Australian Early Childhood Literacy Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Curriculum Early Childhood Education

Literacy is considered to be a fundamental human right and is considered to be "essential to social and human development," used for exchanging knowledge and ideas" (UNESCO, 2015).

The development of literacy is critical to learning, in particular the development of communication skills, critical thinking and fostering the ability to analyse and comprehend material (Australian Curriculum, n.d.). While basic reading and writing skills are the foundation of literacy, the concept of multiliteracies reflects that there are many different purposes for which students must become literate. Literacy is not simply about learning the mechanics of a language, but about being able to function in a society. Multiliteracies recognizes this, in particular that language is used for business, for social purposes, and for the performance of everyday tasks. The concept has emerged in light of the realization that simply being able to read and write is insufficient for a person to function in today's world. As such, there is a need for a broader concept of literacy in education, to best prepare students for the real world (

Improving literacy outcomes begins with effective curriculum. In the context of early childhood learning, it is important to build the framework for the acquisition of multiple literacies throughout a child's educational career. Hopkins, Brookes and Green (2013) note that computers and electronic devices can change the way a child's brain develops, so there is good cause to ensure that the foundations of multiliteracies are built early. A child that is exposed to multiple difference educational styles, focusing on the development of multiple literacies, is more likely to have their brain wired in a way that they will learn these different literacies later in life.

Developing an appropriate curriculum is the first step in this process.. Curriculum reflects on the lessons that the students are to learn; the curriculum sets out learning objectives and the means by which these will be achieved. The curriculum is then operationalized as lesson plans that deliver the desired education to the student. Thus, it is important that the curriculum has the right philosophical underpinning. The Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA, 2013) highlights the need for curriculum that focuses on the ability to interpret and use language properly, but also to have fluency in digital, visual and oral forms of communication. The objective is to ensure that students are prepared to become successful learners and that this knowledge should extend to the ability to function outside of school.

Assessment is the means by which the students are evaluated, in particular versus standards for learning different things. The curriculum sets out what the students are to learn, and the assessment evaluates how well they have learned those things. Thus, a key similarity between curriculum and assessment is that they both work as part of a system to ensure that children's learning objectives are being met. The system needs both parts in order to function effectively. Of course, the two things are different as well. The curriculum is used as a guide for educators to help develop their lessons. Assessment can play this role as well, by informing about student progress. The curriculum can then be adjusted or adapted on the basis of the assessment, again with the objective of improving on student learning.

The Australian government takes an active role in the development of curriculum in particular. The government needs to be involved in order to set minimum standards for what the education system should achieve. More importantly, the government needs to do this in order to ensure that the country's children are at a certain standard with respect to multiple literacies upon graduation, so that they are capable of making a positive contribution to Australian society. The government recognizes the value of literacy, in particular for how it helps children to interact with one another and with the world, so that they can better understand things and acquire knowledge and so that the students are better equipped to succeed in life. This view of literacy's importance is supported by UNESCO, which highlights both social and human development as critical factors in determining the value of literacy.

It is clear to experts both in government, and outside of it, that literacy has a beneficial effect on society, and children who lack the fundamental literacy skills will suffer in life, with lower career and economic prospects, and a reduced ability to function in our society. Connor (2011) highlights that the government has created curriculum for literacy learning with these objectives in mind, that the early childhood years learning framework is critical to ensuring higher literacy levels as students age through the school system.

Government can set out curriculum and assessment tools, but ultimately it cannot implement the curriculum, which needs to be done by the educators themselves. Each state government makes its own contributions to the curriculum and the ability of educators to fulfill this curriculum. Government sees curriculum as the natural starting point for literacy development, by getting students on the right path at an early age. Moreover, curriculum and subsequent performance assessment create a situation where the students and teachers are accountable for meeting their objectives. Government knows that society benefits from high levels of literacy and aims to motivate and incentivize both students and educators to meet its objectives. Government therefore perceives curriculum and assessment as important tools in the development of early childhood literacy and in helping Australians to meet literacy levels.

Key policy documents highlight how government influences the development of literacy. As an example, the New South Wales state government published a 41-page guide to literacy teaching, focusing on younger children. This document outlines the significance of literacy learning, how literacy is developed, and it argues that literacy should be an important element of curriculum. The document also highlights a number of models that can be used to help develop curriculum and teach literacy, such as the Four Literacy Resources model. Key teaching strategies are highlighted as well and there is a discussion about teaching literacy at different levels of schooling.

Such resources highlight the involvement that governments have with respect to encouraging literacy learning. They provide these resources to go along with the curriculum to assist educators to understand the issue, to provide them with quality examples of lessons and methodologies, and to emphasize key issues in literacy learning, like the use of technology and diversity. This high level of involvement is necessary for a couple of reasons. The first is that governments fund education, so they are an important stakeholder. The second is that governments benefit from the education level of its citizens, both in terms of building future political and economic leaders but also in terms of shaping the type of society that they want. Thus, government will have educational priorities that align with its vision for society. As such, government can play a critical role in shaping education policy. That government is involved so directly in curriculum is mainly because of the need for state-wide or country-wide standards, so that all Australians receive more or less the same quality of education. Education in this sense is part of the nation-building strategy. With an issue such as literacy, the role of government is evidence because of how important literacy is as a foundational skill, and because governments are measured on their ability to deliver literacy to their people -- literacy rates are one of the most common ways that countries are evaluated.

Government policy documents are there to provide the basic framework for educators. For the most part, these documents steer clear of individual lesson plans, though sometimes there are samples provided to illustrate key points. For example, when considering multiple literacies, it is important for governments to highlight how to teach things beyond the basic reading and writing. With the more basic building blocks of literacy, there is ample material with which educators can work.

Another role that government plays in the development of curriculum, assessment and other facets of literacy development is that the government can act as something of a centralized clearing house of knowledge. Government researchers and education policy experts can keep up-to-date on the latest in education research. This centralization allows the government to change its curriculum, or its recommendations for teaching and assessment, as new information is available that can help to improve these processes.

Educators should feel comfortable with the government role in setting out policy with respect to literacy. First, the performance of the government has generally been good, and Australia has one of the highest rates of literacy in the world. Second, there is a vested interest in building the most literate, intelligent, critical thinking populace. Government benefits from this, because it makes the nation stronger. Furthermore government involvement in the shape of these policy documents allows for consistency in the way that reading and writing are taught, meaning that all children can expect roughly the same outcomes no matter where they live in Australia.

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