If federal and provincial investments in early childhood learning signal a society willing to consider it a public right, then the system should be prepared with the most well-trained educators possible, according to a Western researcher.
“Recognizing that early childhood educators (ECE) are the backbone of such a system, a transformation around the education of early childhood educators is paramount,” said Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Faculty of Education professor. “Right now, educators (the majority of them women) are underpaid, undervalued, and undereducated (educated as simple technicians).”
As such, the education and professional learning of early childhood educators needs a dramatic change, she continued.
Researchers at Western and British Columbia’s Capilano University are aiming to do just that with a recent $2-million investment from the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development to launch the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network (ECPN).
“This investment in the ECPN will be used to support the continuous professional learning of ECEs, in the context of their work, in order to create better conditions for the profession,” Pacini-Ketchabaw said. “The ECPN is facilitating a transformative approach to educators’ professional development. We are excited to see how the pedagogists will work with ECE educators to collaboratively create educational processes that respond to the times in which we live.”
The ECPN is a key initiative within Childcare BC’s strategy to address key issues in the profession, recognize the essential role educators play in children’s lives and support parents to work or pursue their education. The funding is part of a $136-million investment over three years to help recruit and retain early childhood education workers to better meet the child care needs of B.C. families.
Pacini-Ketchabaw and Kathleen Kummen, Chair of the School of Education and Childhood Studies at Capilano University, will introduce the ECPN Saturday in B.C.
Pacini-Ketchabaw said the initial phase will see approximately 30 instructors hired to engage early childhood educators to work with the BC Early Learning Framework and lead the creation of strong educational work, not by following a doctrine or particular practice but inventing and thinking of education as a socio-cultural issue.
“Our past research tells us there might not be ‘right tools’ that will fix the problem of disengaged educators. We propose that educators need to be inspired ‘to think,’” Pacini-Ketchabaw continued. “We want to challenge the idea that educators are technocrats who apply simple guidelines.
“Research shows that being an engaged educator is more than acquiring the technical skills to help children reach predetermined goals; it is to continuously explore what it means to educate children in an unstable, unpredictable, shifting world. With such an understanding, professional learning needs to engage educators to think about ‘education’ not about how to ‘teach children.’”