Aistear is the early childhood curriculum framework for children from birth up to the age of six years. Early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys. Irelands early childhood curriculum framework is called Aistear (Irish word for journey).
Aistear provides information to assist practitioners, including infant teachers and Early Start teachers, in planning and providing enjoyable and appropriately challenging learning experiences that afford children the opportunity to grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others.
Aistear outlines the types of learning that are important for children during early childhood and provides practical ideas and suggestions as to how this learning may be nurtured. The Curriculum framework also provides guidelines on supporting children’s learning through play, interactions, assessment and partnerships with parents.
Aistear is suitable for all children from birth to six years and can be used in a range of settings. These include; crèches, nurseries, playgroups, children’s own home, childminding settings, infant classes in primary schools and early start units.
The Aistear manual contains two sections - Section 1 of Aistear outlines 12 principles that are presented in three groups. Many of these are comparable to the principles outlined in the Primary School curriculum with some additions (examples- learning through play and children as citizens).
1. The first group of principles concerns children and their lives in early childhood:
• The child’s uniqueness
• Equality and diversity
• Children as citizens
2. The second group of principles concerns children’s connections with others:
• Parents family and community
• The adult’s role.
3. The third group of principles concerns 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.
Part one also describes the content of children’s learning using four themes, unlike the Primary School Curriculum that uses subjects and curriculum areas.
This theme is about children being confident, happy and healthy.
This theme is about children developing a positive sense of who they are, and feeling that they are valued and respected as part of a family and community.
This theme is about children sharing their experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings with others with growing confidence and competence,in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.
This theme is about children making sense of the things, places and people in their world. They do this by interacting with others,playing, investigating, questioning and forming, testing and refining ideas.
Each of Aistear’s themes connect with most, if not all, of the subjects in the Primary School Curriculum. Through the aforementioned themes, Aistear focuses on the development of children’s dispositions and skills, the nurturing of attitudes and values and supporting children’s construction of knowledge and understanding of the world.
In supporting children’s early learning and development, Aistear;