Enhancing kindergarten efforts relating to diversity and the youngest children

The Minister of Education and Research has circulated a proposal for a new framework plan for kindergartens for consultative review. He is looking to strengthen kindergarten activities in connection with the youngest children, diversity, meals, bullying and language, among other things.

“When 97 per cent of all children attend kindergarten before they start school, we have to make sure that kindergarten programmes are satisfactory. The new framework plan sets out the kindergartens’ obligations more clearly, which will reduce quality differences among kindergartens,” says Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.

Important tool for parents and staff

The current framework plan is 10 years old, and while it is very large there are several areas that need updating. For instance, it includes little about the youngest children and minority-language children.  

“The new framework plan builds on the best of the Norwegian kindergarten tradition in which play occupies a central role. The plan is significantly shorter and more concise, and it defines more clearly what kindergarten employees are to do to ensure that children thrive and develop. It will make it easier for parents to know what to expect on their children’s behalf, and it will also make it easier for kindergarten staffs to do a good job,” says Mr Røe Isaksen. 

The adjustment phase is important

The new framework plan takes into account the growth in the percentage of one and two-year-olds in kindergarten from 54 per cent to 81 per cent in the period 2005–2015. The needs of the youngest children have been incorporated throughout the framework plan. For the first time there is a separate section on the adjustment phase.

“A smooth adjustment phase is important for children’s further development and wellbeing in kindergarten. Parents need to be assured that staff members see the needs of each individual child and that good solutions are available locally,” says the minister.

Strengthens activities targeting language and bullying

The new framework plan clearly states that kindergartens are to prevent and stop bullying and offensive behaviour. Play is to be an inclusive arena in which everyone can participate.
“Research shows that kindergarten employees may be uncertain about how to tackle bullying and therefore do not do enough. Therefore the framework plan states unambiguously that they have a clear responsibility to stop bullying,” says Mr Røe Isaksen.

The Minister of Education and Research is also strengthening guidelines for language-related activities. The new framework plan states that kindergartens must involve all children in language-stimulating activities and that personnel must take steps to identify children who are having difficulties. The plan also points clearly the needs of younger children with regard to language development. 


Enhances diversity in kindergarten
The new framework plan also incorporates considerations relating to the increase from 54 per cent to 78 per cent in the percentage of minority-language children attending kindergarten in the period 2005–2015. Diversity has been given greater focus as a key element of the value base for kindergartens.

“Kindergartens should highlight the positive aspects of the fact that we are different, while at the same time giving children the sense that they are part of a community. Kindergartens should also promote Norwegian-language skills among minority-language children, while at the same time focusing on diversity as a resource in pedagogical activities,” says Mr Røe Isaksen.

Better meals

The proposed framework plan devotes more attention to health and life mastery skills. This is the first time that meals have been included in this type of plan. Research shows that children in some kindergartens sit at the table for over an hour without personnel being involved in interactions or conversations.

“We would like kindergartens to use mealtimes more actively to promote healthier eating habits among children, but also to make mealtimes dynamic social arenas for conversation and language stimulation,” explains the minister. 

Broad scientific basis

The proposed framework plan has a broad scientific basis. More than 100 professionals from kindergartens, research environments and organisations have been invited to provide input to the draft plan and at specialist seminars. Contributors include the Union of Education Norway, researchers, kindergarten owners and parent representatives. The plan is being circulated for a three-month period of consultative review, with accompanying conferences held throughout the country. The Minister of Education and Research hopes that many will contribute constructive input.  

 

Framework plan for kindergartens

The framework plan for kindergartens is a regulation under the Kindergarten Act. It provides more detailed provisions on the purpose and content of kindergartens. It is the most important pedagogical work document used by kindergartens and kindergarten staff. Staff members consult the framework plan when designing the activities for the children in their kindergarten. 

The framework plan is also a key steering document which explicitly states society’s requirements with regard to quality in kindergarten and is used to monitor whether kindergarten owners are fulfilling their obligations and legal responsibilities.