How kindergartens and schools look at learning

Many people working in kindergartens worry that they shall become too similar to the school, and that the school’s conception of learning will be forced upon the kindergartens. But to what degree is there a disagreement in their view on learning?

Text: MAGNUS HOLM / TRANSLATION: HANNE HERRMAN

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Over the last years the kindergartens have become increasingly closer connected to the educational system, and the pressure for more learning in the kindergarten has intensified. This situation has led to higher demands for cooperation between kindergarten and school. Research shows that the relation between the two institutions often is considered unbalanced, with the school system being the strongest part.

Kari Hoås Moen at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education has studied the challenges for Norwegian kindergartens. In a scientific article, she writes that head teachers in kindergartens have been afraid that the school’s conception of learning shall be forced upon the kindergartens. But is there really a question about a different conception of learning between the kindergarten and the school?

Moen wanted to study how the head teachers experienced their relationship with the school when it came to the children’s learning in the kindergarten. To what extent the head teachers disagreed with the school’s requirements to children’s learning. And lastly, how did they try to influence the school in these questions.

SMALL DISAGREEMENT

The head teachers told they didn’t disagree very often with the school on learning issues, which Moen finds surprising. On a scale ranging from 1 (very seldom) to 6 (very often), a majority of the head teachers chose the two lowest values. The head teachers in public kindergartens disagreed more often with the school than their colleagues in private kindergartens. Moen believes there are several reasons. One of them might be that the public kindergartens have a closer relationship with the schools than the private ones.

“If the contact is closer, then disagreements might pop up more easily,” Moen says.

Also, the interviews showed there was little disagreement between head teachers in the kindergarten and the school. Though, in some areas the disagreement was more pronounced. For instance, how schools and kindergartens considered adult management versus letting children follow their own interests and initiatives. They also disagreed upon the content of teaching.

In addition, several head teachers said they worried about the kindergarten becoming too much of a school; too influenced by pedagogy, learning goals and mapping.

“Both parties have to be open and talk to each other about how they understand different terms in order to obtain a mutual understanding.”

SMALL INFLUENCE FROM THE PRIVATE ONES

Moen also found that head teachers in the public kindergarten tried to influence the school in matters of learning issues to a much higher degree than the head teachers from private ones.

Moen finds this difference remarkable. She believes this result reflects the fact that the private kindergartens normally have less contact with the school than the public ones. And therefore, have fewer possibilities to try to influence them.

Since the head teachers in the public kindergarten more often disagree with the school, they might be more motivated to try to influence it. This is in accordance with the findings of the study. Those head teachers experiencing a high degree of disagreement also had a higher tendency to answer that they tried to influence the school very much.

“The public kindergarten seems to be more involved on their own behalf, both when it comes to expressing disagreement, and particularly in their effort to influence,” Moen states.

CONFIDENCE IS CRUCIAL

Even though the disagreement between school and kindergarten seldom is explicit, the study indicates that there might be a small difference in the conception of learning between them, according to Moen.

Moen believes it’s important that the kindergarten staff talks about issues connected to learning and communicates their view on learning to the school. Both parties have to be open and talk to each other about how they understand different terms in order to obtain a mutual understanding. Moen believes the statutory requirement obliging the two parties to cooperate in the transition between kindergarten and school is a better starting point for cooperation than before when this requirement primarily was a responsibility for the kindergarten.

“I think it’s crucial to create a good relationship listening to one another in mutual respect. It takes time to build confidence.”