Ruiz-Corbella, M. (Ed.). Escuela y primera infancia. Aportaciones desde la Teoría de la Educación [School and early childhood: Contributions from the theory of education]. (Ana Caseiro Vázquez)
Ruiz-Corbella, M. (Ed.).
Escuela y primera infancia. Aportaciones desde la Teoría de la Educación [School and early childhood: Contributions from the theory of education].
Narcea. 238 pp.
The coordinator of this book with the title Escuela y primera infancia. Aportaciones desde la Teoría de la Educación offers an interesting journey through the most notable topics relating to childhood. This professor from the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) is accompanied on this journey by a team of 13 authors who add their own contributions to this project, resulting in a book that is a reference work in the field of education theory. It covers current and classic topics with the primary objective of situating childhood as the central pillar of our society.
As it shows from the first chapter to the last, education is something essential that makes us truly human and links us to the world, to the context and to a concrete culture. This process is infinite, just as education is infinite. The first two chapters of the book tackle essential questions about the concept of educating. While it is true that it is not wrong to speak of the teacher as a figure of authority, as reflected in numerous pieces of legislation, it should be noted that the educator is not synonymous with power, mastery or control, but instead is an essential element in educational accompaniment, an instructor who must gain worth through knowledge transfer and the relationship with the students. This is not a black and white issue, as the freedom of the learner vs the authority of the educator is discussed, but rather of educating with limits and knowing the students we have before us, as well as their close context.
In recent decades, many texts have reflected on children’s rights, with non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the intrinsic right to life and survival, as well as participation in society standing out as guiding principles. These principles must be related to autonomy and care for fundamental values so that children can develop fully. These questions are tackled at the end of the third chapter, where there is also a space for reflection on children’s rights in cyberspace, a matter that is currently of great interest, and it fittingly ends with the words “the education that limits is that which frees”, in reference to the necessary limits that must be set in the use of technology. Rights and duties are intimately linked; we should offer children rights and the capacity for decision and reflection.
The act of educating can be based on various theories, but without practice, these fall short. A guide can offer us this practical knowledge, as the necessary answer to the whats and hows, but avoiding the significant risk of adultification. This concept, despite not appearing in the dictionary of the Spanish Real Academia, is cited in chapter four and is a growing trend in our society. We should let the children in our environment be free and autonomous beings with morality, essential rights for each one of them, as should the institutions.
All of the learning that occurs in the different scenarios, where children coexist, is in constant change. It is no surprise that one of the most important social and educational institutions, one that is present from the start of life, is the family, a space where children spend the majority of their time. Types of families have changed, but not their essence, which is not so much their structure but rather the child’s relationship to the figures that raise it, where a safe space must be offered and built, one that is welcoming, loving, and offers care, among other aspects. And where is the school? The family-school relationship and the interaction with other educational agents is essential to provide the best accompaniment and offer support through all of the neurodevelopmental process. It is also notable, and I could not be more in agreement with the authors of the book, that screens transport us into an unreal world, especially at very young ages. As the WHO notes, children aged under two should not have access to them. Children should play, jump, fall, laugh, ultimately be children. Because childrearing and respect for childhood is this: giving them the chance to have the time to mature that they need, and offering them support throughout the process.
The other frame of reference in which children find themselves, and where they also spend a considerable part of their lives, is the school. Here we must all, as teachers and also as families, deconstruct the experiences we have had throughout all of our educational process, accompanying this with a reflection that can facilitate the emotional and educational link with the students and with our children or our nieces and nephews.
The early years stage of education, which has taken on a care-giving role since the industrial revolution (and sadly still has it), has been changed by all of Spain’s education acts, in particular the Moyano Act, the first pedagogical document regarding teacher training. This shows how education has continuously depended on the concrete political system and has often been shaped in an improvable way in the eyes of families and students with or without needs, as well as teachers. One sadly very accurate reflection by Díaz (2019) notes that “professionals from the 20th century educate children from the 21st century using pedagogical frameworks that, in many aspects, belong to the 19th century” (p. 166). For this reason, research and interest in new flourishing pedagogical models that share common characteristics has developed, such as Amara Berri, forest schools, learning communities, Montessori pedagogy, Waldorf pedagogy, and Escuela Reggio Emilia among others. The book also notes that there is ever more evidence that technologies favour the development of children, but we should ask whether this occurs in the same way in all stages, as in early years education. It is true that children cannot be made to live their childhood in a bubble, but it is advisable to ensure that technological devices do not deprive them of irreplaceable experiences in this crucial moment of development, and that they have teachers who are specially trained in this area.
Pedagogical models of this type, from the most conventional to the most classical, appear ever more often in educational centres, which are seen as spaces for democracy, where foundations are laid during childhood for the shaping and functioning of this political system through the acquisition of both social and civic competences. Nonetheless, certain educational policies that are still proposed today by different governments at a European and a global level involve a con stant politicisation as they still see early years education merely as preparation for primary education, going against maturational development and the interest of the child. However, this conception faces a vast human reality: How do we know when a child is ready to progress to the next stage? Can a scale of items establish whether a child is sufficiently trained to access primary education? Instead, it is necessary to consider that each child has a different maturation and a different context, and so decisions must be taken on the basis of all of the factors cited throughout the book.
The world is changing, and what we know today will be different tomorrow. The last chapter of this book sets out how change has been radical up to the 21st century and technology has played a fundamental role in all of this. Education must adapt to the new times, taking into account the fact that what is most valuable is not just to offer students merely theoretical knowledge, but also for them to learn to think, observe, know what to do with the information they receive, reason, and have sufficient skills and values to handle uncertainty. Above all, in this period in which we are overwhelmed by so much information from so many sources, we must be critical and not settle for the first idea we encounter, however good it may initially seem. For this reason, the elaboration and revision of learning models should be a constant activity for teachers. In this process of innovation and reflection, aspects such as inclusion and equity must be considered, while being realistic and considering the possibilities for applying them in the centre and the classroom, and the idea of the right of everyone to a quality education.
Ana Caseiro Vázquez ■