Since 2008, students from the Preschool Teacher Education Programme at the University of Gävle and Kingston University in England have been given the opportunity to visit pre-schools in the other country. Now, the idea is to give pre-school teachers and experienced teacher educators in pre-schools an opportunity to engage in a similar project with a wider scope.
“In general, students sharpened their view of their own activities and could bring in new elements, and some students who visited Sweden have now opened new pre-schools modelled on our “Ur och Skur” pre-schools, which focus on outdoor education.
“Moreover, some of our students have discovered a focus on teaching and how to use the surface and the material in another way. So, there has been an exchange of information,” says Kerstin Bäckman, senior lecturer at the University of Gävle.
Many countries prioritise teaching
According to Kerstin Bäckman, pre-school teaching is more common in an international perspective, while the focus on teaching is a fairly new dimension in Sweden. As the groups of children tend to be quite large in other countries, their activities need to adapt to these circumstances, Kia Kimhag explains. In Spain, for example, teachers may be alone with up to 24 – 30 three-years-olds, so the activities need a clearer structure that is more focused on teaching.
“Large groups demand a critical leadership; if you are alone in the classroom your abilities in this area develop,” Kia Kimhag points out.
“However, play is important in pre-schools abroad as well,” Kerstin Bäckman says. “Children do not only sit and listen, they play as well, but their playing may be used in the teaching.”
“In England, pre-school activities are more similar to ours with more staff per child, but in contrast to Sweden, they include school-based teaching even for their youngest,” Kia Kimhag adds.
Sweden allows children to be independent
Earlier experiences from the student exchange programme show that participants reacted to the fact that children in the Swedish pre-schools are independent to a high degree. Many participants marvelled at what such young children could accomplish and at the fact that children were allowed to try themselves.
“That Swedish children can influence the activities and the gender perspective are other dimensions which are not as evident in many other countries, even though we would say that students today are generally more aware,” Kerstin Bäckman adds.
Pre-schools selected for variation
Three universities, La Salle in Madrid, Kingston University in England and the University of Gävle, together with seven pre-schools from four countries participate in the project.
The pre-schools were consciously selected to gain a variety in activities and environments.
The project ETEIP is an Erasmusx+ KA2 Strategic Partnership project and has been awarded a 2.5 million SEK funding for 2 years. The project aims to contribute with new knowledge in the fields of education and research.