A call for a shift in thinking: viewing children as rights-holders in early childhood curriculum frameworks

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Date: November-December 2014
From: Childhood Education(Vol. 90, Issue 6)
Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International
Document Type: Essay
Length: 5,550 words
Lexile Measure: 1460L

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The authors conduct a document analysis of the Early Learning for Every Child Today: A Framework for Ontario Early Childhood Settings (2007) to identify children's rights as reflected in a widely used early childhood curriculum framework in Ontario, Canada. They argue about the significance of looking at curriculum through the lens of children's rights in order to create a global community and strive toward a "rights-integrative approach to early learning. "The findings from the analysis indicate how curriculum documents used for guiding early learning practices may serve as ideal vehicles for introducing discourses on children's rights.

In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (United Nations Treaty Collection, 2014), signifying a commitment to the agreement and to following through domestically by bringing laws, policies, and practices in line with the standards of the Convention. Despite this commitment, it appears that curriculum, education, and practice in Ontario's early learning programs do not explicitly take up a rights-based discourse. And it's time to do so. We suggest that instead of adopting and/or developing new curricular frameworks to reflect children's rights, educators can reflect on their current curriculum through the lens of children's rights to find existing opportunities and create new ones that allow children to participate in active and meaningful ways in the development of their daily programs.

This article presents findings from a document analysis of the Early Learning for Every Child Today: A Framework for Ontario Early Childhood Settings (2007) authored by the Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning (BSEPEL). According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR], 2005), the CRC has four guiding principles that have implications for putting into action children's rights during the early childhood period. Using these four principles, we aimed to identify how children's rights are reflected in an early years curriculum framework widely used by educators throughout Ontario, Canada. Based on our findings, we developed suggestions for ways that educators can assess their own curricula for a "rights-integrative approach" to early learning.


Emerging discourses about children recognize them as active citizens with rights (Corsaro, 2011; Mayall, 2013), competent beings (Smith, Duncan, & Marshall, 2005) having unique voices and the ability to shape their own identities and create their social worlds (Christensen & Prout, 2005; Greene & Hill, 2005). These discourses, however, are less commonly taken up in the development of early learning curriculum, conveyed to educators during 5 their education, or enacted in professional practice in early childhood education and care settings. Curriculum documents guiding early learning practice are an ideal means for introducing children's rights. According to the UN Secretary General (UN General Assembly, 2010), "Evidence of progress in implementing rights in early childhood ... can be seen through: (a) increased adoption and use of strong, rights-based frameworks for development of ... programmes in early childhood; [and] (b) increased public and professional awareness of the importance of rights...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A393988531