What’s happened to the Learning Frameworks?

As educators and professionals, it’s always good practice to be regularly referring back to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and My Time Our Place (MTOP) for guidance and inspiration. If you’ve been doing that by finding the link on many Government websites, you’ve probably noticed that the Frameworks have had… a bit of a makeover.

Or perhaps, make-under is a better term. Here’s the cover of the EYLF when it was first published:

The cover of the EYLF as published in 2009.

Very familiar to educators everywhere. Head to the Department of Education website or ACECQA today, and here’s what the cover looks like now:

The cover of the EYLF as it appears online today.

It appears that the modern trend for minimalism has well and truly reached Australia’s  learning framework for the first five years. Many might say this has been taken a bit too far though.

The stark changes are also reflected throughout the document (and are repeated in My Time Our Place, the Framework for School Age Care). All images and most design elements have been removed, leaving the Framework looking about as interesting as a Microsoft Word document. You can see side-by-side comparisons of two pages below.

This is a significant change to the document that seems to have taken place with no announcement or explanation. Some commentators on social media have claimed that they noticed the changes over a year ago.

In response to a number of detailed questions, the Department of Education provided the following response:  “The images were removed by the department to ensure it could continue to release the EYLF free of charge under a Creative Commons BY licence.”

This essentially means that they wanted to remove any elements of the document that could be subject to a copyright claim (or similar).

The answer provided is not very convincing. The images of children may have been an issue, but that does not explain why the design elements (coloured boxes etc.) have been removed. The images of children could also have been replaced with artwork, or illustrated versions that were not subject to copyright claims.

Even if those remained issues, Creative Commons are clear that there are multiple ways to ensure work can be publicly shared: “Offering your work under a Creative Commons licence does not mean giving up your copyright. It means permitting users to make use of your material in various ways, but only on certain conditions.”

The Department did not respond to questions asking if a new version with images and design elements would be developed, or if any further changes were planned.

For many, these changes may not seem like a big deal. But the importance of design and readability should not be underestimated. A well-designed layout, with relevant images that break up the same pattern from happening over and over again, mean a document is more likely to be read and understood. Endless pages of black text are not going to have anyone running to re-read this document.

That’s the biggest problem here. The Frameworks should be read regularly and often – we want educators to want to pick it up and explore it, to find new meanings, to reflect with their colleagues. We want them to love the Frameworks.

That becomes a lot harder when the time and attention taken to design and produce a document with colour and life is seemingly discarded.

The original printed Framework documents that were provided to services are now 8-9 years old, and are likely being held together with sticky tape and care. New educators and services will be looking for an online copy to print and use – is the version they’ll currently find really the best we can do?

With the EYLF celebrating 10 years since the original consortium was formed to develop it, this seems like the perfect time for the sector to ask for a better look and approach for the foundational documents of our daily work.

Let’s make sure the EYLF and MTOP get back into the design studio, ditch the minimalism and try on some new looks. Our Learning Frameworks deserve to look their best.

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