My Evolution of an ECCE Perspective
I have been doing a lot of reflection over my forty-seven years in the ECE profession. With the advent of the current Provincial Child Care plan and the ongoing proposal for the Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning ($10 a Day Child Care Plan), there has been both a public and professional shift in perspectives on child care. There are many issues within this topic; however, the one that is playing on my mind of late is the aspect of the jurisdictional “home” for Early Care and Learning in B. C.
When I started in this profession in 1971, those in the field were called “preschool teachers” and even as students in training, we soon learned that “preschool” was the essential adjective of this title. There was an emphatic and defiant stance in not being categorized with simply the term “teacher” as that may associate us with the confines of schools and structured educational agendas. There was also the belief that ECE practice had a deeper understanding and appreciation for child development –in terms of both its compounding importance from birth and consideration of the whole child: physical, emotional, social and intellectual. In no uncertain terms would we, “preschool teachers” want to be grouped with school teachers or be considered part of the straight jacket of the education system. Though lesser in status, both practical and social, we had pride in our unique understanding and facilitation of child development and the translation of that into programs and practice.
Time marched on. As the profession advanced with research, training, social necessity and advocacy, we searched for a better term to more accurately describe ourselves: Early Childhood Educator and later, Early Childhood Care and Education. This seemed a definition more inclusive of the specialized training in child development, nurturing in care, facilitation of exploration of the environment, fostering of experience, and family interaction that are key factors of this career.
Since I have been in the profession, child care has beenadministered in the problematic jurisdiction of three Provincial Ministries: The Ministry of Advanced Education for establishing appropriate training; The Ministry of Child and Family Development for registration of credentials and funding related to the operation and subsidized use of child care; and the Ministry of Health for the licensing and monitoring of child care facilities as per Provincial law and regulation.
The last decade has seen significant progress of both ECCE and primary education approaches with an unprecedented collaboration between the two professions. This has come about due to many factors including solid scientific research on brain and child development, the Early Development Instrument utilization in school districts, and implementation of Strong Start programs. A respect and appreciation has emerged in the Ministry of Education for science and impact of early childhood development, and positively fostered, its contribution to the child’s successful ongoing education - echoing the old ECE adage of “The child is not born in kindergarten”. Equally, primary education has advanced creative and social teaching strategies and curriculum changes that both complement and benefit ECE practice. Early Years community planning tables usually include school district representatives; professional development opportunities, regardless of sponsorship, are often open to both ECCE professionals and school district staff; ECCE professionals work in Strong Start programs and other school district programs and projects; and Early Years Centres are linked or in consultation with school districts. The positive outcomes of this rich partnership are just beginning to be realized.
The Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning in B.C., so carefully researched and planned by the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., has proposed that the “home” for child care is the Ministry of Education. I can almost hear the veterans (and I admit the long battle for the recognition of our profession does, in fact, makes me feel like a veteran by any definition) voicing resistance to this perhaps based on the bias and diverging practice stated earlier. However, like a child that develops from the egocentric to a broader social awareness, my perspective has evolved from one of defending my professional role to that of embracing the bigger picture of early childhood education and care functioning as the starting point in an essential, well established societal system.
It makes practical and professional sense to me that all the jurisdictional aspects of our early care and education system, such as it is, that are now housed in the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Ministry of Health could be transferred to the Ministry of Education. The administration of credentials and funding could be extensions of the already present infrastructure of the Ministry of Education. Licensing and monitoring, granted, may require further development of “the healthy schools initiative” and incorporation of suitable regulations into existing school legislation related to staff practices and physical environment, however, I think the foundation is there to build upon and may, in fact, improve existing monitoring and evaluation of the education system as a whole.
My perspective on the jurisdictional “home” for early care and learning has evolved to unconditionally support the proposal of the Ministry of Education. This would see care and education as a Provincial system from infancy to adult education; enhanced accountability for delivery of program and curriculum; consolidated administration in a long standing infrastructure; and long sought after professional inclusion, recognition, and compensation. I sincerely hope that the current government transition will include this aspect of the proposed Plan and this becomes a reality.
June Maynard has been an ECCE professional since 1971 – working for 19 years in a variety of child care environments; 13 years as a licensing officer; and 13 years as the manager of a child care resource and referral program.