Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Visual Arts Education and the Diverse Professional Identities of Kindergarten Teachers

Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Visual Arts Education and the Diverse Professional Identities of Kindergarten Teachers

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This article focuses on the professional diversity of kindergarten teachers and on practices in visual arts education in early childhood education. As researchers and senior lecturers, we reflect the results of our current research project which has involved co-operation in the field of visual arts education between three organizations: the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and University of Helsinki.

In Finland, kindergarten teachers are responsible for children up to the age of six. Qualification as a kindergarten teacher is gained in two ways: university bachelor studies in pedagogical teacher training or bachelor studies in social services at universities of applied sciences. BA studies in social services do not include pre-school teacher qualification, and in practice, this means that as kindergarten teachers they work with children under the age of six.

Early childhood education takes place mainly within the framework of the public day-care system, which is seen as having a double mission. Firstly, the day-care is meant to allow parents to participate in the labour market and to support them in the upbringing of their children. Secondly, day-care should support the balanced development of the child's personality (Act on Children's Day-Care 1973). In recent years a significant change has taken place in Finnish early childhood education, one which has seen the drafting, administration and steering of legislation governing early childhood education and care eventually transferred in 2013 from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The current educational goals are defined in the national document "Curriculum Guidelines for Early Childhood Education and Care in Finland" (CGECEC) (National Institute for Health and Welfare 2003/2005). The CGECEC document serves as a basis for local (meaning municipal) curricula, and for the curricula implemented in day-care centres. The CGECEC document mentions the forms of visual arts education - drawing and painting - as part of aesthetic orientation. It also describes the significance of artistic activities and experiences with respect to the growth, development and learning of the child. Art and artistic experiences are seen as a part of the value system, and artistic expression as conducive to the wellbeing of the child. Wellbeing is presented as one of the central goals of all early childhood education.

The cultural role of the educator is presented as one of cooperating with cultural organizations. According to the CGECEC document, early childhood education should ensure that children can develop an aesthetic and cultural relationship with their environment. Moreover, children should be given an opportunity to express themselves creatively. Visual arts education is presented as an element of aesthetic orientation, which also includes other forms of art such as music, drama, children's literature, dance and crafts. Early childhood educators can choose the quality and amount of visual arts education they want to offer in practice. There are no normative regulations concerning goals, the content of subjects or the educational development of the child: the scope is wide and loose (see Collanus, Kairavuori & Rusanen 2012).

2. Problem Statement

The inspiration for this research project was a survey focused on kindergarten teachers in daycare centres in the Helsinki metropolitan area. According to the survey, kindergarten teachers with a BA degree in educational sciences found the definition of themselves "as implementors of children's culture and arts education" to be an essential part of their professional identity. There was a statistically significant difference between them and kindergarten teachers with a BA degree in social services. Less than half of the BAs in social services found this definition as applying to themselves (Onnismaa, Tahkokallio, Reunamo & Lipponen 2013). …

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