Exploration of quality early childhood education: the Soka kindergarten education model
thesisposted on 27.02.2017, 05:27 by Ikegami, Kiiko
Conceptualisations of quality early childhood education vary contextually and culturally. The aim of this research is to explore how early childhood educators working at three Soka kindergartens in Sapporo (Japan), Hong Kong and Singapore, conceptualise quality early childhood education and how this is implemented in practice. This study did not seek to define ‘best quality’ early childhood education but rather to provide an alternative view of quality through openness and diversity within the early childhood education field. The Soka education model is derived from Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a worldwide Buddhist organisation with a vision of a better world through the empowerment of individuals and the promotion of peace, culture and humanist education. Soka education emphasises fostering educated, cultured people who have a profound awareness of the relationship between nature, society and the individual, which assists them to perceive the nature of existing problems and to resolve them. Qualitative interpretive methodology and data collection tools were used for data generation and analysis which was underpinned by Michel Foucault’s concepts/ theory of discourse, power and knowledge. The study provides a substantial and significant contribution to knowledge within three domains. Firstly, this study contributes to the knowledge and understanding that quality early childhood education is not just about physical resources and the output of children’s learning. Rather, quality is about a form of human revolution as a way of inner self-development. Thus quality early childhood education cannot be conceptualised merely as a product: it is a process of value creation through which educators support children to add value to themselves and subsequently the wider society. This study shows that every child has the potential to create value when supported. Quality can be viewed beyond academic achievements to include children’s internal happiness and a sense of hope. Internal happiness is not just on the surface, but through this understanding we can go deeper to create a sense of compassion, hope and appreciation of each child. Secondly, the study contributes to knowledge and understanding regarding the importance of developing flexible early childhood policy around curriculum. When policy has flexibility, educators are able to adapt or modify the curriculum to assist children to attain inner self-development, create value, achieve internal happiness and achieve their unlimited potential. Thirdly, the study contributes to knowledge and understanding in terms of professional development so that we strive to go beyond just training educators to teach skills and develop the educator’s vision of the value embedded in each child. Teacher education that foregrounds the needs of people beyond academic tangents can lead to a broader understanding of human capabilities such as inner self-development, value creation, happiness, hope and unlimited potential. In conclusion, this study has highlighted how quality is a complex and evolving construct. Quality is an important concept that cannot be avoided in early childhood education research and practice. In order to implement quality practice across cultures, early childhood educators and researchers need to be aware of their own selves and what they bring to early childhood education.