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The Changing Landscape of Early Childhood Education: Implications for Policy and Practice


Early childhood education is changing rapidly due to the dynamic nature of positive and negative trends affecting the profession. In this article, the changing landscape of early childhood education is discussed and analyzed. Both the positive and negative forces contributing to the changing landscape are examined. The focus of this discussion includes changing demographics, changes in early childhood curriculum and instruction, increased focus on accountability, advances in research that inform early childhood education, influences affecting teacher preparation and professional development, and global trends affecting early education and care. We relate these trends to the need for holistic systems-thinking, integrated curricula, child-centered pedagogical standards, deeper commitment to social justice and a corresponding moral vision capable of inspiring educational policy, practice and research in the midst of a competitive global economy and the commodification of early childhood programs and curricula. By discussing practical examples and research findings to illustrate current positive and negative trends, this paper serves as a meaningful resource for all stakeholders. Taking recent dynamics into account, we provide a vision for evaluating change and analyzing major trends. Both implications and responses to the changes in the early childhood landscape are discussed.

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  1. Science, technology, engineering, mathematics.

  2. Science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics.

  3. Connect4Learning: the Pre-K Curriculum™ is an example of a recently released math and science-based Pre-K curriculum integrating literacy and social/emotional learning.

  4. Organized as the Compendium of Preschool Through Elementary School Social-Emotional Learning and Associated Assessment Measures.

  5. One example among many is the Deverux Center for Resilient Children which trains teachers in the use of an individual social/emotional outcome measure (the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment) and corresponding strategies using an online platform (e-DECA 2.0).

  6. Poverty rates in the United States declined in 2015 based on recent economic reports. However, 50% of U.S. children live in homes meeting “low-income” criteria. Investing in early childhood is one of those “equitable economic policies” being more widely advocated by economists (e.g. James Heckman), as they investigate, among other outcomes, the labor market returns of early childhood interventions.

  7. The preamble of the 2030 Agenda begins, “This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” The full text is available here

  8. “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.” Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.1 & 4.2.

  9. Reported by Forbes:

  10. On October 11th, 2016, the World Health Organization urged governments to tax all sugary drinks by at least an additional 20% (preferably an excise tax as used with tobacco products) to reduce obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Retrieved from

  11. See, for example, the recent $35 million gift given to Harvard University to “build a strong evidence base for preK program improvement, policy and advocacy.”

  12. The Promise Neighborhood program of the U.S. Department of Education is an example of funding comprehensive systems creation for improving an entire neighborhood, including schools, early childhood programs, job creation, adult training, and integrated “cradle-to-career” services.

  13. For an example, see the work of Dr. Cheryl Achterberg, Dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State:


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Correspondence to Michael J. Haslip.

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Haslip, M.J., Gullo, D.F. The Changing Landscape of Early Childhood Education: Implications for Policy and Practice. Early Childhood Educ J 46, 249–264 (2018).

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  • Early childhood education
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Accountability
  • Research
  • Arts education
  • Global trends
  • Teacher preparation