Early childhood education is a critical stage in a child’s intellectual and overall development. Similarly, early childhood education is an ethical task pivoted on the values, motivation, and responsibility of teachers. Therefore, it is important that the professional standards for early education also include ethical codes. These act as an often unsaid contract between society and teachers. They guide the professional conduct of teachers and prevent misconduct, while strengthening the teachers’ professional identity.
However, despite the need for such ethical codes in early childhood education, their development and implementation still have a long way to go. With the aim of advancing the discussions and research surrounding ethical codes for teachers, this special issue of the ECNU Review of Education expounds on the key characteristics of such codes, their underlying values, and the challenges of putting these codes into practice. “This special issue focusses on ethical codes and values used by early childhood teachers across different countries in the hope that it contributes to the widespread awareness and application of such codes,” said Prof. Ruth Ingrid Skoglund, the leading Guest Editor of this issue.
Several countries have designed and adopted their own ethical codes for teachers. While these codes, embedded in their national culture, are unique in their own way, they also share many similarities. Most of these ethical codes are built on the values of trust, honesty, justice, fairness, human rights, protection, and respect of and care for children. This is reflected in the comparative study of the ethical guidelines in 13 countries conducted by Drs. Arve Gunnestad, Sissel Mørreaunet, Sobh Chahboun, and Jolene Pearson. They found that most teaching codes are founded on children’s rights and personal freedom. Likewise, in their study of the Finnish early childhood education curriculum documents, Drs. Anitta Melasalmi, Tarja-Riitta Hurme, and Inkeri Ruokonen found that ethical codes also align with democracy and autonomy. Early childhood teachers have the duty to inculcate democratic agency in their students, while protecting and caring for them. But at the same time, they also have the freedom in deciding their pedagogy for doing so.
Subsequently, Dr. Jan Jaap Rothuizen’s article explores the relationship between ethics and pedagogy in early childhood education in Denmark. Based on narratives collected from 200 early childhood teachers, Dr. Rothuizen found that if early childhood learning is rooted in teachers’ understanding and practice of value-based human science pedagogy, then separate ethical codes become unnecessary. Just by engaging children in meaningful activities, teachers can actually promote and support their students’ agency and development.
In addition to support, another important aspect of these ethical codes is love and care. According to Dr. Gunnar Magnus Eidsvåg, collective support and care between teachers is the basic premise for their ability to care for students. At the same time, caring for students also requires collective judgement and action from teachers.
Additionally, this care should be tailored differently to be relevant to each child rather than being uniform. Adding another perspective to the ethics of love, researchers Jie Zhang, Mollie R. Clark, and Yeh Hsueh explore how free play for children is important in the evolution of care ethics. Observing children in free play, teachers in China found that children are highly receptive and have their own unique personalities. Instead of trying to mold children a certain way, teachers should nurture their individual uniqueness and guide them according to their personalities for their wellbeing and development.
These studies highlight that despite cultural differences, the main ethical values for early education remain common across countries. And while teachers are expected to follow these codes, they should also have the autonomy in developing them. Only then can we ensure the acceptance of such codes, for improving children’s holistic development while strengthening the teaching profession.
This soon-to-be published special issue of the ECNU Review of Education brings new intercultural insights for the enhancement of early childhood education and to push the conversation forward for the worldwide adoption of professional ethical standards in teaching.
For more information on this special issue, watch this video.
1. Ruth Ingrid Skoglund
2. Juyan Ye
3. Yong Jiang
1. Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
2. Beijing Normal University
3. East China Normal University
About ECNU Review of Education
The ECNU Review of Education (ROE) is peer-reviewed journal, established by the East China Normal University (ECNU), which prioritizes the publishing of research in education in China and abroad. It is an open-access journal that provides primacy to interdisciplinary perspectives and contextual sensitivity in approaching research in education. It seeks to provide a platform where the pedagogical community, both scholars and practitioners, can network towards advancing knowledge, synthesizing ideas, and contributing to meaningful change.
About Professor Ruth Ingrid Skoglund
Professor Skoglund is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pedagogy, Religion, and Social Studies in the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. She is a core researcher at KINDknow-Kindergarten Knowledge Centre for Systemic Research on Diversity and Sustainable Futures. She is also a co-leader of the research group Kindergarten as formative educational arena. Her research areas include children’s play and exploration, professional ethics for kindergarten teachers, and collaboration with parents to prevent bullying in kindergarten. She has several publications to her name in these fields.
ECNU Review of Education
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Ethical Codes for Early Childhood Teachers: How and Why Should We Use Them
Article Publication Date
The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest