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Education begins at birth. Young children learn when they actively explore the world, play, observe, ask questions, and seek answers. For this they need a stimulating environment and attentive adults who support them. Learning experiences in the first years of life are fundamental to children’s development and all later learning processes.
This view on the early years is now widely accepted and has led to broad recognition of early childhood education and its importance. Contributing significantly to this was the Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care in Switzerland (German) published in 2012.
Strategy for Early Childhood Education and Care
The Department of Education also pays great attention to early childhood. In 2009 it published a Background Report (German) and presented Guiding Principles for Early Childhood Education and Care (German) for discussion at a conference (German). Based on that, the department developed the Strategy for Early Childhood Education and Care (German) in 2012, with the overarching objective to give every child good opportunities. To implement the strategy, projects were launched and supported for targeted strengthening of the existing provision of early childhood education in the Canton of Zurich. These include, for example, the projects Learning Opportunities for Children up to Age 4, Zeppelin (German), Transition to Kindergarten (German), and Educational Landscapes (German).
Current focus: Early language acquisition
In the current legislative period, the Department of Education is focusing on supporting early language acquisition, basing its work on the legislative priorities of the cantonal council 2015-2019 and the Strategy for Language Support from Early Childhood to Young Adulthood, 2015 (German). The fundamental concern is that all children should be supported in their language development from the start: in families, daycare centres, day families, or playgroups. This is also meant to specifically improve the starting out opportunities of children from socially disadvantaged or foreign-language backgrounds. This is because good language skills are decisive for educational success.
In a first step, the Department of Education put out the concept paper Conceptual framework for Supporting Early Language Acquisition for children up to age 4, in May 2017. It aims to contribute to a common understanding of the promotion of early language development and provides a conceptual basis for the development of practical materials such as films on promoting early language acquisition and quality characteristics for promoting language development in playgroups (German).