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European Journal of Applied Linguistics

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Editor-in-Chief: Bührig, Kristin / ten Thije, Jan D.


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Language at preschool in Europe: Early years professionals in the spotlight

Marije C. Michel
  • Corresponding author
  • Lancaster University, Linguistics and English Language, County South C69, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 4YL, United Kingdom
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/ Folkert Kuiken
Published Online: 2014-03-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/eujal-2014-0005

Abstract

Over the past few decades early years education throughout Europe has experienced many changes due to higher numbers of children attending centres for early childhood education and care (ECEC), a growing linguistic and cultural diversity in society and a shift from care to education with the focus on preparing children for entry to primary school. These changes have brought with them an expectation from policy makers, researchers and parents for better ECEC. Language support for children is often named as one of the key aspects of high-quality childcare because of its importance in successful entry to and progression within the future educational career of a child. However, rather little is known about how early years professionals meet the linguistic demands of twenty-first century multilingual Europe. The present special issue tries to fill this gap by giving a platform to five European investigations into language at preschool in Europe with a focus on early years educators’ competences, knowledge, skills, beliefs and needs. This introductory article aims to prepare the reader for the contributions that follow in this special issue. We first describe current policy and practice of language support in European ECEC with regard to children’s and educators’ needs. Then, we review all the contributions and provide a summary focusing on the diversity as well as the commonalities of the five investigations, before formulating an outlook for future work.

Samenvatting

In de afgelopen decennia heeft de voor- en vroegschoolse educatie (vve) in heel Europa grote veranderingen ondergaan. Dit komt doordat er meer kinderen deelnemen aan de vve, de talige en culturele diversiteit in de maatschappij toeneemt en doordat de vve steeds vaker niet alleen verantwoordelijk is voor zorg maar ook voor educatie, d.w.z. kinderen voorbereiden op school. Deze veranderingen hebben tot gevolg dat beleidsmakers, onderzoekers en ouders verwachten dat de vve kwalitatief hoogwaardig is. Vanwege het grote belang voor de schoolcarrière van een kind wordt taalsteun voor kinderen met een risico op achterstand vaak genoemd als één van de belangrijkste kenmerken van hoogwaardige vve. Tot op heden weten we echter weinig over in hoeverre pedagogisch medewerkers in de vve voldoen aan de talige verwachtingen van Europa in de 21e eeuw. Dit themanummer probeert om dit gat te vullen door een platform te bieden aan vijf Europese onderzoeken naar taal in de vve met bijzondere aandacht voor de competenties, kennis, vaardigheden en behoeftes van de pedagogisch medewerkers. Deze introductie biedt de lezer een beeld van wat aan de orde komt in de hierop volgende artikelen van dit themanummer. We beginnen met een overzicht van Europees beleid en praktijk op het gebied van taalsteun in de vve in aansluiting op de behoeftes van kinderen en pedagogisch medewerkers. Daarna geven we een korte samenvatting van de verschillende bijdrages in dit tijdschrift waarbij we zowel de verschillen als ook de overeenkomsten in beschouwing nemen. We sluiten af met suggesties voor toekomstig onderzoek.

Zusammenfassung

In den vergangenen Jahrzehnten hat sich die frühkindliche Bildung (FB) in ganz Europa stark geändert. Dies liegt zum einen daran, dass immer mehr Kinder das frühkindliche Versorgungsangebot nutzen während auch die sprachliche und kulturelle Vielfalt in der Gesellschaft wächst. Zum anderen hat sich die FB immer mehr weg von Spiel und Erziehung hin zur Bildung, d. h. zur Vorbereitung von Kindern für den Schuleintritt, entwickelt. Diese Änderungen haben dafür gesorgt, dass Politik, Forschung und Eltern gleichermaßen hohe Erwartungen an die Qualität der FB haben. Da der Sprachstand in der Bildungssprache für den Schulstart und den weiteren Bildungsweg eines Kindes besonders wichtig ist, wird Sprachförderung für Kinder mit einem erhöhten Risiko für sprachliche Defizite oft als eines der wichtigsten Merkmale von qualitativer FB genannt. Jedoch ist zurzeit nur in geringem Maße bekannt, inwiefern pädagogische Fachkräfte der FB in der Lage sind, die Erwartungen des 21. Jahrhunderts im Bereich Sprache zu erfüllen. Diese Sonderausgabe versucht, diese Lücke zu füllen, indem es fünf europäische Forschungsprojekte zu Sprache in der FB mit besonderer Aufmerksamkeit für die Kompetenzen, Kenntnisse, Fähigkeiten und Bedürfnisse von pädagogischen Fachkräften in einem Heft zusammenfasst. In diesem einleitenden Artikel geben wir zunächst eine Übersicht über die politischen Vorgaben und die herrschende Praxis der Sprachförderung in der europäischen FB mit Blick für die Bedürfnisse der Kinder und pädagogischen Fachkräfte. Danach fassen wir die einzelnen Beiträge in diesem Sonderheft zusammen und erarbeiten die Unterschiede sowie die Gemeinsamkeiten der Artikel. Schließlich benennen wir Ideen und Wege für zukünftige Forschung.

Resumen

A lo largo de las últimas décadas la educación en los primeros años de vida ha experimentado numerosos cambios en toda Europa debido al elevado número de niños que asisten a centros de educación y cuidados en la infancia (ECI), a la creciente diversidad lingüística y cultural en la sociedad y al cambio de paradigma de la atención a la educación con el énfasis en preparar a los niños para su acceso a la escuela primaria. Estos cambios han traído como consecuencia que existan mayores expectativas por parte de los legisladores, los investigadores y los padres para un mejor ECI. El apoyo lingüístico para los niños se considera a menudo como uno de los aspectos cruciales de una educación de alta calidad puesto que tendrá una gran importancia en el éxito tanto en el acceso del niño a su futura carrera educativa como en su progreso en ella. Sin embargo, sabemos muy poco sobre si los profesionales de esa etapa educativa reúnen las exigencias lingüísticas de la Europa multilingüe del siglo XXI. El presente monográfico intenta llenar ese vacío proporcionando una plataforma para cinco trabajos de investigación europeos acerca de la lengua en la etapa de educación infantil en Europa prestando especial atención a las competencias, el conocimiento, las estrategias, las creencias y las necesidades de los educadores de esa etapa educativa. Este artículo introductorio pretende preparar al lector para las contribuciones que aparecen en el monográfico. Primero describimos la política y la práctica actual sobre apoyo lingüístico en centros ECI europeos con respecto a las necesidades de los niños y de los educadores. Después analizamos todas las contribuciones y proporcionamos un resumen en el que nos centramos en la diversidad y las similitudes de las cinco antes de formular una perspectiva de trabajo que ha de realizarse en un futuro.

Keywords: early years education; linguistic development; professionalism; earlychildhood education and care (ECEC); plurilingualism

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About the article

Published Online: 2014-03-27

Published in Print: 2014-04-01


Citation Information: European Journal of Applied Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 1–26, ISSN (Online) 2192-953X, ISSN (Print) 2192-9521, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/eujal-2014-0005.

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