Lýðræði, umhyggja og hæfni í Aðalnámskrá leikskóla

Translated title of the contribution: Democracy, care and competences in National Curriculum Guidelines for Preschools

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the study presented in this article, the focus is on the values identified in Icelandic preschool policy. The aim of the study is to explore how the Icelandic national curriculum guidelines for preschools frame values education and how Icelandic preschool educators are expected to communicate them to preschool children (Aðalnámskrá leikskóla, 2011). A particular focus is placed on the values of democracy, caring, and competence. These values were chosen because they have been found to form a leitmotif running throughout Nordic curricula for preschools (Einarsdottir, Puroila, Johansson, Broström, & Emilson, 2015). The following research questions guided the study: • What does the national curriculum say about participation and responsibilities of children in the preschool community? • How is the concept of care presented in the national curriculum? • What competencies does the national curriculum emphasize? The study is part of a larger Nordic project, Values education in Nordic preschools: Basis of education for tomorrow, the aim of which is to explore values education from various perspectives, including policy levels, institutional levels, and personal levels. Values are defined as principles that guide human actions and by which actions are judged to be good or desirable (Halsted & Taylor, 2010). Values education as a concept refers to educational practices through which children are assumed to learn societal values, as well as the norms and skills grounded in those values (Halstead & Taylor, 2000; Thornberg, 2008). The Nordic study applied Habermas’s (1987 theoretical ideas of communicative actions, the life-world, and the system. While the life-world is related to an inside perspective; that is, the participant’s point of view, the system relates to an outside perspective; that is, the spectator’s point of view. Here, the focus is on the system level, namely, the values embedded in Icelandic national curriculum guidelines for preschools. Thematic research analysis described by Braun and Clarke (2006) inspired the analysis of the curriculum guide. Thematic analysis is characterized by flexibility and involves searching across a data set to identify, analyze, and report patterns. A theme captures important aspects of the data in relation to the research questions and represents some level of meaning within the data set. An inductive analysis was also performed; that is, the themes identified were strongly linked to the data and the coding. In addition to a thematic analysis of the documents, a language-based approach was applied to the study. Key words related to democratic, caring, and competence values were selected, counted and categorized. The findings of the study provide knowledge about the values of democracy, caring, and competency in the Icelandic national curriculum guidelines for preschools. The findings shed light on how these values are presented in the curriculum and reveal different dimensions and meanings of the three value fields. Democracy is a prominent value in the document. Emphasis is placed on the importance of children not only learning about democracy but also having opportunities to understand and exercise democracy in the preschool setting. Democratic values are, on the one hand, pointed toward the individual and, on the other hand, toward the group. Care is widely discussed in the document and presented both as the fulfillment of basic needs and as an ethical relationship. Emphasis is placed on children learning to show other children respect and empathy as well as their right to experience sympathy and support from others. Concepts connected to competence values are highly prioritized in the curriculum. The competence values concern both a “how” aspect and a “what” aspect of children’s learning and development; that is, what children should learn and the methods the preschools should use to support their learning. Competence values concern both sociality and academic skills. Social competence is in the forefront in the curriculum and means interacting with other people, participating in society, and understanding social circumstances. Socio-emotional factors related to the individual, such as the development of self-esteem, self-image, and self-confidence, are also mentioned. Learning areas or content areas of the preschool curriculum are described in the curricular texts, and emphasis is placed on their integration and on meeting the interests of individual children.
Translated title of the contributionDemocracy, care and competences in National Curriculum Guidelines for Preschools
Original languageIcelandic
Number of pages13
Issue numberInnsýn í leikskólastarf
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2017

Other keywords

  • Leikskólastarf
  • Gildismat
  • Aðalnámskrár
  • Leikskólar


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