What is the basis of education

Basic elementary education - The influence of early childhood education on dispositions for lifelong learning

Antje Wagner

Within the discussion about lifelong learning processes, the importance of early extracurricular elementary education is of rather marginal importance. However, it is an empirically proven fact that the ability and motivation to learn in late school and adult education depend to a large extent on the type of positive or negative early learning experience.

Children have a remarkable learning potential, especially in the first three years of life (cf. Textor 2006, p. 2). In this context, the former Federal Minister for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth, Ursula von der Leyen, states that high-quality institutional childcare can provide a foundation for children's social and cognitive skills. It declares the separation between "play and rest space" in early childhood and preschool age with subsequent preparation for the "seriousness of life" from primary school as out of date (cf. v. D. Leyen 2008, p. 15). Modern childhood research confirms this: Today, from the first day of life, an infant is seen as a competent personality who, in addition to loving attention and secure attachment, needs stimulating spaces to develop (see Largo 2005; Meiser 2004; Textor 2006; v. D. Leyen 2008).

So if early learning experiences are an important starting point for later learning efforts, the function of high quality extracurricular education, upbringing and care in day-care centers could be an important resource for lifelong learning processes. As a result, this article investigates the central question of whether learning ability and motivation to learn can be shaped and strengthened through extracurricular institutional education in early childhood in such a way that children are initially able to learn for a lifetime.

Education over the entire lifetime

The discourse on lifelong learning has so far been conducted with the main focus on the area of ​​continuing education. The importance of early school and extracurricular basic education as the foundation of lifelong learning processes could not be given a relevant place within the discussion (cf. v. Felden 2004, p. 3).

However, the fact that learning ability and motivation to learn in late school and adult education depend to a large extent on early school education is empirically founded: The prerequisite for successful learning in later stages of life is that "learning has been learned": "Children have to experience have how to plan and monitor learning, how to acquire and review knowledge, which learning strategies are most promising, where your strengths and weaknesses lie, how to think through and remember what you have learned. You have to know that learning means making an effort, and should therefore have developed motivation to learn and achieve "(Textor 2006, p. 4).

In particular, the type of positive or negative learning experience and the skills, interests, dispositions and orientations actually acquired have a decisive influence on the later educational biography. A permanent one Motivation to learn and Ability to learn consequently depend far less on "subject-specific organized, content-knowledge-centered curricula" (TU-Dresden 2010, p. 14) than on basic skills and orientations. These are considered to be elementary building blocks and essential elements of the ability and willingness to learn; it is about the acquisition of cognitive, technical and social core competencies, so-called "meta-cognitions" via rules and procedures of knowledge acquisition, knowledge management and the reflective handling of knowledge (cf.achtenhagen / Lempert 2000, p. 12 f .; Fthenakis et al . 2007, p. 76 ff.).

Since important dispositions for lifelong learning are developed even before schooling (cf. Krumm 2000, p. 128), early learning experiences combined with motivation and personal interest create an important foundation for later engagement in learning. In addition to the family - especially the parents - the institutional childcare facilities are decisive.

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is by no means a completely "new" theory: there were influential concepts in Europe as early as 1970; In Germany, conceptual suggestions were incorporated into model projects by the federal government from the 1990s onwards (cf. v. Felden 2004, p. 2). An educational policy revaluation of the subject-oriented concept can currently be observed (1). The economic interest in the context of the knowledge society and Germany as a business location is particularly emphasized here (cf. v. Felden 2004, p. 6; BMBF 2007, p. 1). The Federal-State Commission for Educational Planning and Research Promotion (BLK) defines lifelong learning as a concept which includes "all formal, non-formal and informal learning at different learning locations from early childhood up to and including the phase of retirement" (2) (BLK 2004, p. 13).

Here, learning is consistently understood as a strategy in order to be able to process information and experiences constructively into knowledge, insights and competencies (see ibid. 2004, p. 13). As a learning strategy, lifelong learning had to prevail against the conventional concepts of instruction and the teaching of knowledge in schools (cf. v. Felden 2004, p. 6). The former perspective that the ability to learn is only limited to the lifetime up to the end of adolescence can, as a result, be considered obsolete. The ability to acquire knowledge is defined as a complex and life-accompanying process of cognitive development. Important predispositions to this are during, but also in front and Next formed during school time (cf.Beachhagen / Lempert 2000, p. 12 f .; Krumm 2000, p. 128; Liegle 2006, p. 94).

