An encounter with 'sayings' of curriculum: Levinas and the formalisation of infants' learning

Sandra Cheeseman, Frances Press, Jennifer Sumsion

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Increased global attention to early childhood education and care in the past two decades has intensified attention on the education of infants and assessment of their learning in education policy. This interest is particularly evident in the focus upon infants in the early childhood curriculum frameworks developed in recent years in many countries. To date, there has been little examination of implications of this policy/curriculum emphasis in relation to its possible implications for how infants are understood. In this article, using Levinas’ notion of ethical encounter, we present a critical reading of curriculum for infants. Drawing on his ideas of the ‘Other’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘unknowability’ we argue that the rapidly growing corpus of knowledge about infants and their inclusion in education policy and curricula texts, has the potential to narrowly define educators’ responsibilities and prescribe pedagogies in ways that may have unintended consequences. Using the Australian National Quality Framework (NQF) and its associated Early Years Learning Framework as examples, this article highlights the tensions inherent in a system that aims to provide equity, consistency and certainty, premised on a particular ‘knowing’ of the infant. We draw on Levinas’ ideas about ‘said’ and ‘saying’ to propose ways of working with policy and curricula texts that recognise that they can offer only partial understandings of the possibilities for infants’ learning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)822-832
    Number of pages11
    JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015


    • curriculum
    • Early Years Learning Framework
    • ethical encounter
    • infants
    • Levinas

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