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Abstract

This discussion paper builds on 'Where Angels Fear to Tread' in vol. 1, no. 1 of this journal (Horgan and Douglas 1998). It seeks to provide recommendations concerning the way forward which were submitted by the authors to the National Forum for Early Childhood Education in February 1988. These were based on research carried out for more than a decade on Early Years Education and Care in the Education Department of University College Cork. The paper commences with an overview of the 'Early Years' in the Republic of Ireland and then considers quality child-centred provision under three headings; structures, training and curriculum. It concludes that the period from zero to six heralds the development of an individual's spiritual, emotional, moral, social, cognitive, linguistic, creative and physical growth. Hence, if we really care about educational standards, educational continuity and the spiritual and psychological well-being of future generations, Early Childhood services must be a priority target. In other words, the main concern should be the care and education of our youngest, and indeed most vulnerable, citizens-the children of this State. "Each new generation offers humanity another chance. If we ensure the survival and development of children in all parts of the world, protect them from harm and exploitation and enable them to participate in decisions directly affecting their lives, we will surely build the foundation of the just society we all want and that children deserve." [UNICEF, cited in Nutbrown, c., 1996, p.109]

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