Síolta Aistear: where the exciting journey of education begins for kids in Ireland!

As teachers, parents, and even with our own memories of childhood, we are familiar with the hours spent role-playing scenarios, such as School, Doctors, Restaurant. The learning embedded in those is also recognisable, in terms of imagination, language development, learning to share, taking turns, negotiating limited resources and much more.

In Ireland this time for imaginative play is recognised within a framework that was developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in partnership with early childhood practitioners, children, parents, people in education and training, researchers, and policy makers working together. The curriculum framework itself is called Aistear and is linked to the national quality framework for early childhood education (0-6) which is called Síolta. As early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong journeys, the words Síolta and Aistear fittingly mean ‘seeds’ and ‘journey’ in the Irish language.

Pedagogy of Aistear

Aistear emphasises holistic and integrated learning. It is an emergent and inquiry-based curriculum.

  • Active learning, talk and discussion, problem solving, guided discovery, co-operative/collaborative learning, learning through play and free exploration of materials are some of the many teaching methodologies used by Aistear.
  • As an informal assessment method teachers ask after the session: “How was it?” to gain a thumbs up, across or down from the pupils. The video below shows more about assessment.

Using Aistear to plan and asses (Birth-6 years) from NCCA on Vimeo.

Aistear contributes greatly to helping children to grow up with a strong sense of well-being – to be curious and resilient explorers and creative thinkers.

  • It also provides lots of opportunity for language development and helps foster prosocial interaction. It can promote empathy and compassion and prevent bullying when well supervised.
  • It is playful and child-led; it helps the children to build relationships, to be creative, and to read, write and learn about numbers.
  • Children use small and large muscles, e.g. cutting with scissors, jumping or building an airport with Lego.
  • Aistear links easily to other subjects: Literacy, Numeracy and Geography/Science, e.g. the seaside.
  • The Aistear play sessions facilitate the inclusion of all children with a wide range of abilities.

Information about the most up-to-date developments relating to the National Síolta Aistear Initiative can be found here.

Authors: Amy Coffey is a primary school teacher in Gaelscoil de hÍde, Ireland, and an eTwinning Ambassador. Annie Asgard is a primary school teacher at Claddagh National School in Galway City, an eTwinning Ambassador and the winner of the 2017 European Language Label for Primary School Teachers in Ireland.