Visiting a Freinet preschool in Ghent, Belgium. A child-centered pedagogy

Good ways of approaching preschool education exist and I am so happy I just observed one of these! It’s good to have nice colleagues at university who are young mothers: they can get you in theirs son or daughter’s classroom 🙂

In Ghent, (BE), preschools are mostly public settings, free of charge. Besides the traditional preschools (eg: catholic preschools), alternative education is proposed in the neighborhood or close to families with young children. I had the chance to spend one morning in a Freinet’s pedagogy preschool and to observe children and teachers during their daily activities.

I must say it was a pleasant surprise for me to discover several aspects related to a pedagogical approach that takes into account children’s point of view. I will name a few:

  • children get to choose what workshop to participate to (arts, linguistic etc);
  • children propose and participate to their own projects;
  • children give feedback on the work their classmates did in order to identify challenges and the way to overcome them (e. g. : a girl drew a panda today, and her classmates noticed it didn’t have the right number of legs; together with the teacher, and based on a concrete example – a panda bear toy – they arrived at the right answer)
  • children learn in spontaneous ways and by discussing elements that happen in the daily life (e.g. : hearing a sound of an ambulance from outside, one boy wants to know what it is; children give answers and teacher completes them )
  • children’s mess is not an issue! (e. g. : doing arts with liquid paint can be very messy, especially for 3 years old children; but the teacher doesn’t seem to be bothered – she helps them cleaning up)

There are many other examples. These practices are based on  Célestin Freinet’s approach. The principles he proposed as an alternative education for children are the following:

– Pedagogy of Work (Pédagogie du travail) – meaning that pupils learned by making useful products or providing useful services.
– Co-operative Learning (Travail coopératif) – based on co-operation in the productive process.
– Enquiry-based Learning (Tâtonnement expérimental) – trial and error method involving group work.
– The Natural Method (Méthode naturelle) – based on an inductive, global approach.
– Centres of Interest (Complexe d’intérêt) – based on children’s learning interests and curiosity. (History of Freinet Pedagogy, Gerald SCHLEMMINGER, University of Paris XI)

 

For more info about the Belgium (Flemish Community) education: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/mwikis/eurydice/index.php/Belgium-Flemish-Community:Overview

 

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