking has been challenged which has resulted in starting to think more critically and analytically. I have also begun to use my reasoning when in discussion with others on different topics and I am more respectful of the views of others as they matter just as much as my views. I think it is vital to learn how to think critically and use dialogue as it creates democracy and helps to facilitate reasoning, especially in the present world where there is so much aggression and differences of opinions that are forced rather than dialogued.