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Disrupting the paradigm: “Children need to learn how to learn”

Beverley Clark and Hilda Hughson

The views that early childhood teachers have of children and childhood are informed by the rhetoric and theories of early childhood, their cultures, life stories, philosophies, and ongoing practices as teachers. In Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Whāriki, the legislated national curriculum for early childhood education, further guides early childhood teachers’ practice and frames teachers’ image of the young child. This article confronts and critiques a short phrase that is an addition to the revised Te Whāriki curriculum document, specifically the phrase that children “need to learn how to learn”. This phrase implies that young children do not know how to learn. The implication in this utterance belies the intense drive that children have to learn, to play, to explore, and to understand as they grow in strength in their sense of self within their whānau and communities. We care about the image that this presents to student teachers, to teachers. We challenge whether the notion that children need to learn how to learn is the image that early childhood teachers hold, or want to hold, of children. We argue that this phrase and image of the child as needing to learn how to learn is a loose thread in the whāriki that potentially undermines and is counter to the more dominant concept within Te Whāriki of the competent child.

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