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Sharing the best the world has to offer for children.

In 1892, a small group of teachers wishing to spread "knowledge of the kindergarten movement throughout the world" met in Saratoga Springs, New York, to form the International Kindergarten Union (IKU). That fledgling organization became today's Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). From its beginning, ACEI has organized professionals in support of all children's rights and needs.

Several relatively recent developments make it possible to greatly expand our founders' international commitment. First, ACEI is now enjoying a much greater participation of members from outside the continental United States at conferences and through their work on key committees. Second, recent technological developments (especially the Internet) greatly facilitate communication among our members around the world. Finally, ACEI now has the necessary funds to expand its publications program.

These developments make it possible to devote a new annual issue of Childhood Education to an international exchange of ideas regarding the development and care of children from birth through early adolescence. At the 1995 Annual Study Conference, ACEI commissioned the development of such a volume that would be given to members free as an additional membership benefit. You hold in your hands the first International Focus Issue of our award-winning journal. We plan to send you many more.

Benefits of an International Focus Issue

Publishing the International Focus Issue brings with it a number of benefits. First, it formally recognizes that we have much to learn from each other. At the 1994 Study Conference I had the pleasure of attending the Infancy/Early Childhood Luncheon keynote session, "Ways of Achieving Excellence in a Global Community." After speakers from Australia, Finland and Hungary described exemplary programs in their respective countries, I overheard a nearby member of the audience say to a colleague in a serious, subdued voice, "My God! We're a Third World country when it comes to child care." During the course of my travels, I have often shared this perspective. Some of the finest programs I have ever seen are those outside my own country.

Second, cross-national sharing is likely to introduce Childhood Education readers to the world's best educational thinkers in a more expeditious manner. This is a major advantage, considering how many years it took for the ideas of Piaget, Vygotsky and others to reach classroom teachers.

Third, international authors are encouraged to submit manuscripts that stimulate thinking, explore emerging ideas and present conflicting opinions that are supported by theory/research. Thus, theory/ research citations included in international articles open new possibilities to researchers/practitioners that were previously unavailable because of language barriers. Such sources / resources are likely to provide an impetus for greatly expanded global professional collaboration.

Finally, this and future International Focus Issues will provide teachers with ideas from all over the world. Sharing our best practices with the world's teachers offers much promise for supporting maximal development of the world's children.

Cross-National Comparisons

A natural tendency when reading articles from other countries is to make comparisons with one's own country. While such comparisons may provide useful information and may help change policy and/or practices, a word of caution is, nevertheless, in order. Judge (1989) perhaps best expressed the potential danger with international comparisons. He said, "Facile comparisons tend dangerously to undervalue or even overlook the truth that teacher training (or other educational ideas/issues/practices) is itself unintelligible in isolation from the teaching, schooling, education and society of which it is a deeply embedded part" (p. 259). Thus, while this special issue of Childhood Education promises to enlarge our forum for international educational discourse, we should be careful not to implement ideas without considering the cultural context in which they were developed.

International Focus Insights

This inaugural International Focus Issue offers insights from five countries--the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Israel and Iceland--and also describes the Soros Project in 19 countries in Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. The volume begins with a piece on "Children, Culture and Education," in which Jillian Rodd argues for including a larger cultural context when considering development. She further suggests that teachers must recognize "that their own cultural heritage can and does influence their attitudes about young children's best interests and ideal upbringing...." Rodd concludes with practical ideas for creating a more culturally responsible approach to early childhood education.

Anne Smith begins her article with the admonition that "if we are to make the best use of every country's most precious resource, its children, we must better define what we mean by quality and, through whatever means possible, deliver the resources necessary to foster and nurture children's development." She eloquently argues for a merger of education and care through what she describes as "educare." Smith also challenges the popular Piagetian-derived construct of "developmentally appropriate practices" in favor of programs that give more attention to development's social and cultural context.

Pam Coughlin describes the work of the Soros-funded "Step-by-Step" project. This project, implemented in 19 countries throughout Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, draws upon the best of each country's cultural traditions while providing a child-centered approach to development of children from birth through 8.

Elly Singer examines child care policy issues in the Netherlands. Since 1990, the Netherlands has doubled its capacity for child care programs, mainly because its government implemented the "Stimulative Measure on Childcare" legislation (Ministerie van W.V.C., 1992). As she points, however, concern has arisen regarding how to ensure "quality" in such programs. She also describes the differing child care views among the Dutch government, education professionals and parents. Furthermore, she chastises the country's child care research community for disregarding working parents' problems finding child care, suggesting that conventional wisdom does not necessarily correspond to parents' experiences. Her research suggests, for example, that working parents rarely feel guilty for using child care, at least not to the extent other researchers had thought. Singer proposes several policy recommendations that many countries will find valuable.

Malka Haas and Johanna Einarsdottir provide a multinational perspective on best practice. Haas presents a delightful narrative of how she uses a "junkyard" as the heart of her curriculum in the Sdeh Eliyahu kibbutz. In the junkyard environment, Haas suggests, "the dialectic between structure and freedom comes into its full expression." Furthermore, the junkyard appears to support each child's optimum development.

Einarsdottir provides a rare look at Icelandic education concerns. She describes a project designed to explore the relative benefits for older preschool children of literacy development through a play context. Results suggest that children who participated in literacy activities in a play context showed greater literacy proficiency at the project's end.


Many of us have heard the saying that "it takes a whole village to educate a child." Much more is needed, however, than each village working independently in support of children and adolescence, considering that new communication technology is "shortening" the distance between diverse societies. ACEI's annual International Focus Issue of Childhood Education is an attempt to link all villages in sharing the best we have to offer for our world's children.

Acknowledgment: The Guest Editor particularly wishes to thank the following reviewers for their help in making this first volume possible--Jerry Aldridge, Monroe Cohen, Michael Kelley, David Sexton and Steven Silvern. Thanks also go to Anne Watson Bauer and the ACEI Editorial Staff for their editorial magic.


Judge, H. (1989). Foreword. Childhood Education, 65, 259.

Ministerie van W.V.C. (1992). Stimuleringsbeleid Kinderopvang 1990-1992. Rijswijk: Author.

James L. Hoot is Director, Early Childhood Research Center, and Associate Professor, Early Childhood Education, State University of New York at Buffalo. He is also President-Elect of the Association for Childhood Education International.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:international cooperation for children's education
Author:Hoot, James L.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 15, 1996
Previous Article:Let's take a trip!
Next Article:Children, culture and education.

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