Achthagen and Lempert characterize so-called Metacognitions As basic elements of the ability to learn: The potential to deal with knowledge reflexively, i.e. to be able to consciously control learning processes, is a central competence of knowledge management. As the strongest subjective component, the authors determine interests and values, which they consider motivational aspects define (see ibid., p. 12). In this context, lifelong learning as a concept - beyond the perspective of supplementing professional knowledge through continuous further training - is gaining in importance. To be able to use this approach as a theoretical frame of reference for the analysis of educational and learning processes from early childhood seems to me to be promising.

Daycare center as a place of learning

As Learning locations In Germany in the 1970s only the four central institutions "school, training workshop, company and studio" (3) (Dt. Bildungsrat 1974, quoted in Nuissl 2006, p. 71) were valid. In the further course of the discussion (1990s), the concept of the place of learning was differentiated more precisely: it had to have a didactic quality in order to be considered a place of learning. He found his location on a third level between institution and Learning processwhich, for example, also implies the Internet as a place of learning (cf. Nuissel 2006, p. 73 f.).

In order to make sense within a certain didactic concept, according to Nuissel, high-quality learning locations today have to have the following dimensions (cf. ibid., P. 75):

  • Action and practical relevance, space of experience, reflection on practice, knowledge construction and interpretation possibilities;
  • Enabling access to personal interests, degrees of freedom and development prospects;
  • Enabling emotional access to the object;
  • Enabling holistic connections between social, content and personal relationships.

In this context, it is relevant that the above dimensions can be attributed in particular to learning spaces that are not generally considered to be educational institutions. In a nutshell, "a place of learning (...) is where people learn, and it is what surrounds them while they are learning" (ibid., P. 74). Even if Nuissel never counts the institutional childcare facilities (hereinafter "daycare centers") among the (lifelong) learning locations in his remarks, in my opinion they can definitely take on a primary role within the learning location network.

In recent years, daycare centers (4) have established themselves as an important part of the education system and thus also as places of learning: In 2004, the "Common Framework of the Länder for Early Education in Day-Care Centers" was presented. The educational plans drawn up in the individual federal states have been in the process of being implemented since 2005. The aims are: to motivate the children to acquire elementary knowledge, to support their instinctive urge to learn and to ensure a successful transition to primary school (see MBFJ 2004; Dors 2009).

The function of qualitative elementary education, upbringing and care

"Nowhere is society more manifest than in the way it treats its children. Our success must be measured by the happiness and well-being of our children, who are the most vulnerable citizens and the greatest wealth in any society" (Nelson Mandela n.d., quoted in Wehrmann 2008, p. 23).

Early childhood education, upbringing and care are topics that are currently of great importance in specialist debates and political discussions. In particular, early childhood education, including language development, are central concerns of educational, social and family policy (see Education Report 2008, p. 47). At the beginning of this year, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research accentuated the citizens' right to education as well as the planned strengthening of cognitively oriented support in early childhood with the words: "No child should be lost" (Schavan 2010, quoted in BMBF 2010, p. 1 ).

Since curricularly regulated learning began for many years with the transition to school, the current question is what effects educational processes already have before school entry (cf. Bildungsbericht 2008, p. 57). Studies on the effective use of early childhood education, upbringing and care for children's cognitive and social development are rare in the German research area (cf. Roßbach / Frank 2008, p. 256).

It is worth taking a look at the results of the British first Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) study: These show that children of all social classes gain significant cognitive advantages from high quality preschool institutional care. A profit could be determined expressly for children from socially disadvantaged families if they attended a qualified daycare facility at an early stage and constantly. A secure bond and a good educator-child or parent-child interaction were determined as the basis of all early educational activities (see Roßbach et al. 2008, p. 23 f .; Wagner 2010, p. 7-9) .

The European Child Care and Education (ECCE) study examined the quality of institutional childcare in Germany, Austria, Portugal and Spain. In line with the EPPE study, it was able to determine that the quality of education, upbringing and care of four-year-old children has an impact on their socio-emotional as well as cognitive-performance-related development in primary school age (see Roßbach / Frank 2008, p. 256; Roßbach et al. 2008, pp. 73, 85).

In the International Elementary School Reading Inquiry(PIRLS / IGLU) In most of the participating countries (5), fourth graders achieved higher reading skills if they had attended a preschool facility for more than a year (cf. Bildungsbericht 2008, p. 57; Bos et al. 2007, p. 14).

For the subsequent school education, the educational and structural quality of childcare is indeed important. In the following, theoretical approaches to reflective (6) educational aspects (cf. Liegle 2006, p. 105 f.) In daycare centers are focused and discussed in the context of lifelong learning processes.

