Lees, N. M. (2019). Prioritising the development of spirituality in early childhood education and care. NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Special issue presenting position papers, 22(2), pp. 35 -42.
Original Position Paper
Prioritising the development of spirituality in early childhood education and care
Increasingly the inclusion of spiritual learning in early childhood pedagogy is being examined and discussed by many professionals in the field. It presents with a range of definitions and is frequently linked with religion. When applying it to early childhood education and care it can be summarised as experiences and explorations that come from the individual being which embrace connections and relationships. Spirituality encompasses beliefs and endeavours of creativity and curiosity. Studies in spirituality have made links with spiritual connections and learning, and a stronger sense of wellbeing. Those linked with spiritual practices and behaviours showed greater resilience and a greater quality of life. When considering the increasing incidences of poor mental health for young people in a rapidly changing society, spirituality can be viewed as an opportunity to decrease the occurrence of these disorders. Connections between religion and spirituality have created a barrier for its application in a range of services despite its ability to be applied without these inferences. Societies’ interpretations of spirituality are likely to be influenced by these perceived links and until a clearer distinction is made, its inclusion in early childhood education will continue to be superficial. To provide better outcomes for individuals in the future, we need to prioritise and promote the importance of spirituality in early childhood education and care.
Key words: Spirituality, wellbeing, resilience, pedagogy.
One of the issues affecting early childhood education and care globally, which is currently receiving increased attention, is the inclusion and significance of spirituality in learning programs (Watson, De Souza, & Trousdal, 2014). Spirituality is cited in the Australian Early Years Learning Framework as a component of holistic learning and as a part of wellbeing and identity learning outcomes (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR], 2009). The Early Years Learning Framework defines spirituality as “a range of human experiences including a sense of awe and wonder, and an exploration of being and knowing” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 46). There is strong support through research and literature for the positive and long-lasting impact that spiritual learning has on individuals and the greater society (Baumann et al., 2014; Blatt, Butler, Kogan, & Puchalski, 2014; Lin, 2014; Lockwood & Thomas, 2009). This paper makes a case for educators to take responsibility to prioritise spirituality in early childhood education and care.
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