Belfast Telegraph

Childcare experts to export training strategy to China

By Claire Williamson

They hope to transform the way thousands of young people in Beijing learn with a programme developed in Northern Ireland.

Early Years is Northern Ireland's largest organisation working with and for young children and it's been commissioned for a huge opportunity to take their work to China.

They were approached by a college in Beijing Province and City who want to do "transformative work" by implementing Northern Ireland's early years work in China.

Initially, Early Years will be working with 12,000 pre-schools with around 500 children in each school.

Chief executive of Early Years, Siobhan Fitzpatrick, said the scale of the project was very exciting.

She said: "It's a bit mind-blowing, especially for us coming from such a small country, to think about this type of scale.

"It will be a very exciting new opportunity and new experience for us. But always we find that in any of these new cultural experiences we can learn and bring back a lot of learning to Northern Ireland."

Next week two senior members will go to Beijing to carry out a training needs assessment in the classrooms and after that they will draw up a programme.

A team of people will then go out at various stages for the project implementation. Then Ms Fitzpatrick will go out to launch the project.

She said: "They saw what we were doing here in Northern Ireland and they particularly liked the child-centred base to our work and the work with parents and communities.

"It will take place over a fairly lengthy period, in terms of really changing the approach to working with young children in China."

Outlining the current education system for early years in China, Ms Fitzpatrick said: "The teacher has a very strong leadership role in terms of what the children do, whereas our approach in early childhood learning and development is taking the lead from young children and the teacher supports and scaffolds the child's learning.

"At the moment young children in China enter kindergarten at a very young age and are there for as long as 12 hours a day, which is a very long day for young children."

The team will draw up a whole curriculum for the early years age group.

Ms Fitzpatrick said: "The aim for the Beijing province is that their curriculum will be transformed to reflect a more child-centred curriculum."

Factfile

Early Years is a non-profit making organisation that has been working since 1965 to promote quality childcare for children aged from birth to 12 and their families. Early Years is a membership-based organisation and a registered charity.

It currently provides information and training for parents, childcare providers, employers and local authorities.

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