Core competencies

In the debate on lifelong learning, the competence for independent and self-directed learning is of outstanding importance (cf. Reetz / Tramm 2000, p. 72). In addition to intrinsic motivations (see Chapter 2.1), attitudes hagen and Lempert accentuate a "meta-learning competence" as decisive for the development of such learning potentials. The ability to consciously control learning processes and to reflect on knowledge is a central skill of knowledge management. Knowledge From today's point of view, it includes both basic knowledge of the content as well as personal, social and learning methodical competencies (cp.Beachhagen / Lempert 2000, p. 12; Bruendel / Hurrelmann 2003, p. 2)

In the context of current early childhood educational approaches (e.g. the metacognitive approach according to Pramling), these basic skills are a clear focus. The concept of metacognition encompasses the central aspects Knowledge, regulation and control (7); The objects of reflection and conscious control are one's own cognitive processes, for which the children should be made aware. The methodical implementation is about acquiring personal and social skills in order to learn to learn. Bruendel and Hurrelmann consider it sensible to use this method as early as kindergarten age, as the conscious promotion of reflection on one's own thinking would acquire key qualifications for the later school biography (8) (cf. Bruendel / Hurrelmann 2003, p. 2; Fthenakis et al. 2007, pp. 63 f., 85).

As a result, learning can be considered as a Competence development in the foreground (building on the motivational foundation) problem-solving, communication and cooperation skills as well as moral judgment are in the foreground (cf. Reetz / Tramm 2000, p. 71 f.). Since early childhood is a particularly learning-intensive time within the educational biography, the basis for lifelong learning is created here and the course is set for educational opportunities. The BLK declares the foundation and promotion of the Core competencies for lifelong learning (motivation and ability to learn) as the central task of early childhood education (cf. BLK 2004, p. 17).

Early childhood education concepts and lifelong educational processes

The term lifelong learning has been used for over 30 years in the context of educational reform concepts. The necessary efficiency of lifelong learning processes on an individual as well as on a societal level is widely recognized, but very different socio-political goals and ideas are often associated with the term. Critical voices warn against a reduction to exclusively economic purposes in the context of permanent compulsory learning and centralization on maintaining employability (employability) (see TU-Dresden 2010, p. 2 f .; Krenz 2009, p. 1).

In this article, the approach is understood as a theoretical frame of reference for the analysis of learning processes from early childhood onwards. Since lifelong learning as a concept is not limited to formal learning processes organized in the curriculum, both self-directed learning and informal self-learning in everyday life and work are given an added value in addition to formal learning. In this context, Reetz and Tramm (2000) recommend, with reference to Dohmen (1996), a foundation of motivations and skills in schools: Here - in order to enable "to clarify fundamental contexts of meaning and understanding" (p. 76 f.) - Basic skills and key qualifications are acquired in voluntary and self-directed processes.

As has already been made clear, because of their non-formal and self-educational character, educational concepts in day-care centers are particularly relevant for the cognitive foundation of lifelong learning (cf. Liegle 2006, p. 99). Therefore, in the opinion of the author, the above recommendations with regard to the importance of metacognitive skills can also apply to the early childhood education sector. In this context, what is important is a differentiated understanding of education among employees and competent implementation in the daycare centers by the specialists.

"Education in the original sense has nothing to do with" school "learning and even less with" preschool-oriented "work. Education is not based on a knowledge competition with winners and losers but on value developments, timelessness, art, music and the beauty of a careful cultivated language "(Krenz 2009, p. 6).

Krenz draws attention to a currently strongly output-oriented, "radical kindergarten reform". Children would be forced to work through educational programs to enable them for the future and receive partial performance support for school skills. The reason for this, he suspects, is that the educational mandate is being misinterpreted in many ways in early childhood care facilities and is accordingly being implemented inappropriately. Ideally, education should initiate learning processes in the children as sustainable personal development that promote the acquisition of meaningful "analysis, evaluation and action skills". This is explicitly required Not for "training of skills"; but rather for the fundamental foundation of skills and support for personal identity finding (cf. ibid., p. 2 f.).

These arguments can definitely be compared with the neo-humanist understanding of education, which Wilhelm von Humboldt established as a reciprocal relationship between man and the world at the end of the 18th century. A structural feature of the subject-world relationship is the intellectual self-activity through which a child appropriates his place in the world (cf. Liegle 2006, pp. 94, 99; Raithel et al. 2008, p. 118).

