20 April 2015

Educational Plans as a Way of Governing in Early Childhood Education and Care

educational plans

In 2004, the Danish parliament passed the Law of Educational Plan in Day-care (Kindergarten and Crèches). The idea behind it was not to change day-care practice, but to document and make visible educational work in childcare institutions. The law sets out six learning themes (language; social competencies; personal skills; nature and natural phenomena; forms of cultural expression and values; body and movement), within which the nursery teachers are to set goals and describe methods and activities for reaching them. The legislators envisage this as a knowledge process that develops the nursery teachers’ practice and professionalism through reflection and awareness. It does not include a requirement to reform day-care practices.

Maja Plum

Maja Plum’s PhD project included an analysis of the influence of the requirement to document day-care work on nursery teachers’ practices. After conducting analysis of documents related to legislation and the implementation in the local authorities, qualitative interviews with nursery teachers, and ethnographic fieldwork in three childcare institutions over six months, Maja Plum concludes that the documentation requirement has had a significant effect on practice. Her research shows that:

  • those parts of the daily work that are not measured and documented because they fall outside the six learning themes (e.g. the care-related aspects of nursery teachers’ work) have diminished in value

  • educational plans have introduced a special way of looking at and evaluating children, in which they are seen as ‘wholes’ consisting of six dimensions (the learning themes) within which progress must be visible (possible to make account for)

  • a linear view of educational work has become dominating in which processes must be in pursuit of rational goals - in other words, for an activity to count as educational, the nursery teacher must be able to demonstrate its predefined goal and its results

  • most of what goes on in a day-care cannot be defined as educational work, and thus loses status and is not deemed part of professional work

As a result, the activities and interactions not included in the documentation of educational work are accorded lower priority. Basic routines in which the main activity consists of being there for the children, making them feel safe and secure (making food, mealtimes, toilet visits, changing into or out of outdoor clothes) lose significance, as the primary professional focus is on ‘learning’.

Maja Plum sees the requirement for documentation of learning as part of a political project. The role of the professional nursery teacher becomes a matter of optimizing the child’s development - and in doing so to fully play a role in the ongoing development of Denmark as a knowledge society.


Maja Plum is much in demand as a speaker at seminars and other events, under the auspices of the trade union Trade and Labour (FOA), local authorities and the Danish National Federation of Early Childhood Teachers and Youth Educators (BUPL), which funded her two-year post-doc. Maja Plum and her PhD supervisor, Professor Peter Østergaard Andersen, are frequently cited in discussions of new forms of governance in day-care institutions. Maja Plum has been the primary source of numerous articles on these issues (in Danish newspapers Information, Berlingske, Politiken and on videnskab.dk). However, interest in her research has been somewhat lacking among the politicians responsible for the introduction and actual administration of the educational plans in the day-care institutions.

Maja Plum also addressed the theme in a textbook for university college programmes for nursery teachers: Den pædagogiske faglighed i dokumentationens tidsalder (Educational professionalism in the documentation era) (Forlaget Dafolo, 2014).

Further info

Humanism, administration and education: the demand of documentation and the production of a new pedagogical desire. Journal of Education Policy, Volume 27, Issue 4, 2012