How well are our children?

By chance I discovered this wonderful document Growing Up in Ireland with its photographs of a lush green landscape and quick words.

It led me to the website for the national longitudinal study of children. Started in 2007 it is  following the progress of almost 20,000 children across Ireland.They appear to asking all the right questions. The idea is  to collect a host of information to help improve understanding of all aspects of children and their development.  And then – presumably – use the results to promote policies to improve the lives of children in Ireland.

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Looks like Ireland – according to this document at least – is getting some things absolutely right. Early childhood schooling for one.

It’s all a very worthy purpose and I was taken by what seems to be most interesting frames of reference.

This one for instance

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I love the idea – who wouldn’t?  But can’t seem to track the exact origin.

My guess is that it’s either from The Culture of Education or perhaps from a conversation, interview or lecture. That’s the book where Bruner identifies the responsibility of education to usher children into their culture and where he proposes that the mind reaches its full potential through participation in and engagement with that culture. It’s where he makes the case for the importance of the narrative  over the information processing computational learning process. Learning is about making meaning not about absorbing information.

“It is only in the narrative mode that one can construct an identity and find a place in one’s culture. Schools must cultivate it, nurture it, cease taking it for granted.”

“We live in a sea of stories and like the fish who (according to the proverb) will be the last to discover water, we have our own difficulties grasping what it is like to swim in stories.”.

And then from Reggio Emilia’s Loris Malaguzzi:

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It’s in The Culture of Education that Bruner makes the case for  the social and cultural context for learning. Engagement and relationships are key as the child actively builds an understanding of the world.  People and places matter and from this arises that collective responsibility for the health and wellbeing of children. We are – all of us – building the future through the social and cultural contexts we provide for children.

This is much bigger than the issue of individual achievement and competence. It’s about the question of how well does education equip children to  participate in the culture and learn to make a contribution.

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In this study Ireland is paying attention to the developmental needs of children and to the milieu in which they grow up. Ireland seeks to discover what life is like for its children.

This is not about standards and test scores but physical, social and cultural health of children. It’s about the collective obligation to the children on whom our collective future depends.

How are we doing?

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