Summary and Outlook

The aim of the present article was to use selected literature to show whether institutional early childhood education can positively influence lifelong learning ability and motivation to learn. First there was the concept Lifelong learning presented and made clear that the daycare center can rightly be located as an educational institution and that high-quality early childhood education, upbringing and care have important effects on the educational biography. Since the acquisition of metacognitive skills is particularly easy in early childhood, early childhood education could basically be identified as a resource for dispositions of lifelong learning processes.

The positive effects of early childhood offers that have so far been determined by international studies do not explicitly relate to the educational aspect. As a result, there is currently a lack of differentiated statements about under which circumstances and to what extent which educational offer in the daycare center is beneficial for individual school and professional careers (cf. Bildungsbericht 2008, p. 60; Liegle 2006, p. 108).

Due to the heterogeneous sponsorship and the lack of educational guidelines, there is also a large discrepancy between the individual institutions in Germany. What is significant is that it is precisely this area early childhood education falls within the discretion of the staff. The implementation of the educational mandate in accordance with Section 22, Paragraph 3 of Book VIII of the Social Code therefore depends on the level of specialist qualification of the employees. In this context, the tendency is to be assessed as explosive that predominantly low-qualified skilled workers avoid further training offers, although it is precisely here that the further training requirement should be compulsory (cf. Wehrmann 2008, p. 85 ff.).

In my opinion, there is a clear need to research individual early childhood education processes and needs more precisely and to develop standards for education in daycare centers based on this. However, these curricular bases must not be understood as curricula in the school sense, but as "learning goal-oriented framework plans" (cf. Wehrmann 2008, pp. 67 f., 76 f.). According to the current state of research, the educational progress of children from socially disadvantaged families can be positively influenced by high-quality, integrative, non-family childcare (see Rossbach et al. 2008). Further studies on the actual effect of education in daycare centers - taking into account the family situation - is, in my opinion, the next important step.

In addition, employees should have high demands for further training and qualifications. What is striking, compared to employees in other educational institutions, is the low level of academic qualification of the skilled workers to date (9). In order to increase the qualification standard of employees, the further expansion of courses and further training opportunities at universities in the early childhood education sector is just as essential as qualified work is appropriately remunerated and an expressly higher appreciation of the profession within society is to be pushed (cf. .).

List of abbreviations

  • BLK: Federal-State Commission for Educational Planning and Research Funding
  • BMBF: Federal Ministry for Education and Research
  • Kita: day care center
  • MBFJ: Ministry for Education, Women and Youth Rhineland-Palatinate


  1. see the Qualification initiative of the Federal Government, for example "The Concept for Learning in the Life Course" (2008) or "The Strategy for Lifelong Learning in the Federal Republic of Germany" (2004) (see www.bmbf.de).
  2. Formal Learning processes mainly take place in institutionalized courses in schools and universities. Informal Learning, on the other hand, is self-directed and not determined by the curriculum in all life and work situations; non-formal Learning processes are characteristic of the further education sector or of educational processes that take place outside the formal education system (cf. Reetz / Tramm 2000, p. 73; BLK 2004, p. 32 f.).
  3. Various extracurricular learning institutes such as youth centers, libraries and museums were subsumed under the term "studio" (cf. Nuissl 2006, p. 77).
  4. In Germany, small children are mainly cared for in the family. Supplementary forms of care before the age of 3 have experienced increasing demand in recent years. From the age of 3, childcare is almost the norm (often in kindergarten) (cf. BLK 2004, p. 17).
  5. Also in Germany (note from the author).
  6. As reflexive those learning methods are understood here, which strive for the formation of an awareness of learning.
  7. A differentiated presentation of the promotion of memory and meta-memory in early childhood education was dispensed with for economic reasons. Therefore, at this point, reference is made to the statements by Fthenakis et al. 2007; Gisbert 2004 and Liegle 2006 referenced.
  8. School psychological studies have shown that the prerequisites for Reading skills, which is considered the basic skill of all school achievements, can be shaped long before school time. The later reading competence and literacy are accordingly shaped by reading or looking at books in early childhood (cf. Bruendel / Hurrelmann 2003, p. 2; Fthenakis et al. 2007, p. 85 ff.).
  9. Nationwide it is only below 3% and has increased only insignificantly since 2002 (cf. Education Report 2008, p. 55). At this point it should be pointed out that the generally low social and socio-economic status of educators in Germany also contributes to the fact that the day care center is not generally perceived as an educational institution. Here, more courage is required for open debate, for self-confident positioning as an educational institution and for own reforms.


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Antje Wagner, graduate social worker (FH), email: [email protected]