Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), advises the Minister for Education and Science on curriculum and assessment in early childhood education, primary and post-primary schools. In October 2009, the NCCA published Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. Aistear is for all children from birth to six years. The word ‘Aistear’ is the Irish word for ‘journey’, and was chosen because early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys.

The framework can be used as a guide in planning learning experiences in sessional, full-time and part-time childcare settings; infant classes in primary schools and childminding services.  It can also be used by parents in children’s own homes

Aistear has four elements:
1. Principles and Themes
2. Guidelines for Good Practice
3. User Guide
4. Key messages from the research papers

Principles and Themes

Aistear has 12 principles. Based on these 12 principles, Aistear uses four themes to outline what children learn during their early childhood. The themes are:
– Well-being – Aistear Theme Wellbeing
– Identity and Belonging – Aistear Theme Identity and Belonging
– Communicating – Aistear Theme Communicating
– Exploring and Thinking – Aistear Theme Exploring and Thinking

The Themes describe what children learn. Each Theme has 4 Aims and each Aim has 6 Learning Goals.

The following Aistear information sheets are available:

Here you will find various planning templates that can be used in settings, for example, as part of children’s individual or group learning portfolios. Samples are provided for different age groups.

For further information, visit contact

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
35 Fitzwilliam Square,
Dublin 2,
Telephone: +353 1 661 7177
Fax: +353 1 661 7180