I am just back from encounters with a network of early childhood educators in Yamanashi prefecture, a large district to the West of Tokyo.
The plan has grown over conversations spanning a few years, following Professor Asami Akiyama's participation in a Sightlines Initiative Reggio Study group some years ago. We have been able to have good discussions during this time, as she has been doing research at Newcastle. We discussed many things, including the action-research projects of Sightlines (in 2018 we held an online seminar on 'Adventuring in Early Childhood Education') the varying fortunes of early childhood education in the UK, governments' general attitudes to education and creating autonomous professional development movements.
Professor Akiyama is involved with a network of early childhood educators in the district of Yamanashi, and also working to influence the direction of the Prefecture's early childhood policy and services, and her invitation was intended to help shift thinking and practice. From my perspective it was a wonderful opportunity to test out how our work and principles would be examined by an entirely fresh group of educators, and also to begin to discover how this new-to-me culture valued children, and education.
For me, it has been extremely energising, refreshing and reassuring to encounter early childhood services - I was able to visit three centres of different types – and the network group – which weren't ground down by effects of egregious government policy.Consistently I met with happy places and people – children, educators, parents. The educators and schools were all in their different ways committed, grounded, researchful, curious and above all loving and humane with their children and their overall intents. A phrase from the UK Children's Act came to mind – 'the welfare of the children is paramount' – would that were actually the case in the UK. We have all learnt much from the encounter so far, and are motivated to continue and develop further.