As I have been thinking about the issues brought up by the educational qualifications within ECE, I have wondered what how these educational requirements will impact our field. I have long been a proponent of educational requirements within the field, and if I had my way anyone who is in charge of a classroom would have an AA, and all directors would have a BA. And I understand the financial impacts of doing this, but see the impact of generations of children being inadequately prepared for life as far worse. My concerns about the current manner in which educational requirements are being implemented all relate to the practical impact I see them having.
First of all, I am concerned that by putting the emphasis on very specific criteria these regulations promote a pedagogical bent that is not all inclusive. Children are not robots who need the same pedagogy in which to thrive, but rather they need a system that supports their individual differences, as well as honors the values and culture that they are being raised within. The system by which we educate our ECE providers is the foundation of how the field honors individual differences, as well as respects the cultural varieties that our field claims to hold dear. I saw this first hand when I was in California where teachers are required to have 12 credits of college. While that sounds great on the surface, the ECE college curriculum is dictated by the state so that at many of the ECE programs I visited the same songs were sung, the same art projects were done, and the same lessons were taught. How does this fit with what we know is the benefit of a reflective, responsive curriculum that honors all children and their families? Having a vibrant, diverse choice of pedagogues for families to chose from honors both family and individual differences.
Other examples of this include how we teach when a child must be off the pacifier, bottle, sleeping through the night, feeding themselves, and stop nursing. I often hear people criticize a family whose child who is not self-feeding by a certain age, and yet we know that children who grow up in cultures that put a value on interdependence lead happy, productive lives, and are not crippled psychologically. The real question is who gets to decide what is best for the child- the field of ECE, or the family and culture within which that child is raised? If we truly valued diversity we would teach child development from a multicultural perspective rather than on white, middle-class values which is were the vast majority of research we use to justify our practices comes from.
My second concern is that the current educational requirements will lead to the field becoming a vocation rather than a profession as I wrote in a previous blog. Why would someone with 20 years of experience, a BA or higher, and currently director qualified want to take classes at the community college to earn the same money? If they already have an education degree they can simply move to a job in an elementary school and make more money. While the the problem of poor pay in ECE will not be solved immediately by more focus on college degrees, it will in the long run create a field that is viewed as a profession rather than a vocation, and that will lead to better pay.
And, of course, my goal and vision for ECE is that of a well-paid, honored profession that meets the needs of individual families and children by offering them a large plate full of choices from which they can choose the one that fits them. So I purpose that instead of putting the emphasis on specific classes, we as a field focus instead on college degrees that are either specifically in ECE or as a certificate program once a degree has been received. ECE is a field that requires generalized knowledge, a love of learning, and a deep passion for those we serve which is why, I believe, studies show that the better educated the provider the better the quality of care, even when that education is not in the field of ECE. Once someone has a degree or if they are getting a degree in ECE (and let's start with requiring an AA), then the college programs need to promote not just the prevailing pedagogy of the day, but include an in-depth study of all the different pedagogues; a multicultural understanding of child development from birth to adulthood (since we need to know where they come from and where they are going); an understanding of psychology, sociology, and the impact of culture; the different theories of business, including organizational culture, leadership and communication styles, how to develop a strategic plan and vision statement, budgeting, as well as other business practices; theories of how children learn; as complete an understanding of how the brain develops and functions as current science allows; a cross-cultural understanding of nutrition and how it impacts development; an understanding of all current local, state, and federal regulations governing our field; an understanding of family and community dynamics, including a study of impact of different economic situations; an understanding of the different methods of curriculum development; and require that at least one course is taken in each of the general areas (such as history, science, math, etc) that ECE providers need to know in order to respond to the wonderful questions children pose. And let's make the focus on all of these courses not that the students can regurgitate the knowledge back to us, but rather than they can apply, reflect on, and analyze what they are taught. After all, I have met very few children who fit the textbooks and often had to adapt that knowledge in order to meet the needs of the child effectively.
So, I have given you my vision and proposal for our field, but I urge you to comment about what yours is. I, also, urge (nay, BEG) you to let the decision and policy makers who are deciding the course of our field know exactly what you think about these issues, and I beg you to do so whether or not you agree with me. Let's start making our voices heard. I would love to hear what you think so you can make me think a little harder and clearer about these issues.
With the greatest respect,