The relationship between the physical environment and learning: A blind spot in New Zealand early childhood education discourse?

  • Ann Pairman

Abstract

Although the design, layout and space in ECE environments influences children’s learning, New Zealand’s minimum standards for physical space compare poorly with other OECD countries and there is a paucity of NZ research in this area. This paper argues that the relationship between physical environments and learning is a ‘blind spot’ in NZ ECE discourse.



In identifying why this blind spot may have occurred, aspects of the ECE sector’s history are described. In particular it is argued that the sector's status as the ‘cinderella’ of the education system has led to political struggle for government recognition, improved qualifications, adult:child ratios, and funding, and that these issues have necessarily dominated ECE sector discourse. In addition it is argued that historical disparities within the sector have meant that concerns about physical space are not necessarily shared across the sector.



In describing why the relationship between physical environments and learning should be of growing concern, this paper argues that bulk funding and minimum standards for physical space, rather than pedagogy, appear to be influencing the design of ECE physical environments, particularly in corporate ECE which is the fastest growing part of the sector. The paper ends by challenging the government and the ECE sector to redress the lack of attention paid to the impact of the physical environment on children’s learning.

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Author Biography

Ann Pairman
Ann Pairman been involved in ECE for over 30 years. During this time she has worked as a teacher and head teacher in a variety of centres; as a professional development facilitator and advisor on the establishment of new ECE centres for the Early Childhood Development Unit (ECDU); and as a policy analyst with the Ministry of Education. Ann has taught at Aubert Childcare Centre in Wellington for the past 6 years and has recently returned to Victoria University to further her post graduate studies.
Published
2012-07-19
How to Cite
PAIRMAN, Ann. The relationship between the physical environment and learning: A blind spot in New Zealand early childhood education discourse?. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], v. 21, july 2012. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <https://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/nzaroe/article/view/4041>. Date accessed: 21 oct. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.26686/nzaroe.v21i0.4041.